Delano tells Cereno he will give him some supplies, some sailors, and some rigging to help them reach the nearest port. This momentarily cheers up Cereno, but then Babo draws him aside, claiming the excitement is bad for his master, and when Cereno returns, he is morose again.

As Delano moves across the ship whenever Cereno is otherwise occupied, he often gets an intuitive feeling of suspicion, that something is wrong. He notices a small black boy hit a white cabin boy on the head with a knife, and lightly chides Cereno for allowing this to happen. The other captain acknowledges the incident, but makes no effort to punish the attacker.

Delano then inquires as to the owner of the slaves and discovers they belong to Alexander Aranda, a friend of Cereno's who died of the fever. Delano suspects that Aranda's body is still on board, judging from Cereno's reaction to discussing the man. But they are interrupted by a giant black slave named Atufal, who appears before Cereno in chains. Cereno asks Atufal if he is now willing to ask for pardon, but Atufal makes no answer, and Cereno dismisses him. Delano is impressed by Atufal's honorable refusal to beg for pardon, and he almost chides Cereno for keeping such a noble, well-behaved slave in chains, and Cereno can make no satisfactory explanation.

Cereno then rather rudely begins whispering with his servant. Delano starts to become suspicious, and believes he is the subject of their conversation. He even briefly flirts with the idea that Cereno is actually some low-born adventurer masquerading as a ship captain. But the good-natured Delano dismisses this idea, even as Cereno returns and asks him some rather suspicious questions, such as how many men his ship holds and whether they would be present on it that night.

Troubled by this, Delano tries to distract himself and sees an odd sight: a Spanish sailor, wearing the usual clothing of a sailor but with a shirt of the finest linen underneath. He sees another sailor brandishing something shiny before vanishing into the ship's hold. All these signs perplex him, and he turns them over in his mind. He is beginning to suspect that Benito Cereno may have plans to attack him and capture his own ship, the Bachelor's Delight.

Delano again dismisses his suspicions as silly, but witnesses another strange scene: two blacks push a sailor and then throw him to the ground. When Delano attempts to point this out to Cereno, the Spanish captain has another coughing fit, and his servant Babo must help him. The scene between master and servant causes Delano to forget the incident with the sailor. But soon the suspicions are back, as he thinks he sees the Spanish sailors giving him meaningful glances. He tries to question them, but they are constantly crowded out or harassed by the slaves. One sailor, however, seems to attempt to make contact with Delano, but flees before Delano can speak to him. Since the sailor seemed to be trying to speak to him without even his captain knowing, Delano becomes even more suspicious of Cereno.