- Oct 2018
Since which period, almost without a crew, and almost without canvas and almost without water, and, at intervals giving its added dead to the sea, the San Dominick had been battle-dored about by contrary winds, inveigled by currents, or grown weedy in calms. Like a man lost in woods, more than once she had doubled upon her own track.
“It is now a hundred and ninety days,” began the Spaniard, in his husky whisper, “that this ship, well officered and well manned, with several cabin passengers–some fifty Spaniards in all–sailed from Buenos Ayres bound to Lima,
The "Golden Round" - how ships circumnavigated the continents, or the globe, prior to construction of the Panama and Suez canals.
See this animation by Ben Schmidt of 19th-century shipping routes from 1800-1860, based on ship's logs and extant records.
To procure substitutes for his lost sailors, as well as supplies of water and sails, the captain, at the earliest opportunity, had made for Baldivia, the southernmost civilized port of Chili and South America;
This "civilized port" called Valdivia, was named for invader Pedro de Valdivia, who also established what became Santiago de Chile in the mid 16th century.
Valdivia became the first governor of the Captaincy General of Chile. In that post, he obeyed the viceroy of Peru and, through him, the King of Spain and his bureaucracy. Responsible to the governor, town councils known as Cabildo administered local municipalities, the most important of which was Santiago." (History of Chile), Wikipedia)
"The greatest resistance to Spanish rule came from the Mapuche people, who opposed European conquest and colonization until the 1880s; this resistance is known as the Arauco War. Valdivia died at the Battle of Tucapel, defeated by Lautaro, a young Mapuche toqui (war chief), but the European conquest was well underway." See "A Brief History of the Mapuche People."
But the principal relic of faded grandeur was the ample oval of the shield-like stern-piece, intricately carved with the arms of Castile and Leon, medallioned about by groups of mythological or symbolical devices; uppermost and central of which was a dark satyr in a mask, holding his foot on the prostrate neck of a writhing figure, likewise masked.
Robert Shore, The San Dominick, 1965 Something similar to the "ample oval" appears to be on the visible side of the ship, just in front of the stern. The figures are, unfortunately, indiscernible.
The iconography lends itself to multiple interpretations, and stands out as one of the few overtly ekphrastic passages in the novella. The subjugated figure in the image is not described as human or animal, simply as "writhing" - struggling against the satyr's dominance. This figure would seem to represent both an allegory for and a critique of slavery -- the prostrate figure being the slave. However, the "dark satyr" in Greco-Roman mythology is a hybrid man-beast, associated with what in Melville's time would be considered animalistic passions including revelry, madness, violence, and lust. Given Delano's repeated, obtuse descriptions of slaves in animalistic terms, this is one clue that suggests the satyr represents, if not the slaves themselves, then the reversal of power that has taken place on board the ship. It may also reflect the institution of slavery, which, regardless of who is master and who is slave, is fundamentally immoral and based on violence. This ambiguity is heightened by fact that both figures are masked; neither Delano nor Melville's readers are able to see their faces, and, this would suggest, their races.
"View of Concepción, 1615." Concepción is situated just north of the Island of Santa Maria.
while upon the tarnished headboards, near by, appeared, in stately capitals, once gilt, the ship’s name, “SAN DOMINICK,” each letter streakingly corroded with tricklings of copper-spike rust;
The extended rebellion of enslaved people on Santo Domingo (in English, Saint Dominick) began in 1791 and lasted until 1804. Known today as the Haitian Revolution, the revolt remains the only "slave revolt" ever to result in the establishment of a free state. Per Wikipedia, "It is now widely seen as a defining moment in the history of racism in the Atlantic World."
Voyage of the Empress of China, 1784. See this site for a detailed history of early US-China trade.
A passage in Chapter 1 of Moby Dick describes a vigorous trade with the far East: “Posted like silent sentinels all around the town, stand thousands upon thousands of mortal men fixed in ocean reveries … some looking over the bulwarks of ships from China.”
However, trade between China and the U.S. commenced in 1784, just after the Treaty of Paris was ratified; by 1799, when Benito Cereno is set, it would still have been a relatively young trading relationship, especially considering the lengthy sea voyages required.
Principal commodities exchanged included the items mentioned by Capt. Delano (silks, sealskins, coin (specie), as well as ginseng tea, porcelain "China ware," lead, and cotton goods.<br> A.D. Edwards, Empress of China at Mart's Jetty, Port Pirie, 1876
-- Robert Bennet Forbes, Remarks on China and the China Trade. Samuel N. Dickinson, printer, 1844.
And among the Malay pirates
The Malaysian archipelago was a major center of the spice trade and maritime commerce with Europe. Its takeover, first by Portugal in 1511, then by the Dutch East India Company in the mid-16th century, and followed by British colonization at the end of the 18th century, further complicated the diverse socioeconomic and cultural conditions that develop in the midst of international trade. Then as now, the flow of capital and goods made piracy a lucrative, albeit dangerous, activity. For more information see The Maritime Heritage Project.
for Lima, her destined port.
Map of Lima, cir. 1750
Lima was "founded)" by Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro, who assassinated the Inca ruler Atahualpa in his effort to claim Peru for the Spanish crown.
As the seat of the Viceroyalty of Peru, Lima was also the center of the brutal Peruvian Inquisition, which ended for good in 1820.
Painting of a victim of the Inquisition paraded through streets by afro-Peruvian painter Acuarela de Pancho Fierro (1807-1879).
See this page on the history of the saya y el manto in Spanish colonial Peru
a sort of Castilian Rothschild, with a noble brother, or cousin, in every great trading town
This is an anachronism. That the storied Rothschild family had not yet established a widespread business network across Europe in the period Benito Cereno is set. This didn't develop until the first decades of the 19th century; by Melville's time, the family had become a well-known economic powerhouse. Either Melville never bothered to fact check such small details, or else he didn't mind bending the truth a bit in the service of art.
A brief history of the family business from the Rothschild Archive: "Mayer Amschel Rothschild was born in 1744 in the Judengasse, in Frankfurt. His father had a business in goods-trading and currency exchange. He was a personal supplier of collectable coins to the Prince of Hesse. By the early years of the 19th century, Rothschild had consolidated his position, and in 1810, renamed his firm M A Rothschild und Söhne, establishing a partnership with his four sons still in Frankfurt, (his son Nathan Mayer Rothschild (1777-1836) having already established a business in Manchester and London).
Nathan Rothschild’s increasingly successful business provided a model for his brothers back in Frankfurt. In 1812, James Mayer Rothschild (1792-1868) established a banking house in Paris. Salomon Mayer Rothschild (1774-1855) settled in Vienna in 1820. Carl Mayer Rothschild (1788-1855) set up business in Naples in 1821, leaving Amschel Mayer (1773-1855), to head the Frankfurt bank. From these roots, the Rothschild banking business spread out across much of Europe becoming the most successful international bankers of the age." Rothschild Archive.
Interestingly, the Rothschilds were instrumental in helping another South American nation, Brazil, achieve independence from Portugal in the early 19th century.
Benito Cereno–Don Benito Cereno–a sounding name. One, too, at that period, not unknown, in the surname, to super-cargoes and sea captains trading along the Spanish Main,
The Spanish Main comprised all colonial properties of Spain in the Americas.
Captain Delano could not but bethink him of the beauty of that relationship which could present such a spectacle of fidelity on the one hand and confidence on the other. The scene was heightened by, the contrast in dress, denoting their relative positions. The Spaniard wore a loose Chili jacket of dark velvet; white small-clothes and stockings, with silver buckles at the knee and instep; a high-crowned sombrero, of fine grass; a slender sword, silver mounted, hung from a knot in his sash–the last being an almost invariable adjunct, more for utility than ornament, of a South American gentleman’s dress to this hour.
See this article by Verônica Undurraga Schüler on the dynamics of class relationships as they pertain to Spanish-colonial constructions of masculine authority and honor. In particular, it addresses "the relationship between honor and social practices in Chile's eighteenth century and analyzes ... various manifestations of the social ways used to deal with honor at that time, together with the inquiries about mechanisms used to restore honor and its links with traditional masculinity."
At this moment the young sailor’s eye was again fixed on the whisperers, and Captain Delano thought he observed a lurking significance in it, as if silent signs, of some Freemason sort, had that instant been interchanged
Freemasonry was and still is a secretive fraternal order originating in the British guild system; it took root in the American colonies and was popular before and after the American Revolution. (George Washington and other founders are frequently cited as "famous Freemasons.") Its relationship to both the church and state has historically been a subject of controversy (and mystification) and it remains a perennial hobby horse among conspiracy theorists fixated on the existence of one-world governments. "Brothers" are known to use a series of symbols and hand gestures to recognize and communicate with each other in public.
there was a certain precision in his attire curiously at variance with the unsightly disorder around; especially in the belittered Ghetto, forward of the main-mast, wholly occupied by the blacks.
The term [Ghetto has a murky origin](https://www.momentmag.com/jewish-word-ghetto/), but the first ghettos were the enforced Jewish quarters of Venice, Rome, and and and other Western European cities. The first appearance of the word "ghetto" in English literature dates from the early 17th century.<br> Map of Venice ghetto by architect Guido Costante Sullam, late 19th C.
An excerpt from an 1829 travelogue paints a vivid socio-economic picture of the Roman ghetto, which was demolished in 1888. It is noteworthy that when Benito Cereno was published in 1850, although the Roman ghetto was still in existence, the word had already become a term of figurative speech. Could this have been an indirect result of the gradual loosening of restrictions on Jewish life that the author mentions, by which ghetto was no longer used to refer to a community bound to a specific location?
Map of Roman ghetto, 1777
"The "Ghetto" is a generic name, and used in every large town in Italy, as the distinctive appellation for the" recinto," or walled enclosure, allowed by the " toleration," (so intolerance is denominated all over the world,) to the Jews, whom their wants, rather than their charity, have consented to spare. But in most of these towns various reforms, all silent, but not the less irresistible, have successively taken place. I stopped some few instants at the entrance, not well knowing whether I should or could pass on, it looked so like the court of a debtors' prison. I asked one or two questions — they were scarcely answered. The Papal soldier at the gate at last volunteered a reply. He twirled his moustaches, and with the biliousness of his nation whispered sulkily, " il Ghetto." I took a glance for a moment at the contrast between the two people. Here were the masters on one side, the servants on the other. In the square I had just left I saw a squalid and sullen race of men, with nothing to qualify them for superiority but the conviction and habit of power. Their features glared with the gloomy force of concentrated or exploded passions. All here is combat or sleep, dangerous or useless energies." -- "Walks in Rome and Its Environs: The Ghetto degli Ebrai." The New Monthly Magazine and Literary Journal, Part II. Vol XVI, Original Papers, 1829. 529-537.
