WHH Short Fiction: “We Two and Bully Dunkan”

Essay: “We Two and Bully Dunkan”, William Hope Hodgson, 1916.

Hodgson left the merchant marine disgusted with the pay and abuse by officers and fellow sailors. Preventing that bullying led to his interest in physical fitness and unarmed combat. He is supposed to have looked up sailors who had bullied him on ship and beat them up.

This story, therefore, has something of an autobiographical element.

Miles is a sailor who just finished a voyage with the brutal American captain Bully Dunkan who cheated him out of his wages. He encounters, in San Francisco, the narrator, an American sailor he has served with in the past.

The two friends hatch a scheme for their revenge. They will get Miles’ back pay, thrash Dunkan and his brutal First Mate Hogge (yes, another appearance of that name and image in Hodgson). In another example of The Luck of the Strong, the collection where this story first appeared, they are going to pull a heist and steal a treasure Dunkan and Hogge found on an island.

There is much violence. The narrator and Miles allow themselves to be beaten after provoking a fight with the Captain and Hogge, and they are handcuffed and put in the brig – which turns out to be the perfect place to launch the heist from and provide them an alibi.

The heist is clever as is the narrator’s casting mutual suspicion on Dunkan and the Hogge.

After Miles and the narrator leave the ship in port, having smuggled their gold off (about a hundred pounds worth), they return to thrash Dunkan and the Hogge.

The story’s end shares an element with many stories in Hodgson’s Captain Gault series: the narrator sends a brief and gloating note to Dunkan explaining what they’ve done.




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