[Delano relaxes as he gives up his fears]
Such were the American’s thoughts. They were tranquilizing. There was a difference between the idea of Don Benito’s darkly pre-ordaining Captain Delano’s fate, and Captain Delano’s lightly arranging Don Benito’s. Nevertheless, it was not without something of relief that the good seaman presently perceived his whale-boat in the distance. Its absence had been prolonged by unexpected detention at the sealer’s side, as well as its returning trip lengthened by the continual recession of the goal.
[His whaling ship approaches.]
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.
[In this moment of relief, Delano sees two of the Africans abuse a sailor. This shocks Delano]
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!”
[Babo under the guise of aiding Benito, takes him aside again]
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.
[Delano in the most remarkable misunderstanding of the circumstance, offers to buy Babo from Benito! This scene underscores the extent to which Delano absolutely does not know what is happening.]
“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?”
[And it is Babo who rejects the offer.]
“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.
[Benito becomes so ill, Babo takes him below. Delano, waiting for his ship tries to visit with the Spanish sailors.]
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.
[Seeing the condition of a sailor, he draws the wrong conclusion as to the cause of their appearance thinking it the product of vice]
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.
[Another sailor’s strange behavior. He confirms some details of the story told by Benito of the storms and disease]
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.
[He could find no one with whom to talk]
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.
[Having seen the troubled sailors, he now sees a happy young African mother and her child. The scene is striking as the first “normal” and happy thing to have been seen on the ship. One thing that strikes Delano is that she is ‘natural’ while all of the other behavior on the ship seems so artificial and strange. This also tends towards his thoughts about the nature of this Africans and how they are some how less civilized also a different sort of being. He is a confusion of compassion and condensation.]
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.
[Still waiting for Benito he starts looking about the ship.]
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.
[We now return to the theme of enchantment, this time he seems to find himself inside a “charmed” and “deserted chateau” as a prisoner. The ship again seems to be under a spell]
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 ch�teau, 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.
[Another Spanish sailor seems to be trying to communicate something secret to Delano. But Delano misunderstanding everything wonders if this was something directed against Benito]
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. [This is an understatement. Delano has been nothing but bewildered throughout.]
[He returns to his fear of a plot by Benito]
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?
[We now turn to the profoundly racist thoughts of Delano. He thinks of the difference between the whites and the blacks almost different species, with the whites far superior in intellect and ability. It would be impossible that Benito would team up with the blacks to hurt a white man]
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.
[We now come to another symbolic representation of the circumstance, a knot which cannot be untied. This key scene presents the puzzle that cannot be solved: a Gordian knot. This is precisely what Delano is faced with, a riddle he cannot answer. It is also a problem that he cannot solve. There is trouble on this ship that Delano does not comprehend
The man throws the knot to Delano and tells him in English, so that the Africans cannot understand, cut it, quick. Rather than cut the knot he holds it. An African approaches, takes the knot away and throws it overboard.
In an interesting reversal, the African who approaches, has the air “of an attorney”. The Spaniard tying the knot is said by the African to be “simple” – not very smart. This directly contradicts the baseline belief of Delano that the Africans were simple and Europeans were superior by nature.]
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 –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 cong�, 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.
[The scene with the knot leaves Delano confused. Again, ironically it feels like the beginning sea-sickness. A whaler captain would not be troubled with such things.
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.
[He feels some relief at his own boat coming nearer. He gives up his fear that he will be murdered on a “haunted pirate-ship” (again with enchantment: he takes his confusion and fear as almost a spell over the ship, when the trouble is there is a secret).
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.”
[Babo returns and tells him that Don Benito has recovered and will be up soon. The plot has reached the place where it looks like everything would work out, his ship has returned, he has given up his fears, Don Benito is well]
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.
[The scene description has now returned to the description of the morning. At that time, he was on his own ship and say the slaver approaching. Now he is on the slaver and sees his ship approaching. Here is the description of the sea and sky from the beginning of the story, “The morning was one peculiar to that coast. Everything was mute and calm; everything gray. The sea, though undulated into long roods of swells, seemed fixed, and was sleeked at the surface like waved lead that has cooled and set in the smelter’s mould. The sky seemed a gray
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, it’s 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.
[And here it turns back to trouble. His boat was fighting a rip-tide. Then he sees the sailor whose behavior had troubled him earlier. He seeks to regain control of his feelings.]
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.
[To calm himself, he tries to put the parts together in some other manner. He points to four key events which he had witnessed.]
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 folkson 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.
[He cannot form a coherent story out of these four events. Maybe that is because Don Benito is simply a contradictory captain.]
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.
[The supplies are brought aboard]
Ah good! 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
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.
[Now comes a very confusing scene. Benito is trying to gain some order. But then the men who seem to be actually in charge step in and back-up the captain. On a ship the captain is a king. This would have been extremely strange to Delano. ]He thought they were going to murder him.
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, 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.
[Delano is pleased to see that Benito was so open with the blacks and whites. And Babo put aside a bottle of cider for the captain’s table, which we know will actually go to Babo]
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.
[A point made clear, only Delano came aboard. All the rest of his crew stayed in the boat. Delano makes arrangements to bring the the Spanish ship in safely and to get more supplies to the ship.]
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.
[Benito denies ever having sailed around Cape Horn. Earlier Benito had plainly stated they suffered a gale at Cape Horn. This is quite confusing to Delano]
“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, Se�or.”
“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
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.