Franz Ettore Rosler (1845-1907), "Vicolo Capocciuto in Ghetto (rione Sant'Angelo)" cir. 1880
Lima intriguante’s one sinister eye peering across the Plaza from the Indian loop-hole of her dusk saya-y-manta
Intriguante: noun, archaic. a person who intrigues; intriguer. (In this case, female.) The narrator, speaking from Delano's point of view, likens the San Dominick to a native woman--possibly a descendant of the decimated Quechua-speaking Chincha people--of Lima, Peru--in traditional dress. Is she mysterious and sinister because she is native, or because she sees but cannot be seen, i.e. "inscrutable"? Or both? Image: Mauricio_Rugendas (1802-1858), Study for Lima's Main Square, cir. 1843.
in the harbor of St. Maria–a small, desert, uninhabited island toward the southern extremity of the long coast of Chili.
Map of Santa Maria, 1700
Santa Maria is a possession of Chile, roughly 10 nautical miles from the mainland, and just south of the port town Concepcion. More recently the island was used as a penal colony for supporters of Chile's Salvador Allende after his government was overthrown by a US-sponsored coup.
Although Delano describes it as nothing more than a "desert, uninhabited island" it in fact has a well-documented history in the European colonization of South America, especially concerning the Dutch West India Company's conflicts with Spain in the late 16th century (note mentions of Santa Maria in Lane, pp. 73-77).
Note as well that by the conclusion of the narrative, the Saint Dominick does fulfill its intended journey from Valparaiso, Chile to Callao, a port just outside of Lima, Peru. (See map, contemporary with the composition of Benito Cereno.)
San Dominick’s voyage, down t
One of Melville's greatest mysteries was his choice to change the historically accurate Tyral ship which the San Dominick's voyage was based on. As cited below, the Tyral was believed to be altered to the San Dominick to reflect the setting leading up to the Haitian Revolution. Melville, also changed the date of the slave mutiny from 1805 to 1799 in order to put it in the exact same time period as the Haitian uprising. Throughout the book Melville also makes reference to Charles V and Saint Bartholomew, who were all heavily involved in the slave trade in Santo Domingo. (Horsley-Meacham 261-262) It is fascinating to think what other liberties may have taken place to accommodate Melville's tale.
follow his leader
In reference to more work that is listed in reference to "Benito Cereno", " Douglas's "The Heroic Slave" (1853) is the most closely contested example to draw critical differences in representations of Slave Revolts in Colonial History.
"Douglass's novella has often been compared to other accounts of mutinies at sea, including Richard Henry Dana's Two Years Before the Mast (1846), Herman Melville's "Benito Cereno" (1855) and Billy Budd (1924), Charles R. Johnson's Middle Passage (1990), and Steven Spielberg's Amistad (1997). Though all of these narratives demonstrate the unwillingness of enslaved Africans and conscripted whites to submit willingly to bondage, Douglass's text also emphasizes the possibility of changing white attitudes about slavery. Therefore, The Heroic Slave might be said to stage the perfect audience for the abolitionist messages of Douglass and other critics of American slavery. The text invites the reader to emulate the aptly-named Mr. Listwell—to "listen well" to its message and to carry out its mission. Listwell's resolution to stand against slavery demonstrates Douglass's belief that empathetic identification based on words alone might lead to political action and social change."
the Spaniards slain by command of the negro Babo; that the negresses used their utmost influence to have the deponent made away with; that, in the various acts of murder, they sang songs and danced–not gaily, but solemnly; and before the engagement with the boats, as well as during the action, they sang melancholy songs to the negroes, and that this melancholy tone was more inflaming than a different one would have been, and was so intended; that all this is believed, because the negroes have said it.–that of the thirty-six men of the crew, exclusive of the passengers (all of whom are now dead), which the deponent had knowledge of, six only remained alive, with four cabin-boys and ship-boys, not included with the crew; * *–that the negroes broke an arm of one of the cabin-boys and gave him strokes with hatchets.
In expansion to my previous annotation referencing this passage ties back to the idea of distancing historical context in association to American/British conflicts in preferences a much more violent, and generic tale of a violent uprising in the French Haitian Revolution context which has historically been misconstrued and utilized as an example to both mobilize and instill fear in prevention of more revolts within the colonial terrain. Tying white morality in tandem to the senseless violence depicted in the court case by Melville is an interesting contrast to the choice to demonstrate the Creole Insurrection in Douglas' "The Heroic Slave".
The Creole Insurrection would be the center of political tensions between the U.S and Britain for decades over the tumultuous negotiations American slave owners attempted to lay claims on lost property during the loss of the 1841 Creole Case, but would also become the most compelling of five noted Slave Revolts which demonstrated the possibility of a revolt to be politically portrayed to the world as a legally legitimate and moral action in means to freedom.
While maps are commonly the site of colonial domain and conquest, this sited interactive map gives context to the chain of slave revolts in Jamaica that provide an understanding to how revolts were formulated. I could not find a similar source to the Haitian revolution, but this shows what can be possible in providing more context to historical fictions.
“Because they have no memory,” he dejectedly replied; “because they are not human.” “But these mild trades that now fan your cheek, do they not come with a human-like healing to you? Warm friends, steadfast friends are the trades.” “With their steadfastness they but waft me to my tomb, Señor,” was the foreboding response. “You are saved,” cried Captain Delano, more and more astonished and pained; “you are saved: what has cast such a shadow upon you?” “The negro.”
In terms of the relationships between slave-owners and those enslaved, there were occasionally situations where the relationship between the two carried weight in a different, less animalistic vein.
Although some slaves were enslaved for their entire lives, there often were deals made between the slave-owner and their victims. Generally the deals were for their labor in exchange for their freedom. However, it would generally take years and years to meet the satisfaction of the slave-owner, and in more tragic cases, they would attempt to recant or modify their deal. Sometimes these deals for freedom would be changed in order to accommodate the slave-owner. For example, a deal where they agreed to grant a family their freedom would be met with only granting the children their freedom, and keeping their mother captive. Or, certain deals were that their freedom would be granted upon the owner's death, leaving their freedom in their will. This situation is how the Dred Scott case (mentioned above) unfolded, because upon his owner's death, Scott sued the owner's wife for freedom.
What draws the relationship between Benito Cereno and Babo into question is this conversation. One should speculate on how Benito Cereno felt in regards to Babo's care for him. Did he have the intention of freeing Babo eventually in exchange for his "companionship?" Given the nature of the scenario, there was nothing he could do to prevent Babo's fate. However, he clearly finds regret in how this whole situation played out.
Two years prior to the release of Benito Cereno (1853), the case of Robin Holmes v. Nathaniel Ford took place in Oregon, United States. The problem was that Ford had promised the Holmes family freedom once they finished helping him start up his farm. Upon completion, they expected to be freed, but instead he kept their four children and planned to sell them back to Missouri. What is confusing here is that their relationship wasn't entirely aggressive until the final moments of the contract.
Benito Cereno did not have a say when it came to the court's rule over Babo's life. If the story ended with them alive, would Benito Cereno have released Babo into freedom, or in only attempt to use him further once back in the position of power? Would the phrase "follow your leader" be flipped?
Lockley, Fred. “The Case of Robin Holmes vs. Nathaniel Ford.” The Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society, vol. 23, no. 2, 1922, pp. 111–137. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/20610207.
Both the black’s hands were held, as, glancing up towards the San Dominick, Captain Delano, now with scales dropped from his eyes, saw the negroes, not in misrule, not in tumult, not as if frantically concerned for Don Benito, but with mask torn away, flourishing hatchets and knives, in ferocious piratical revolt.
What might be considered foreshadowing here, is an interesting perspective on a perceived act of relishing the wielding of violent weapons in indulging. Regardless of interpretation, this is an interesting place to mark an often overlooked perspective of a historical Slave Narrative one might categorize this novella.
"The Heroic Slave" by Frederick Douglass wrote only one work of fiction: this novella, loosely based on a true incident, about a slave who leads a rebellion on board a slave ship. Although it doesn't mention Stowe, it can be read as Douglass' attempt to contest Uncle Tom's Cabin. The novella's description of Madison Washington's appearance closely follows Stowe's first description of Tom. The story Douglass tells, though, allows him to reject her "simple" slave hero (Tom is probably the source for the pious "old slave" Madison encounters in Part II, and whose eloquent praying is a temptation he must resist), and to put in his place a well-spoken black man who fights and kills for his freedom.
Douglass does not, however, dismiss Stowe's audience. He published the story twice in 1853 -- serially in his newspaper, and as his contribution to an Anti-Slavery anthology Stowe's publisher brought out. But he clearly designed the tale to reach the larger white reading public: one of the most interesting aspects of the novella is the strategic way it tries to lead genteel readers not only to active engagement in the abolitionist cause, but also to grant black slaves the same right to rebel against tyranny that America enshrines in its founders. The novella, however, does not seem to have had many contemporary readers, although it was reissued at least once, in pamphlet form in 1863.
While Stowe and other white abolitionists can be found in reference to this novella, it's important to note that Douglass still frequently contested the politics of her beliefs in a way that utilized her name to legitimize and maximize his scholarship to a white audience. How might we draw this comparison to Melville's novella? And additionally, what is the difference is drawing references to Douglas' depictions of the Creole Insurrection in comparison to Melville's depiction of the Haitian Uprising?
the consequent prolonged beating about, the past sufferings from obstinate calms, and still continued suffering from thirst; in all these points, as well as others, Don Benito’s story had corroborated not only the wailing ejaculations of the indiscriminate multitude, white and black, but likewise–what seemed impossible to be counterfeit–by the very expression and play of every human feature, which Captain Delano saw.
These "obstinate calms" probably refer to the Intertropical Convergence Zone, or ITCZ. Also know as "the doldrums," in this zone around the equator wind currents of the northern and southern hemisphereshttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doldrums converge. The doldrums are known for both storms and minimal wind. "Colloquially, the "doldrums" are a state of inactivity, mild depression, listlessness, or stagnation" - which also seems to be the prevailing mood of Benito Cereno, as Capt. Delano perceives him. See also: Page note 1, Tag: "doldrums"
In the year 1799, Captain Amasa Delano, of Duxbury, in Massachusetts, commanding a large sealer and general trader
The sealing industry, particularly in the Southern hemisphere, was at its peak in 1799, when Benito Cereno is set. It was not uncommon for whaling ships to be repurposed as sealers, and the Bachelor's Delight seems to be no exception, as Delano refers to the ship's longboat as a whale boat--a rowed boat that would be used to get close to a whale and finish off the hunt.
