On the morning of September 17, 1799, Amasa Delano, the captain of an American sealer, looks out on the bay of St. Maria, a small, uninhabited island off Chile, and sees an unidentified ship moving clumsily toward the harbor. To assist the ship in safe passage, he travels by whale-boat to the vessel, a handsome Spanish trader now fallen into serious disrepair. His perusal of the ship's discipline finds no officers, numerous black slaves milling about and doing odd jobs, and the captain, Don Benito Cereno, too weak and nervous to do much more than what his black servant directs him. Cereno, who maintains a mysteriously evasive veneer, explains that his men and passengers have been depleted by scurvy, fever, and the buffeting of storms near Cape Horn. Unable to maneuver the San Dominick to safe mooring, they have been at the mercy of the sea. Captain Delano, observing
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