Article in yesterday’s NY Times about the reappearance of dogs (as pets) in China reminded me of the seventh sketch in Melville’s Encantadas.

Sketch Seventh. Charles’s Isle and the Dog-King

It’s the account of a guy who made himself ruler of Charles’s Island (of the Galapagos Islands) with a pack of vicious dogs as his army.
Some gems:
“At length the death penalty was tacitly abolished, owing to the timely thought that, were strict sportsman’s justice to be dispensed among such subjects, ere long the Nimrod King would have little or no remaining game to shoot. ”

“But no, the insurgents had confederated themselves into a democracy neither Grecian, Roman, nor American. Nay, it was no democracy at all, but a permanent riotocracy, which gloried in having no law but lawlessness. Great inducements being offered to deserters, their ranks were swelled by accessions of scamps from every ship which touched their shores.”

and of course passage where the unscrupulous inhabitants of the island try to trick a passing ship into landing a boat on their island is great:

“One warm night during my first visit to the group, our ship was floating along in languid stillness when someone on the forecastle shouted ‘Light ho!’ We looked and saw a beacon burning on some obscure land off the beam. Our third mate was not intimate with this part of the world. Going to the captain he said, ‘Sir, shall I put off in a boat? These must be shipwrecked men.’

The captain laughed rather grimly, as, shaking his fist towards the beacon, he rapped out an oath, and said, ‘No, no, you precious rascals, you don’t juggle one of my boats ashore this blessed night. You do well, you thieves — you do benevolently to hoist a light yonder as on a dangerous shoal. It tempts no wise man to pull off and see what’s the matter, but bids them steer small and keep off shore — that is Charles’s Island; brace up, Mr. Mate, and keep the light astern.’”

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