"The first cargo of seal products from the Falklands was sent to France in 1766 by temporary settlers from St. Malo, inaugurating an industry that continued sporadically until 1972. Periodic hunting also took place in the Dependencies, terminating at South Georgia in 1964 with closure of the Grytviken whaling station. The rush to make windfall profits during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries resulted in the rapid decimation of stocks on the Falklands and later in the Dependencies. The industry was primarily prosecuted by sealing and whaling crews from New England, although British vessels were involved to a limited extent. These collective activities reached a peak at the Falklands in the late eighteenth century, with sealers thereafter moving to exploit other southern hemisphere stocks, including those on the then-Dependencies of South Georgia and the South Shetlands, and to a lesser extent at the South Orkney and South Sandwich Islands. These stocks were also destroyed by the 1830s. Some sealers did, however, continue to visit the Falklands, usually to start or top up cargoes from the Dependencies. But they found the earlier unhindered hunting controlled by the United Provinces de la Plata (later Argentina) and by the permanent British administration established in 1834" (Anthony .B. Dickinson, "Early Nineteenth-Century Sealing on the Falkland Islands: Attempts to Develop a Regulated Industry, 1820-1834. The Northern Mariner / Le marin du nord, Vol 4:3, 1994. 39-49.)
Assured of the welfare of his spirit, its departure I could have borne like a man; but that honest eye, that honest hand–both of which had so often met mine–and that warm heart; all, all–like scraps to the dogs–to throw all to the sharks! It was then I vowed never to have for fellow-voyager a man I loved, unless, unbeknown to him, I had provided every requisite, in case of a fatality, for embalming his mortal part for interment on shore. Were your friend’s remains now on board this ship, Don Benito, not thus strangely would the mention of his name affect you
Delano' does not only grieve the death of his brother, but also that his brother did not receive a proper Christian burial. Had his brother's body been preserved, this, theoretically, would have been possible, although quite belated. The secrecy and, to Western sensibilities, gruesome manner in which Aranda's remains were preserved by the Africans on board further exacerbates the suggestion that they are inhumane and amoral. See this article in Vol. 8 of Sharpe's London Magazine (1849) for perspectives on the burial practices of "barbarous nations" contemporary to the composition of Benito Cereno.
Western embalming techniques were first developed in 16th century England for scientific purposes; at the time this story is set, embalming the dead was a more common practice.
"The English physician William Harvey created the modern method of embalming in the 17th century. This method involves injecting chemicals into a dead body's arteries to keep the body from decaying. Up until the middle of the 18th century, embalming was used mostly in science and medicine. However, in the mid-18th century, the Scottish surgeon William Hunter used Harvey's methods to preserve bodies in morgues. His brother, John Hunter, was the first to advertise embalming to regular people who wanted to see their loved ones' bodies preserved after death." https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Embalming#The_17th_and_18th_centuries
–One, from about eighteen to nineteen years, named José, and this was the man that waited upon his master, Don Alexandro, and who speaks well the Spanish, having served him four or five years; * * * a mulatto, named Francesco, the cabin steward, of a good person and voice, having sung in the Valparaiso churches, native of the province of Buenos Ayres, aged about thirty-five years. * * * A smart negro, named Dago, who had been for many years a grave-digger among the Spaniards, aged forty-six years. * * * Four old negroes, born in Africa, from sixty to seventy, but sound, calkers by trade, whose names are as follows:–the first was named Muri, and he was killed (as was also his son named Diamelo); the second, Nacta; the third, Yola, likewise killed; the fourth, Ghofan; and six full-grown negroes, aged from thirty to forty-five, all raw, and born among the Ashantees–Matiluqui, Yan, Leche, Mapenda, Yambaio, Akim; four of whom were killed; * * * a powerful negro named Atufal, who being supposed to have been a chief in Africa, his owner set great store by him. * * * And a small negro of Senegal, but some years among the Spaniards, aged about thirty, which negro’s name was Babo; * * * that he does not remember the names of the others, but that still expecting the residue of Don Alexandra’s papers will be found, will then take due account of them all, and remit to the court; * * * and thirty-nine women and children of all ages.
The ship that Herman Melville based this entire story on, the Tryal, carried about 70 West African slaves. Although their origin was altered, the number of passengers noted here may be close to accurate. Many passengers were lost during what was believed to be a two-year voyage (Grandin). The article below provides a lot of context in terms of the original story of Benito Cerreño.
Grandin, Greg. “Who Ain't a Slave? Historical Fact and the Fiction of 'Benito Cereno'.” Chronicle.com, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 16 Dec. 2013, www.chronicle.com/article/Slavery-in-FactFiction/143551.
–That on the fifth day of the calm, all on board suffering much from the heat, and want of water, and five having died in fits, and mad, the negroes became irritable, and for a chance gesture, which they deemed suspicious–though it was harmless–made by the mate, Raneds, to the deponent in the act of handing a quadrant, they killed him; but that for this they afterwards were sorry, the mate being the only remaining navigator on board, except the deponent.
One thing that should be taken into consideration is how Babo is being treated in this court setting. One could consider that these men acted in a barbaric manner, but they were enslaved and saw a way out. Desperation triggers animalistic instincts. As far as the violence factor and how it affects the court setting, would they be treated any different if they did not act the way they did? Look at the Dred Scott v. Stanford (1857) case, which took place only two years after Benito Cereno was published (1855), and a staggering 50+ years after the events of this story take place. Dred Scott did everything in a professional manner, and even one his initial case. However, the Supreme Court reversed it based on a technicality. So, this begs the question: In the eyes of the court justice system, is there a difference between Babo and Dred Scott?
Arenson, Adam. “ Dred Scott versus the Dred Scott Case The History and Memory of a Signal Moment in American Slavery, 1857–2007.” The Dred Scott Case, 2010, pp. 25–46., doi:10.1353/chapter.236750.
The advancing speck was observed by the blacks. Their shouts attracted the attention of Don Benito, who, with a return of courtesy, approaching Captain Delano, expressed satisfaction at the coming of some supplies, slight and temporary as they must necessarily prove. Captain Delano responded; but while doing so, his attention was drawn to something passing on the deck below: among the crowd climbing the landward bulwarks, anxiously watching the coming boat, two blacks, to all appearances accidentally incommoded by one of the sailors, violently pushed him aside, which the sailor someway resenting, they dashed him to the deck, despite the earnest cries of the oakum-pickers. “Don Benito,” said Captain Delano quickly, “do you see what is going on there? Look!” But, seized by his cough, the Spaniard staggered, with both hands to his face, on the point of falling. Captain Delano would have supported him, but the servant was more alert, who, with one hand sustaining his master, with the other applied the cordial. Don Benito restored, the black withdrew his support, slipping aside a little, but dutifully remaining within call of a whisper. Such discretion was here evinced as quite wiped away, in the visitor’s eyes, any blemish of impropriety which might have attached to the attendant, from the indecorous conferences before mentioned; showing, too, that if the servant were to blame, it might be more the master’s fault than his own, since, when left to himself, he could conduct thus well. His glance called away from the spectacle of disorder to the more pleasing one before him, Captain Delano could not avoid again congratulating his host upon possessing such a servant, who, though perhaps a little too forward now and then, must upon the whole be invaluable to one in the invalid’s situation. “Tell me, Don Benito,” he added, with a smile–“I should like to have your man here, myself–what will you take for him? Would fifty doubloons be any object?” “Master wouldn’t part with Babo for a thousand doubloons,” murmured the black, overhearing the offer, and taking it in earnest, and, with the strange vanity of a faithful slave, appreciated by his master, scorning to hear so paltry a valuation put upon him by a stranger. But Don Benito, apparently hardly yet completely restored, and again interrupted by his cough, made but some broken reply. Soon his physical distress became so great, affecting his mind, too, apparently, that, as if to screen the sad spectacle, the servant gently conducted his master below. Left to himself, the American, to while away the time till his boat should arrive, would have pleasantly accosted some one of the few Spanish seamen he saw; but recalling something that Don Benito had said touching their ill conduct, he refrained; as a shipmaster indisposed to countenance cowardice or unfaithfulness in seamen. While, with these thoughts, standing with eye directed forward towards that handful of sailors, suddenly he thought that one or two of them returned the glance and with a sort of meaning. He rubbed his eyes, and looked again; but again seemed to see the same thing. Under a new form, but more obscure than any previous one, the old suspicions recurred, but, in the absence of Don Benito, with less of panic than before. Despite the bad account given of the sailors, Captain Delano resolved forthwith to accost one of them. Descending the poop, he made his way through the blacks, his movement drawing a queer cry from the oakum-pickers, prompted by whom, the negroes, twitching each other aside, divided before him; but, as if curious to see what was the object of this deliberate visit to their Ghetto, closing in behind, in tolerable order, followed the white stranger up. His progress thus proclaimed as by mounted kings-at-arms, and escorted as by a Caffre guard of honor, Captain Delano, assuming a good-humored, off-handed air, continued to advance; now and then saying a blithe word to the negroes, and his eye curiously surveying the white faces, here and there sparsely mixed in with the blacks, like stray white pawns venturously involved in the ranks of the chess-men opposed. While thinking which of them to select for his purpose, he chanced to observe a sailor seated on the deck engaged in tarring the strap of a large block, a circle of blacks squatted round him inquisitively eying the process. The mean employment of the man was in contrast with something superior in his figure. His hand, black with continually thrusting it into the tar-pot held for him by a negro, seemed not naturally allied to his face, a face which would have been a very fine one but for its haggardness. Whether this haggardness had aught to do with criminality, could not be determined; since, as intense heat and cold, though unlike, produce like sensations, so innocence and guilt, when, through casual association with mental pain, stamping any visible impress, use one seal–a hacked one. Not again that this reflection occurred to Captain Delano at the time, charitable man as he was. Rather another idea. Because observing so singular a haggardness combined with a dark eye, averted as in trouble and shame, and then again recalling Don Benito’s confessed ill opinion of his crew, insensibly he was operated upon by certain general notions which, while disconnecting pain and abashment from virtue, invariably link them with vice. If, indeed, there be any wickedness on board this ship, thought Captain Delano, be sure that man there has fouled his hand in it, even as now he fouls it in the pitch. I don’t like to accost him. I will speak to this other, this old Jack here on the windlass. He advanced to an old Barcelona tar, in ragged