WHH Short Fiction: “The Mystery of Captain Chappel”

Essay: “The Mystery of Captain Chappel”, William Hope Hodgson, 1917.

NSB Vol 2
Cover by Jason Van Hollander

Humorous story about Cobbler Juk, cleverer than his nephew the policeman. Or, as Cobbler puts it in the story’s opening lines,

I ain’t enough knowledge . . . not to be what you’d call scientific. But I got the brains I was born with, and I uses my eyes!

And using his eyes he does solve two murders in an English village – for a ten pound reward and his promise that he’ll keep his mouth shut and not embarrass the police.

The murder victim is, initially, Captain Chappel. But, to the body count, Saddler Atikins and Councillor Tompkins are added.

Cobbler finds out that the murderer was an old acquaintance of the victims and involved in their former secret life of illegal seal hunting and piracy. The town is some ways inland, so Chappel’s past life was not so well known.

We even find out that the murder is a black man mistreated by his victims in “some dirty job”, and Cobbler

hopes as you policemen, you’ll never lay a hand on him. I’d be very well pleased. I believe he gave them three divvils no more than was comin’ to them.

This story, incidentally, is one of those mysteries told mostly through dialog.

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