”Bartleby, the Scrivener” – An elderly Manhattan lawyer with a comfortable business in legal documents has two scriveners employed, but an increase in business leads him to advertise for a third. He hires the forlorn-looking Bartleby in the hope that his calmness will soothe the irascible temperaments of the other two. An office boy nicknamed Ginger Nut completes the staff. At first, Bartleby produces a large volume of high-quality work, but one day, when asked to help proofread a document, Bartleby answers with what soon becomes his perpetual response to every request: ”I would prefer not to.”
”Benito Cereno” is a tale about the revolt on a Spanish slave ship captained by Don Benito Cereno. In 1799 off the coast of Chile, Captain Amasa Delano of the American sealer and merchant ship Bachelor's Delight visits the San Dominick, a Spanish slave ship apparently in distress. After learning from its captain Benito Cereno that a storm has taken many crewmembers and provisions, Delano offers to help out. He notices that Cereno acts awkwardly passive for a captain and the slaves display remarkably inappropriate behavior, and though this piques his suspicion he ultimately decides he is being paranoid. When he leaves the San Dominick and captain Cereno jumps after him, he finally discovers that the slaves have taken command of the ship, and forced the surviving crew to act as usual.