red breeches and dirty night-cap, cheeks trenched and bronzed, whiskers dense as thorn hedges. Seated between two sleepy-looking Africans, this mariner, like his younger shipmate, was employed upon some rigging–splicing a cable–the sleepy-looking blacks performing the inferior function of holding the outer parts of the ropes for him. Upon Captain Delano’s approach, the man at once hung his head below its previous level; the one necessary for business. It appeared as if he desired to be thought absorbed, with more than common fidelity, in his task. Being addressed, he glanced up, but with what seemed a furtive, diffident air, which sat strangely enough on his weather-beaten visage, much as if a grizzly bear, instead of growling and biting, should simper and cast sheep’s eyes. He was asked several questions concerning the voyage–questions purposely referring to several particulars in Don Benito’s narrative, not previously corroborated by those impulsive cries greeting the visitor on first coming on board. The questions were briefly answered, confirming all that remained to be confirmed of the story. The negroes about the windlass joined in with the old sailor; but, as they became talkative, he by degrees became mute, and at length quite glum, seemed morosely unwilling to answer more questions, and yet, all the while, this ursine air was somehow mixed with his sheepish one. Despairing of getting into unembarrassed talk with such a centaur, Captain Delano, after glancing round for a more promising countenance, but seeing none, spoke pleasantly to the blacks to make way for him; and so, amid various grins and grimaces, returned to the poop, feeling a little strange at first, he could hardly tell why, but upon the whole with regained confidence in Benito Cereno. How plainly, thought he, did that old whiskerando yonder betray a consciousness of ill desert. No doubt, when he saw me coming, he dreaded lest I, apprised by his Captain of the crew’s general misbehavior, came with sharp words for him, and so down with his head. And yet–and yet, now that I think of it, that very old fellow, if I err not, was one of those who seemed so earnestly eying me here awhile since. Ah, these currents spin one’s head round almost as much as they do the ship. Ha, there now’s a pleasant sort of sunny sight; quite sociable, too. His attention had been drawn to a slumbering negress, partly disclosed through the lacework of some rigging, lying, with youthful limbs carelessly disposed, under the lee of the bulwarks, like a doe in the shade of a woodland rock. Sprawling at her lapped breasts, was her wide-awake fawn, stark naked, its black little body half lifted from the deck, crosswise with its dam’s; its hands, like two paws, clambering upon her; its mouth and nose ineffectually rooting to get at the mark; and meantime giving a vexatious half-grunt, blending with the composed snore of the negress. The uncommon vigor of the child at length roused the mother. She started up, at a distance facing Captain Delano. But as if not at all concerned at the attitude in which she had been caught, delightedly she caught the child up, with maternal transports, covering it with kisses. There’s naked nature, now; pure tenderness and love, thought Captain Delano, well pleased. This incident prompted him to remark the other negresses more particularly than before. He was gratified with their manners: like most uncivilized women, they seemed at once tender of heart and tough of constitution; equally ready to die for their infants or fight for them. Unsophisticated as leopardesses; loving as doves. Ah! thought Captain Delano, these, perhaps, are some of the very women whom Ledyard saw in Africa, and gave such a noble account of. These natural sights somehow insensibly deepened his confidence and ease. At last he looked to see how his boat was getting on; but it was still pretty remote. He turned to see if Don Benito had returned; but he had not. To change the scene, as well as to please himself with a leisurely observation of the coming boat, stepping over into the mizzen-chains, he clambered his way into the starboard quarter-gallery–one of those abandoned Venetian-looking water-balconies previously mentioned–retreats cut off from the deck. As his foot pressed the half-damp, half-dry sea-mosses matting the place, and a chance phantom cats-paw–an islet of breeze, unheralded, unfollowed–as this ghostly cats-paw came fanning his cheek; as his glance fell upon the row of small, round dead-lights–all closed like coppered eyes of the coffined–and the state-cabin door, once connecting with the gallery, even as the dead-lights had once looked out upon it, but now calked fast like a sarcophagus lid; and to a purple-black tarred-over, panel, threshold, and post; and he bethought him of the time, when that state-cabin and this state-balcony had heard the voices of the Spanish king’s officers, and the forms of the Lima viceroy’s daughters had perhaps leaned where he stood–as these and other images flitted through his mind, as the cats-paw through the calm, gradually he felt rising a dreamy inquietude, like that of one who alone on the prairie feels unrest from the repose of the noon. He leaned against the carved balustrade, again looking off toward his boat; but found his eye falling upon the ribbon grass, trailing along the ship’s water-line, straight as a border of green box; and parterres of sea-weed, broad ovals and crescents, floating nigh and far, with what seemed long formal alleys between, crossing the terraces of swells, and sweeping round as if leading to the grottoes below. And overhanging all was the balustrade by his arm, which, partly stained with pitch and partly embossed with moss, seemed the charred ruin of some summer-house in a grand garden long running to waste. Trying to break one charm, he was but becharmed anew. Though upon the wide sea, he seemed in some far inland country; prisoner in some deserted château, left to stare at empty grounds, and peer out at vague roads, where never wagon or wayfarer passed. But these enchantments were a little disenchanted as his eye fell on the corroded main-chains. Of an ancient style, massy and rusty in link, shackle and bolt, they seemed even more fit for the ship’s present business than the one for which she had been built. Presently he thought something moved nigh the chains. He rubbed his eyes, and looked hard. Groves of rigging were about the chains; and there, peering from behind a great stay, like an Indian from behind a hemlock, a Spanish sailor, a marlingspike in his hand, was seen, who made what seemed an imperfect gesture towards the balcony, but immediately as if alarmed by some advancing step along the deck within, vanished into the recesses of the hempen forest, like a poacher. What meant this? Something the man had sought to communicate, unbeknown to any one, even to his captain. Did the secret involve aught unfavorable to his captain? Were those previous misgivings of Captain Delano’s about to be verified? Or, in his haunted mood at the moment, had some random, unintentional motion of the man, while busy with the stay, as if repairing it, been mistaken for a significant beckoning? Not unbewildered, again he gazed off for his boat. But it was temporarily hidden by a rocky spur of the isle. As with some eagerness he bent forward, watching for the first shooting view of its beak, the balustrade gave way before him like charcoal. Had he not clutched an outreaching rope he would have fallen into the sea. The crash, though feeble, and the fall, though hollow, of the rotten fragments, must have been overheard. He glanced up. With sober curiosity peering down upon him was one of the old oakum-pickers, slipped from his perch to an outside boom; while below the old negro, and, invisible to him, reconnoitering from a port-hole like a fox from the mouth of its den, crouched the Spanish sailor again. From something suddenly suggested by the man’s air, the mad idea now darted into Captain Delano’s mind, that Don Benito’s plea of indisposition, in withdrawing below, was but a pretense: that he was engaged there maturing his plot, of which the sailor, by some means gaining an inkling, had a mind to warn the stranger against; incited, it may be, by gratitude for a kind word on first boarding the ship. Was it from foreseeing some possible interference like this, that Don Benito had, beforehand, given such a bad character of his sailors, while praising the negroes; though, indeed, the former seemed as docile as the latter the contrary? The whites, too, by nature, were the shrewder race. A man with some evil design, would he not be likely to speak well of that stupidity which was blind to his depravity, and malign that intelligence from which it might not be hidden? Not unlikely, perhaps. But if the whites had dark secrets concerning Don Benito, could then Don Benito be any way in complicity with the blacks? But they were too stupid. Besides, who ever heard of a white so far a renegade as to apostatize from his very species almost, by leaguing in against it with negroes? These difficulties recalled former ones. Lost in their mazes, Captain Delano, who had now regained the deck, was uneasily advancing along it, when he observed a new face; an aged sailor seated cross-legged near the main hatchway. His skin was shrunk up with wrinkles like a pelican’s empty pouch; his hair frosted; his countenance grave and composed. His hands were full of ropes, which he was working into a large knot. Some blacks were about him obligingly dipping the strands for him, here and there, as the exigencies of the operation demanded. Captain Delano crossed over to him, and stood in silence surveying the knot; his mind, by a not uncongenial transition, passing from its own entanglements to those of the hemp. For intricacy, such a knot he had never seen in an American ship, nor indeed any other. The old man looked like an Egyptian priest, making Gordian knots for the temple of Ammon. The knot seemed a combination of double-bowline-knot, treble-crown-knot, back-handed-well-knot, knot-in-and-out-knot, and jamming-knot. At last, puzzled to comprehend the meaning of such a knot, Captain Delano addressed the knotter:– “What are you knotting there, my man?” “The knot,” was the brief reply, without looking up. “So it seems; but what is it for?” “For some one else to undo,” muttered back the old man, plying his fingers harder than ever, the knot being now nearly completed. While Captain Delano stood watching him, suddenly the old man threw the knot towards him, saying in broken English–the first heard in the ship–something to this effect: “Undo it, cut it, quick.” It was said lowly, but with such condensation of rapidity, that the long, slow words in Spanish, which had preceded and followed, almost operated as covers to the brief English between. For a moment, knot in hand, and knot in head, Captain Delano stood mute; while, without further heeding him, the old man was now intent upon other ropes. Presently there was a slight stir behind Captain Delano. Turning, he saw the chained negro, Atufal, standing quietly there. The next moment the old sailor rose, muttering, and, followed by his subordinate negroes, removed to the forward part of the ship, where in the crowd he disappeared. An elderly negro, in a clout like an infant’s, and with a pepper and salt head, and a kind of attorney air, now approached Captain Delano. In tolerable Spanish, and with a good-natured, knowing wink, he informed him that the old knotter was simple-witted, but harmless; often playing his odd tricks. The negro concluded by begging the knot, for of course the stranger would not care to be troubled with it. Unconsciously, it was handed to him. With a sort of congé, the negro received it, and, turning his back, ferreted into it like a detective custom-house officer after smuggled laces. Soon, with some African word, equivalent to pshaw, he tossed the knot overboard. All this is very queer now, thought Captain Delano, with a qualmish sort of emotion; but, as one feeling incipient sea-sickness, he strove, by ignoring the symptoms, to get rid of the malady. Once more he looked off for his boat. To his delight, it was now again in view, leaving the rocky spur astern. The sensation here experienced, after at first relieving his uneasiness, with unforeseen efficacy soon began to remove it. The less distant sight of that well-known boat–showing it, not as before, half blended with the haze, but with outline defined, so that its individuality, like a man’s, was manifest; that boat, Rover by name, which, though now in strange seas, had often pressed the beach of Captain Delano’s home, and, brought to its threshold for repairs, had familiarly lain there, as a Newfoundland dog; the sight of that household boat evoked a thousand trustful associations, which, contrasted with previous suspicions, filled him not only with lightsome confidence, but somehow with half humorous self-reproaches at his former lack of it. “What, I, Amasa Delano–Jack of the Beach, as they called me when a lad–I, Amasa; the same that, duck-satchel in hand, used to paddle along the water-side to the school-house made from the old hulk–I, little Jack of the Beach, that used to go berrying with cousin Nat and the rest; I to be murdered here at the ends of the earth, on board a haunted pirate-ship by a horrible Spaniard? Too nonsensical to think of! Who would murder Amasa Delano? His conscience is clean. There is some one above. Fie, fie, Jack of the Beach! you are a child indeed; a child of the second childhood, old boy; you are beginning to dote and drule, I’m afraid.” Light of heart and foot, he stepped aft, and there was met by Don Benito’s servant, who, with a pleasing expression, responsive to his own present feelings, informed him that his master had recovered from the effects of his coughing fit, and had just ordered him to go present his compliments to his good guest, Don Amasa, and say that he (Don Benito) would soon have the happiness to rejoin him. There now, do you mark that? again thought Captain Delano, walking the poop. What a donkey I was. This kind gentleman who here sends me his kind compliments, he, but ten minutes ago, dark-lantern in had, was dodging round some old grind-stone in the hold, sharpening a hatchet for me, I thought. Well, well; these long calms have a morbid effect on the mind, I’ve often heard, though I never believed it before. Ha! glancing towards the boat; there’s Rover; good dog; a white bone in her mouth. A pretty big bone though, seems to me.–What? Yes, she has fallen afoul of the bubbling tide-rip there. It sets her the other way, too, for the time. Patience. It was now about noon, though, from the grayness of everything, it seemed to be getting towards dusk. The calm was confirmed. In the far distance, away from the influence of land, the leaden ocean seemed laid out and leaded up, its course finished, soul gone, defunct. But the current from landward, where the ship was, increased; silently sweeping her further and further towards the tranced waters beyond. Still, from his knowledge of those latitudes, cherishing hopes of a breeze, and a fair and fresh one, at any moment, Captain Delano, despite present prospects, buoyantly counted upon bringing the San Dominick safely to anchor ere night. The distance swept over was nothing; since, with a good wind, ten minutes’ sailing would retrace more than sixty minutes, drifting. Meantime, one moment turning to mark “Rover” fighting the tide-rip, and the next to see Don Benito approaching, he continued walking the poop. Gradually he felt a vexation arising from the delay of his boat; this soon merged into uneasiness; and at last–his eye falling continually, as from a stage-box into the pit, upon the strange crowd before and below him, and, by-and-by, recognizing there the face–now composed to indifference–of the Spanish sailor who had seemed to beckon from the main-chains–something of his old trepidations returned. Ah, thought he–gravely enough–this is like the ague: because it went off, it follows not that it won’t come back. Though ashamed of the relapse, he could not altogether subdue it; and so, exerting his good-nature to the utmost, insensibly he came to a compromise. Yes, this is a strange craft; a strange history, too, and strange folks on board. But–nothing more. By way of keeping his mind out of mischief till the boat should arrive, he tried to occupy it with turning over and over, in a purely speculative sort of way, some lesser peculiarities of the captain and crew. Among others, four curious points recurred: First, the affair of the Spanish lad assailed with a knife by the slave boy; an act winked at by Don Benito. Second, the tyranny in Don Benito’s treatment of Atufal, the black; as if a child should lead a bull of the Nile by the ring in his nose. Third, the trampling of the sailor by the two negroes; a piece of insolence passed over without so much as a reprimand. Fourth, the cringing submission to their master, of all the ship’s underlings, mostly blacks; as if by the least inadvertence they feared to draw down his despotic displeasure. Coupling these points, they seemed somewhat contradictory. But what then, thought Captain Delano, glancing towards his now nearing boat–what then? Why, Don Benito is a very capricious commander. But he is not the first of the sort I have seen; though it’s true he rather exceeds any other. But as a nation–continued he in his reveries–these Spaniards are all an odd set; the very word Spaniard has a curious, conspirator, Guy-Fawkish twang to it. And yet, I dare say, Spaniards in the main are as good folks as any in Duxbury, Massachusetts. Ah good! At last “Rover” has come. As, with its welcome freight, the boat touched the side, the oakum-pickers, with venerable gestures, sought to restrain the blacks, who, at the sight of three gurried water-casks in its bottom, and a pile of wilted pumpkins in its bow, hung over the bulwarks in disorderly raptures. Don Benito, with his servant, now appeared; his coming, perhaps, hastened by hearing the noise. Of him Captain Delano sought permission to serve out the water, so that all might share alike, and none injure themselves by unfair excess. But sensible, and, on Don Benito’s account, kind as this offer was, it was received with what seemed impatience; as if aware that he lacked energy as a commander, Don Benito, with the true jealousy of weakness, resented as an affront any interference. So, at least, Captain Delano inferred. In another moment the casks were being hoisted in, when some of the eager negroes accidentally jostled Captain Delano, where he stood by the gangway; so, that, unmindful of Don Benito, yielding to the impulse of the moment, with good-natured authority he bade the blacks stand back; to enforce his words making use of a half-mirthful, half-menacing gesture. Instantly the blacks paused, just where they were, each negro and negress suspended in his or her posture, exactly as the word had found them–for a few seconds continuing so–while, as between the responsive posts of a telegraph, an unknown syllable ran from man to man among the perched oakum-pickers. While the visitor’s attention was fixed by this scene, suddenly the hatchet-polishers half rose, and a rapid cry came from Don Benito. Thinking that at the signal of the Spaniard he was about to be massacred, Captain Delano would have sprung for his boat, but paused, as the oakum-pickers, dropping down into the crowd with earnest exclamations, forced every white and every negro back, at the same moment, with gestures friendly and familiar, almost jocose, bidding him, in substance, not be a fool. Simultaneously the hatchet-polishers resumed their seats, quietly as so many tailors, and at once, as if nothing had happened, the work of hoisting in the casks was resumed, whites and blacks singing at the tackle. Captain Delano glanced towards Don Benito. As he saw his meagre form in the act of recovering itself from reclining in the servant’s arms, into which the agitated invalid had fallen, he could not but marvel at the panic by which himself had been surprised, on the darting supposition that such a commander, who, upon a legitimate occasion, so trivial, too, as it now appeared, could lose all self-command, was, with energetic iniquity, going to bring about his murder. The casks being on deck, Captain Delano was handed a number of jars and cups by one of the steward’s aids, who, in the name of his captain, entreated him to do as he had proposed–dole out the water. He complied, with republican impartiality as to this republican element, which always seeks one level, serving the oldest white no better than the youngest black; excepting, indeed, poor Don Benito, whose condition, if not rank, demanded an extra allowance. To him, in the first place, Captain Delano presented a fair pitcher of the fluid; but, thirsting as he was for it, the Spaniard quaffed not a drop until after several grave bows and salutes. A reciprocation of courtesies which the sight-loving Africans hailed with clapping of hands. Two of the less wilted pumpkins being reserved for the cabin table, the residue were minced up on the spot for the general regalement. But the soft bread, sugar, and bottled cider, Captain Delano would have given the whites alone, and in chief Don Benito; but the latter objected; which disinterestedness not a little pleased the American; and so mouthfuls all around were given alike to whites and blacks; excepting one bottle of cider, which Babo insisted upon setting aside for his master. Here it may be observed that as, on the first visit of the boat, the American had not permitted his men to board the ship, neither did he now; being unwilling to add to the confusion of the decks. Not uninfluenced by the peculiar good-humor at present prevailing, and for the time oblivious of any but benevolent thoughts, Captain Delano, who, from recent indications, counted upon a breeze within an hour or two at furthest, dispatched the boat back to the sealer, with orders for all the hands that could be spared immediately to set about rafting casks to the watering-place and filling them. Likewise he bade word be carried to his chief officer, that if, against present expectation, the ship was not brought to anchor by sunset, he need be under no concern; for as there was to be a full moon that night, he (Captain Delano) would remain on board ready to play the pilot, come the wind soon or late. As the two Captains stood together, observing the departing boat–the servant, as it happened, having just spied a spot on his master’s velvet sleeve, and silently engaged rubbing it out–the American expressed his regrets that the San Dominick had no boats; none, at least, but the unseaworthy old hulk of the long-boat, which, warped as a camel’s skeleton in the desert, and almost as bleached, lay pot-wise inverted amidships, one side a little tipped, furnishing a subterraneous sort of den for family groups of the blacks, mostly women and small children; who, squatting on old mats below, or perched above in the dark dome, on the elevated seats, were descried, some distance within, like a social circle of bats, sheltering in some friendly cave; at intervals, ebon flights of naked boys and girls, three or four years old, darting in and out of the den’s mouth. “Had you three or four boats now, Don Benito,” said Captain Delano, “I think that, by tugging at the oars, your negroes here might help along matters some. Did you sail from port without boats, Don Benito?” “They were stove in the gales, Señor.” “That was bad. Many men, too, you lost then. Boats and men. Those must have been hard gales, Don Benito.” “Past all speech,” cringed the Spaniard. “Tell me, Don Benito,” continued his companion with increased interest, “tell me, were these gales immediately off the pitch of Cape Horn?” “Cape Horn?–who spoke of Cape Horn?” “Yourself did, when giving me an account of your voyage,” answered Captain Delano, with almost equal astonishment at this eating of his own words, even as he ever seemed eating his own heart, on the part of the Spaniard. “You yourself, Don Benito, spoke of Cape Horn,” he emphatically repeated. The Spaniard turned, in a sort of stooping posture, pausing an instant, as one about to make a plunging exchange of elements, as from air to water. At this moment a messenger-boy, a white, hurried by, in the regular performance of his function carrying the last expired half hour forward to the forecastle, from the cabin time-piece, to have it struck at the ship’s large bell. “Master,” said the servant, discontinuing his work on the coat sleeve, and addressing the rapt Spaniard with a sort of timid apprehensiveness, as one charged with a duty, the discharge of which, it was foreseen, would prove irksome to the very person who had imposed it, and for whose benefit it was intended, “master told me never mind where he was, or how engaged, always to remind him to a minute, when shaving-time comes. Miguel has gone to strike the half-hour afternoon. It is now, master. Will master go into the cuddy?” “Ah–yes,” answered the Spaniard, starting, as from dreams into realities; then turning upon Captain Delano, he said that ere long he would resume the conversation. “Then if master means to talk more to Don Amasa,” said the servant, “why not let Don Amasa sit by master in the cuddy, and master can talk, and Don Amasa can listen, while Babo here lathers and strops.” “Yes,” said Captain Delano, not unpleased with this sociable plan, “yes, Don Benito, unless you had rather not, I will go with you.” “Be it so, Señor.” As the three passed aft, the American could not but think it another strange instance of his host’s capriciousness, this being shaved with such uncommon punctuality in the middle of the day. But he deemed it more than likely that the servant’s anxious fidelity had something to do with the matter; inasmuch as the timely interruption served to rally his master from the mood which had evidently been coming upon him. The place called the cuddy was a light deck-cabin formed by the poop, a sort of attic to the large cabin below. Part of it had formerly been the quarters of the officers; but since their death all the partitioning had been thrown down, and the whole interior converted into one spacious and airy marine hall; for absence of fine furniture and picturesque disarray of odd appurtenances, somewhat answering to the wide, cluttered hall of some eccentric bachelor-squire in the country, who hangs his shooting-jacket and tobacco-pouch on deer antlers, and keeps his fishing-rod, tongs, and walking-stick in the same corner. The similitude was heightened, if not originally suggested, by glimpses of the surrounding sea; since, in one aspect, the country and the ocean seem cousins-german. The floor of the cuddy was matted. Overhead, four or five old muskets were stuck into horizontal holes along the beams. On one side was a claw-footed old table lashed to the deck; a thumbed missal on it, and over it a small, meagre crucifix attached to the bulk-head. Under the table lay a dented cutlass or two, with a hacked harpoon, among some melancholy old rigging, like a heap of poor friars’ girdles. There were also two long, sharp-ribbed settees of Malacca cane, black with age, and uncomfortable to look at as inquisitors’ racks, with a large, misshapen arm-chair, which, furnished with a rude barber’s crotch at the back, working with a screw, seemed some grotesque engine of torment. A flag locker was in one corner, open, exposing various colored bunting, some rolled up, others half unrolled, still others tumbled. Opposite was a cumbrous washstand, of black mahogany, all of one block, with a pedestal, like a font, and over it a railed shelf, containing combs, brushes, and other implements of the toilet. A torn hammock of stained grass swung near; the sheets tossed, and the pillow wrinkled up like a brow, as if who ever slept here slept but illy, with alternate visitations of sad thoughts and bad dreams. The further extremity of the cuddy, overhanging the ship’s stern, was pierced with three openings, windows or port-holes, according as men or cannon might peer, socially or unsocially, out of them. At present neither men nor cannon were seen, though huge ring-bolts and other rusty iron fixtures of the wood-work hinted of twenty-four-pounders. Glancing towards the hammock as he entered, Captain Delano said, “You sleep here, Don Benito?” “Yes, Señor, since we got into mild weather.” “This seems a sort of dormitory, sitting-room, sail-loft, chapel, armory, and private closet all together, Don Benito,” added Captain Delano, looking round. “Yes, Señor; events have not been favorable to much order in my arrangements.” Here the servant, napkin on arm, made a motion as if waiting his master’s good pleasure. Don Benito signified his readiness, when, seating him in the Malacca arm-chair, and for the guest’s convenience drawing opposite one of the settees, the servant commenced operations by throwing back his master’s collar and loosening his cravat. There is something in the negro which, in a peculiar way, fits him for avocations about one’s person. Most negroes are natural valets and hair-dressers; taking to the comb and brush congenially as to the castinets, and flourishing them apparently with almost equal satisfaction. There is, too, a smooth tact about them in this employment, with a marvelous, noiseless, gliding briskness, not ungraceful in its way, singularly pleasing to behold, and still more so to be the manipulated subject of. And above all is the great gift of good-humor. Not the mere grin or laugh is here meant. Those were unsuitable. But a certain easy cheerfulness, harmonious in every glance and gesture; as though God had set the whole negro to some pleasant tune. When to this is added the docility arising from the unaspiring contentment of a limited mind and that susceptibility of blind attachment sometimes inhering in indisputable inferiors, one readily perceives why those hypochondriacs, Johnson and Byron–it may be, something like the hypochondriac Benito Cereno–took to their hearts, almost to the exclusion of the entire white race, their serving men, the negroes, Barber and Fletcher. But if there be that in the negro which exempts him from the inflicted sourness of the morbid or cynical mind, how, in his most prepossessing aspects, must he appear to a benevolent one? When at ease with respect to exterior things, Captain Delano’s nature was not only benign, but familiarly and humorously so. At home, he had often taken rare satisfaction in sitting in his door, watching some free man of color at his work or play. If on a voyage he chanced to have a black sailor, invariably he was on chatty and half-gamesome terms with him. In fact, like most men of a good, blithe heart, Captain Delano took to negroes, not philanthropically, but genially, just as other men to Newfoundland dogs. Hitherto, the circumstances in which he found the San Dominick had repressed the tendency. But in the cuddy, relieved from his former uneasiness, and, for various reasons, more sociably inclined than at any previous period of the day, and seeing the colored servant, napkin on arm, so debonair about his master, in a business so familiar as that of shaving, too, all his old weakness for negroes returned. Among other things, he was amused with an odd instance of the African love of bright colors and fine shows, in the black’s informally taking from the flag-locker a great piece of bunting of all hues, and lavishly tucking it under his master’s chin for an apron. The mode of shaving among the Spaniards is a little different from what it is with other nations. They have a basin, specifically called a barber’s basin, which on one side is scooped out, so as accurately to receive the chin, against which it is closely held in lathering; which is done, not with a brush, but with soap dipped in the water of the basin and rubbed on the face. In the present instance salt-water was used for lack of better; and the parts lathered were only the upper lip, and low down under the throat, all the rest being cultivated beard. The preliminaries being somewhat novel to Captain Delano, he sat curiously eying them, so that no conversation took place, nor, for the present, did Don Benito appear disposed to renew any. Setting down his basin, the negro searched among the razors, as for the sharpest, and having found it, gave it an additional edge by expertly strapping it on the firm, smooth, oily skin of his open palm; he then made a gesture as if to begin, but midway stood suspended for an instant, one hand elevating the razor, the other professionally dabbling among the bubbling suds on the Spaniard’s lank neck. Not unaffected by the close sight of the gleaming steel, Don Benito nervously shuddered; his usual ghastliness was heightened by the lather, which lather, again, was intensified in its hue by the contrasting sootiness of the negro’s body. Altogether the scene was somewhat peculiar, at least to Captain Delano, nor, as he saw the two thus postured, could he resist the vagary, that in the black he saw a headsman, and in the white a man at the block. But this was one of those antic conceits, appearing and vanishing in a breath, from which, perhaps, the best regulated mind is not always free. Meantime the agitation of the Spaniard had a little loosened the bunting from around him, so that one broad fold swept curtain-like over the chair-arm to the floor, revealing, amid a profusion of armorial bars and ground-colors–black, blue, and yellow–a closed castle in a blood red field diagonal with a lion rampant in a white. “The castle and the lion,” exclaimed Captain Delano–“why, Don Benito, this is the flag of Spain you use here. It’s well it’s only I, and not the King, that sees this,” he added, with a smile, “but”–turning towards the black–“it’s all one, I suppose, so the colors be gay;” which playful remark did not fail somewhat to tickle the negro. “Now, master,” he said, readjusting the flag, and pressing the head gently further back into the crotch of the chair; “now, master,” and the steel glanced nigh the throat. Again Don Benito faintly shuddered. “You must not shake so, master. See, Don Amasa, master always shakes when I shave him. And yet master knows I never yet have drawn blood, though it’s true, if master will shake so, I may some of these times. Now master,” he continued. “And now, Don Amasa, please go on with your talk about the gale, and all that; master can hear, and, between times, master can answer.” “Ah yes, these gales,” said Captain Delano; “but the more I think of your voyage, Don Benito, the more I wonder, not at the gales, terrible as they must have been, but at the disastrous interval following them. For here, by your account, have you been these two months and more getting from Cape Horn to St. Maria, a distance which I myself, with a good wind, have sailed in a few days. True, you had calms, and long ones, but to be becalmed for two months, that is, at least, unusual. Why, Don Benito, had almost any other gentleman told me such a story, I should have been half disposed to a little incredulity.” Here an involuntary expression came over the Spaniard, similar to that just before on the deck, and whether it was the start he gave, or a sudden gawky roll of the hull in the calm, or a momentary unsteadiness of the servant’s hand, however it was, just then the razor drew blood, spots of which stained the creamy lather under the throat: immediately the black barber drew back his steel, and, remaining in his professional attitude, back to Captain Delano, and face to Don Benito, held up the trickling razor, saying, with a sort of half humorous sorrow, “See, master–you shook so–here’s Babo’s first blood.” No sword drawn before James the First of England, no assassination in that timid King’s presence, could have produced a more terrified aspect than was now presented by Don Benito. Poor fellow, thought Captain Delano, so nervous he can’t even bear the sight of barber’s blood; and this unstrung, sick man, is it credible that I should have imagined he meant to spill all my blood, who can’t endure the sight of one little drop of his own? Surely, Amasa Delano, you have been beside yourself this day. Tell it not when you get home, sappy Amasa. Well, well, he looks like a murderer, doesn’t he? More like as if himself were to be done for. Well, well, this day’s experience shall be a good lesson. Meantime, while these things were running through the honest seaman’s mind, the servant had taken the napkin from his arm, and to Don Benito had said–“But answer Don Amasa, please, master, while I wipe this ugly stuff off the razor, and strop it again.” As he said the words, his face was turned half round, so as to be alike visible to the Spaniard and the American, and seemed, by its expression, to hint, that he was desirous, by getting his master to go on with the conversation, considerately to withdraw his attention from the recent annoying accident. As if glad to snatch the offered relief, Don Benito resumed, rehearsing to Captain Delano, that not only were the calms of unusual duration, but the ship had fallen in with obstinate currents; and other things he added, some of which were but repetitions of former statements, to explain how it came to pass that the passage from Cape Horn to St. Maria had been so exceedingly long; now and then, mingling with his words, incidental praises, less qualified than before, to the blacks, for their general good conduct. These particulars were not given consecutively, the servant, at convenient times, using his razor, and so, between the intervals of shaving, the story and panegyric went on with more than usual huskiness. To Captain Delano’s imagination, now again not wholly at rest, there was something so hollow in the Spaniard’s manner, with apparently some reciprocal hollowness in the servant’s dusky comment of silence, that the idea flashed across him, that possibly master and man, for some unknown purpose, were acting out, both in word and deed, nay, to the very tremor of Don Benito’s limbs, some juggling play before him. Neither did the suspicion of collusion lack apparent support, from the fact of those whispered conferences before mentioned. But then, what could be the object of enacting this play of the barber before him? At last, regarding the notion as a whimsy, insensibly suggested, perhaps, by the theatrical aspect of Don Benito in his harlequin ensign, Captain Delano speedily banished it. The shaving over, the servant bestirred himself with a small bottle of scented waters, pouring a few drops on the head, and then diligently rubbing; the vehemence of the exercise causing the muscles of his face to twitch rather strangely. His next operation was with comb, scissors, and brush; going round and round, smoothing a curl here, clipping an unruly whisker-hair there, giving a graceful sweep to the temple-lock, with other impromptu touches evincing the hand of a master; while, like any resigned gentleman in barber’s hands, Don Benito bore all, much less uneasily, at least than he had done the razoring; indeed, he sat so pale and rigid now, that the negro seemed a Nubian sculptor finishing off a white statue-head. All being over at last, the standard of Spain removed, tumbled up, and tossed back into the flag-locker, the negro’s warm breath blowing away any stray hair, which might have lodged down his master’s neck; collar and cravat readjusted; a speck of lint whisked off the velvet lapel; all this being done; backing off a little space, and pausing with an expression of subdued self-complacency, the servant for a moment surveyed his master, as, in toilet at least, the creature of his own tasteful hands. Captain Delano playfully complimented him upon his achievement; at the same time congratulating Don Benito. But neither sweet waters, nor shampooing, nor fidelity, nor sociality, delighted the Spaniard. Seeing him relapsing into forbidding gloom, and still remaining seated, Captain Delano, thinking that his presence was undesired just then, withdrew, on pretense of seeing whether, as he had prophesied, any signs of a breeze were visible. Walking forward to the main-mast, he stood awhile thinking over the scene, and not without some undefined misgivings, when he heard a noise near the cuddy, and turning, saw the negro, his hand to his cheek. Advancing, Captain Delano perceived that the cheek was bleeding. He was about to ask the cause, when the negro’s wailing soliloquy enlightened him. “Ah, when will master get better from his sickness; only the sour heart that sour sickness breeds made him serve Babo so; cutting Babo with the razor, because, only by accident, Babo had given master one little scratch; and for the first time in so many a day, too. Ah, ah, ah,” holding his hand to his face. Is it possible, thought Captain Delano; was it to wreak in private his Spanish spite against this poor friend of his, that Don Benito, by his sullen manner, impelled me to withdraw? Ah this slavery breeds ugly passions in man.–Poor fellow! He was about to speak in sympathy to the negro, but with a timid reluctance he now re-entered the cuddy. Presently master and man came forth; Don Benito leaning on his servant as if nothing had happened. But a sort of love-quarrel, after all, thought Captain Delano. He accosted Don Benito, and they slowly walked together. They had gone but a few paces, when the steward–a tall, rajah-looking mulatto, orientally set off with a pagoda turban formed by three or four Madras handkerchiefs wound about his head, tier on tier–approaching with a saalam, announced lunch in the cabin. On their way thither, the two captains were preceded by the mulatto, who, turning round as he advanced, with continual smiles and bows, ushered them on, a display of elegance which quite completed the insignificance of the small bare-headed Babo, who, as if not unconscious of inferiority, eyed askance the graceful steward. But in part, Captain Delano imputed his jealous watchfulness to that peculiar feeling which the full-blooded African entertains for the adulterated one. As for the steward, his manner, if not bespeaking much dignity of self-respect, yet evidenced his extreme desire to please; which is doubly meritorious, as at once Christian and Chesterfieldian. Captain Delano observed with interest that while the complexion of the mulatto was hybrid, his physiognomy was European–classically so. “Don Benito,” whispered he, “I am glad to see this usher-of-the-golden-rod of yours; the sight refutes an ugly remark once made to me by a Barbadoes planter; that when a mulatto has a regular European face, look out for him; he is a devil. But see, your steward here has features more regular than King George’s of England; and yet there he nods, and bows, and smiles; a king, indeed–the king of kind hearts and polite fellows. What a pleasant voice he has, too?” “He has, Señor.” “But tell me, has he not, so far as you have known him, always proved a good, worthy fellow?” said Captain Delano, pausing, while with a final genuflexion the steward disappeared into the cabin; “come, for the reason just mentioned, I am curious to know.” “Francesco is a good man,” a sort of sluggishly responded Don Benito, like a phlegmatic appreciator, who would neither find fault nor flatter. “Ah, I thought so. For it were strange, indeed, and not very creditable to us white-skins, if a little of our blood mixed with the African’s, should, far from improving the latter’s quality, have the sad effect of pouring vitriolic acid into black broth; improving the hue, perhaps, but not the wholesomeness.” “Doubtless, doubtless, Señor, but”–glancing at Babo–“not to speak of negroes, your planter’s remark I have heard applied to the Spanish and Indian intermixtures in our provinces. But I know nothing about the matter,” he listlessly added. And here they entered the cabin. The lunch was a frugal one. Some of Captain Delano’s fresh fish and pumpkins, biscuit and salt beef, the reserved bottle of cider, and the San Dominick’s last bottle of Canary. As they entered, Francesco, with two or three colored aids, was hovering over the table giving the last adjustments. Upon perceiving their master they withdrew, Francesco making a smiling congé, and the Spaniard, without condescending to notice it, fastidiously remarking to his companion that he relished not superfluous attendance. Without companions, host and guest sat down, like a childless married couple, at opposite ends of the table, Don Benito waving Captain Delano to his place, and, weak as he was, insisting upon that gentleman being seated before himself. The negro placed a rug under Don Benito’s feet, and a cushion behind his back, and then stood behind, not his master’s chair, but Captain Delano’s. At first, this a little surprised the latter. But it was soon evident that, in taking his position, the black was still true to his master; since by facing him he could the more readily anticipate his slightest want. “This is an uncommonly intelligent fellow of yours, Don Benito,” whispered Captain Delano across the table. “You say true, Señor.” During the repast, the guest again reverted to parts of Don Benito’s story, begging further particulars here and there. He inquired how it was that the scurvy and fever should have committed such wholesale havoc upon the whites, while destroying less than half of the blacks. As if this question reproduced the whole scene of plague before the Spaniard’s eyes, miserably reminding him of his solitude in a cabin where before he had had so many friends and officers round him, his hand shook, his face became hueless, broken words escaped; but directly the sane memory of the past seemed replaced by insane terrors of the present. With starting eyes he stared before him at vacancy. For nothing was to be seen but the hand of his servant pushing the Canary over towards him. At length a few sips served partially to restore him. He made random reference to the different constitution of races, enabling one to offer more resistance to certain maladies than another. The thought was new to his companion. Presently Captain Delano, intending to say something to his host concerning the pecuniary part of the business he had undertaken for him, especially–since he was strictly accountable to his owners–with reference to the new suit of sails, and other things of that sort; and naturally preferring to conduct such affairs in private, was desirous that the servant should withdraw; imagining that Don Benito for a few minutes could dispense with his attendance. He, however, waited awhile; thinking that, as the conversation proceeded, Don Benito, without being prompted, would perceive the propriety of the step. But it was otherwise. At last catching his host’s eye, Captain Delano, with a slight backward gesture of his thumb, whispered, “Don Benito, pardon me, but there is an interference with the full expression of what I have to say to you.” Upon this the Spaniard changed countenance; which was imputed to his resenting the hint, as in some way a reflection upon his servant. After a moment’s pause, he assured his guest that the black’s remaining with them could be of no disservice; because since losing his officers he had made Babo (whose original office, it now appeared, had been captain of the slaves) not only his constant attendant and companion, but in all things his confidant. After this, nothing more could be said; though, indeed, Captain Delano could hardly avoid some little tinge of irritation upon being left ungratified in so inconsiderable a wish, by one, too, for whom he intended such solid services. But it is only his querulousness, thought he; and so filling his glass he proceeded to business. The price of the sails and other matters was fixed upon. But while this was being done, the American observed that, though his original offer of assistance had been hailed with hectic animation, yet now when it was reduced to a business transaction, indifference and apathy were betrayed. Don Benito, in fact, appeared to submit to hearing the details more out of regard to common propriety, than from any impression that weighty benefit to himself and his voyage was involved. Soon, his manner became still more reserved. The effort was vain to seek to draw him into social talk. Gnawed by his splenetic mood, he sat twitching his beard, while to little purpose the hand of his servant, mute as that on the wall, slowly pushed over the Canary. Lunch being over, they sat down on the cushioned transom; the servant placing a pillow behind his master. The long continuance of the calm had now affected the atmosphere. Don Benito sighed heavily, as if for breath. “Why not adjourn to the cuddy,” said Captain Delano; “there is more air there.” But the host sat silent and motionless. Meantime his servant knelt before him, with a large fan of feathers. And Francesco coming in on tiptoes, handed the negro a little cup of aromatic waters, with which at intervals he chafed his master’s brow; smoothing the hair along the temples as a nurse does a child’s. He spoke no word. He only rested his eye on his master’s, as if, amid all Don Benito’s distress, a little to refresh his spirit by the silent sight of fidelity. Presently the ship’s bell sounded two o’clock; and through the cabin windows a slight rippling of the sea was discerned; and from the desired direction. “There,” exclaimed Captain Delano, “I told you so, Don Benito, look!” He had risen to his feet, speaking in a very animated tone, with a view the more to rouse his companion. But though the crimson curtain of the stern-window near him that moment fluttered against his pale cheek, Don Benito seemed to have even less welcome for the breeze than the calm. Poor fellow, thought Captain Delano, bitter experience has taught him that one ripple does not make a wind, any more than one swallow a summer. But he is mistaken for once. I will get his ship in for him, and prove it. Briefly alluding to his weak condition, he urged his host to remain quietly where he was, since he (Captain Delano) would with pleasure take upon himself the responsibility of making the best use of the wind. Upon gaining the deck, Captain Delano started at the unexpected figure of Atufal, monumentally fixed at the threshold, like one of those sculptured porters of black marble guarding the porches of Egyptian tombs. But this time the start was, perhaps, purely physical. Atufal’s presence, singularly attesting docility even in sullenness, was contrasted with that of the hatchet-polishers, who in patience evinced their industry; while both spectacles showed, that lax as Don Benito’s general authority might be, still, whenever he chose to exert it, no man so savage or colossal but must, more or less, bow. Snatching a trumpet which hung from the bulwarks, with a free step Captain Delano advanced to the forward edge of the poop, issuing his orders in his best Spanish. The few sailors and many negroes, all equally pleased, obediently set about heading the ship towards the harbor. While giving some directions about setting a lower stu’n’-sail, suddenly Captain Delano heard a voice faithfully repeating his orders. Turning, he saw Babo, now for the time acting, under the pilot, his original part of captain of the slaves. This assistance proved valuable. Tattered sails and warped yards were soon brought into some trim. And no brace or halyard was pulled but to the blithe songs of the inspirited negroes. Good fellows, thought Captain Delano, a little training would make fine sailors of them. Why see, the very women pull and sing too. These must be some of those Ashantee negresses that make such capital soldiers, I’ve heard. But who’s at the helm. I must have a good hand there. He went to see. The San Dominick steered with a cumbrous tiller, with large horizontal pullies attached. At each pully-end stood a subordinate black, and between them, at the tiller-head, the responsible post, a Spanish seaman, whose countenance evinced his due share in the general hopefulness and confidence at the coming of the breeze. He proved the same man who had behaved with so shame-faced an air on the windlass. “Ah,–it is you, my man,” exclaimed Captain Delano–“well, no more sheep’s-eyes now;–look straight forward and keep the ship so. Good hand, I trust? And want to get into the harbor, don’t you?” The man assented with an inward chuckle, grasping the tiller-head firmly. Upon this, unperceived by the American, the two blacks eyed the sailor intently. Finding all right at the helm, the pilot went forward to the forecastle, to see how matters stood there. The ship now had way enough to breast the current. With the approach of evening, the breeze would be sure to freshen. Having done all that was needed for the present, Captain Delano, giving his last orders to the sailors, turned aft to report affairs to Don Benito in the cabin; perhaps additionally incited to rejoin him by the hope of snatching a moment’s private chat while the servant was engaged upon deck. From opposite sides, there were, beneath the poop, two approaches to the cabin; one further forward than the other, and consequently communicating with a longer passage. Marking the servant still above, Captain Delano, taking the nighest entrance–the one last named, and at whose porch Atufal still stood–hurried on his way, till, arrived at the cabin threshold, he paused an instant, a little to recover from his eagerness. Then, with the words of his intended business upon his lips, he entered. As he advanced toward the seated Spaniard, he heard another footstep, keeping time with his. From the opposite door, a salver in hand, the servant was likewise advancing. “Confound the faithful fellow,” thought Captain Delano; “what a vexatious coincidence.” Possibly, the vexation might have been something different, were it not for the brisk confidence inspired by the breeze. But even as it was, he felt a slight twinge, from a sudden indefinite association in his mind of Babo with Atufal. “Don Benito,” said he, “I give you joy; the breeze will hold, and will increase. By the way, your tall man and time-piece, Atufal, stands without. By your order, of course?” Don Benito recoiled, as if at some bland satirical touch, delivered with such adroit garnish of apparent good breeding as to present no handle for retort. He is like one flayed alive, thought Captain Delano; where may one touch him without causing a shrink? The servant moved before his master, adjusting a cushion; recalled to civility, the Spaniard stiffly replied: “you are right. The slave appears where you saw him, according to my command; which is, that if at the given hour I am below, he must take his stand and abide my coming.” “Ah now, pardon me, but that is treating the poor fellow like an ex-king indeed. Ah, Don Benito,” smiling, “for all the license you permit in some things, I fear lest, at bottom, you are a bitter hard master.” Again Don Benito shrank; and this time, as the good sailor thought, from a genuine twinge of his conscience. Again conversation became constrained. In vain Captain Delano called attention to the now perceptible motion of the keel gently cleaving the sea; with lack-lustre eye, Don Benito returned words few and reserved. By-and-by, the wind having steadily risen, and still blowing right into the harbor bore the San Dominick swiftly on. Sounding a point of land, the sealer at distance came into open view. Meantime Captain Delano had again repaired to the deck, remaining there some time. Having at last altered the ship’s course, so as to give the reef a wide berth, he returned for a few moments below. I will cheer up my poor friend, this time, thought he. “Better and better,” Don Benito, he cried as he blithely re-entered: “there will soon be an end to your cares, at least for awhile. For when, after a long, sad voyage, you know, the anchor drops into the haven, all its vast weight seems lifted from the captain’s heart. We are getting on famously, Don Benito. My ship is in sight. Look through this side-light here; there she is; all a-taunt-o! The Bachelor’s Delight, my good friend. Ah, how this wind braces one up. Come, you must take a cup of coffee with me this evening. My old steward will give you as fine a cup as ever any sultan tasted. What say you, Don Benito, will you?” At first, the Spaniard glanced feverishly up, casting a longing look towards the sealer, while with mute concern his servant gazed into his face. Suddenly the old ague of coldness returned, and dropping back to his cushions he was silent. “You do not answer. Come, all day you have been my host; would you have hospitality all on one side?” “I cannot go,” was the response. “What? it will not fatigue you. The ships will lie together as near as they can, without swinging foul. It will be little more than stepping from deck to deck; which is but as from room to room. Come, come, you must not refuse me.” “I cannot go,” decisively and repulsively repeated Don Benito. Renouncing all but the last appearance of courtesy, with a sort of cadaverous sullenness, and biting his thin nails to the quick, he glanced, almost glared, at his guest, as if impatient that a stranger’s presence should interfere with the full indulgence of his morbid hour. Meantime the sound of the parted waters came more and more gurglingly and merrily in at the windows; as reproaching him for his dark spleen; as telling him that, sulk as he might, and go mad with it, nature cared not a jot; since, whose fault was it, pray? But the foul mood was now at its depth, as the fair wind at its height. There was something in the man so far beyond any mere unsociality or sourness previously evinced, that even the forbearing good-nature of his guest could no longer endure it. Wholly at a loss to account for such demeanor, and deeming sickness with eccentricity, however extreme, no adequate excuse, well satisfied, too, that nothing in his own conduct could justify it, Captain Delano’s pride began to be roused. Himself became reserved. But all seemed one to the Spaniard. Quitting him, therefore, Captain Delano once more went to the deck. The ship was now within less than two miles of the sealer. The whale-boat was seen darting over the interval. To be brief, the two vessels, thanks to the pilot’s skill, ere long neighborly style lay anchored together.
THE INTERESTING NARRATIVE OF THE LIFE OF OLAUDAH EQUIANO, OR GUSTAVUS VASSA, THE AFRICAN. WRITTEN BY HIMSELF. (1789) https://www.gutenberg.org/files/15399/15399-h/15399-h.htm
... I was soon put down under the decks, and there I received such a salutation in my nostrils as I had never experienced in my life: so that, with the loathsomeness of the stench, and crying together, I became so sick and low that I was not able to eat, nor had I the least desire to taste any thing. I now wished for the last friend, death, to relieve me; but soon, to my grief, two of the white men offered me eatables; and, on my refusing to eat, one of them held me fast by the hands, and laid me across I think the windlass, and tied my feet, while the other flogged me severely. I had never experienced any thing of this kind before; and although, not being used to the water, I naturally feared that element the first time I saw it, yet nevertheless, could I have got over the nettings, I would have jumped over the side, but I could not; and, besides, the crew used to watch us very closely who were not chained down to the decks, lest we should leap into the water: and I have seen some of these poor African prisoners most severely cut for attempting to do so, and hourly whipped for not eating. This indeed was often the case with myself. ... from The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Or Gustavus Vassa, The African (1789) by Olaudah Equiano https://www.gutenberg.org/files/15399/15399-h/15399-h.htm
… When I looked round the ship too and saw a large furnace or copper boiling, and a multitude of black people of every description chained together, every one of their countenances expressing dejection and sorrow, I no longer doubted of my fate; and, quite overpowered with horror and anguish, I fell motionless on the deck and fainted. … from The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Or Gustavus Vassa, The African (1789) by Olaudah Equiano https://www.gutenberg.org/files/15399/15399-h/15399-h.htm
… The first object which saluted my eyes when I arrived on the coast was the sea, and a slave ship, which was then riding at anchor, and waiting for its cargo. These filled me with astonishment, which was soon converted into terror when I was carried on board. I was now persuaded that I had gotten into a world of bad spirits, … from The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Or Gustavus Vassa, The African (1789) by Olaudah Equiano https://www.gutenberg.org/files/15399/15399-h/15399-h.htm
… The first object which saluted my eyes when I arrived on the coast was the sea, and a slave ship, which was then riding at anchor, and waiting for its cargo. These filled me with astonishment, which was soon converted into terror when I was carried on board. I was now persuaded that I had gotten into a world of bad spirits, … from The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Or Gustavus Vassa, The African (1789) by Olaudah Equiano https://www.gutenberg.org/files/15399/15399-h/15399-h.htm
Upon a still nigher approach, this appearance was modified, and the true character of the vessel was plain–a Spanish merchantman of the first class, carrying negro slaves, amongst other valuable freight, from one colonial port to another.
Start of the third Putnam's Monthly installment.
This is where the second Putnam's installation begins.
- Santa Maria Island
- haitan revolution
- maritime trade
- US economic expansion
- Peruvian Inquisition
- saya y el manto
- Spanish colonization
- foreign markets
- Dutch West Indies Company
- early US trade
- Arauco War
- Treaty of Paris
- Empress of China
- International commerce
- Spanish colonial cusoms
- Moby Dick
- Christian ritual
- Spanish colonies
- 18th century
- Spanish-colonial Chile
- Putnam's Monthly
- Golden Round
Before returning to his own vessel, Captain Delano had intended communicating to Don Benito the smaller details of the proposed services to be rendered. But, as it was, unwilling anew to subject himself to rebuffs, he resolved, now that he had seen the San Dominick safely moored, immediately to quit her, without further allusion to hospitality or business. Indefinitely postponing his ulterior plans, he would regulate his future actions according to future circumstances. His boat was ready to receive him; but his host still tarried below. Well, thought Captain Delano, if he has little breeding, the more need to show mine. He descended to the cabin to bid a ceremonious, and, it may be, tacitly rebukeful adieu. But to his great satisfaction, Don Benito, as if he began to feel the weight of that treatment with which his slighted guest had, not indecorously, retaliated upon him, now supported by his servant, rose to his feet, and grasping Captain Delano’s hand, stood tremulous; too much agitated to speak. But the good augury hence drawn was suddenly dashed, by his resuming all his previous reserve, with augmented gloom, as, with half-averted eyes, he silently reseated himself on his cushions. With a corresponding return of his own chilled feelings, Captain Delano bowed and withdrew.