The Magic Egg and Other Stories
The Widow's Cruise
The Widow Ducket lived in a small village about ten miles from the New Jersey sea-
coast. In this village she was born, here she had married and buried her husband, and here
she expected somebody to bury her; but she was in no hurry for this, for she had scarcely
reached middle age. She was a tall woman with no apparent fat in her composition, and
full of activity, both muscular and mental.
She rose at six o'clock in the morning, cooked breakfast, set the table, washed the dishes
when the meal was over, milked, churned, swept, washed, ironed, worked in her little
garden, attended to the flowers in the front yard, and in the afternoon knitted and quilted
and sewed, and after tea she either went to see her neighbors or had them come to see her.
When it was really dark she lighted the lamp in her parlor and read for an hour, and if it
happened to be one of Miss Mary Wilkins's books that she read she expressed doubts as
to the realism of the characters therein described.
These doubts she expressed to Dorcas Networthy, who was a small, plump woman, with
a solemn face, who had lived with the widow for many years and who had become her
devoted disciple. Whatever the widow did, that also did Dorcas--not so well, for her heart
told her she could never expect to do that, but with a yearning anxiety to do everything as
well as she could. She rose at five minutes past six, and in a subsidiary way she helped to
get the breakfast, to eat it, to wash up the dishes, to work in the garden, to quilt, to sew, to
visit and receive, and no one could have tried harder than she did to keep awake when the
widow read aloud in the evening.
All these things happened every day in the summertime, but in the winter the widow and
Dorcas cleared the snow from their little front path instead of attending to the flowers,
and in the evening they lighted a fire as well as a lamp in the parlor.
Sometimes, however, something different happened, but this was not often, only a few
times in the year. One of the different things occurred when Mrs. Ducket and Dorcas
were sitting on their little front porch one summer afternoon, one on the little bench on
one side of the door, and the other on the little bench on the other side of the door, each
waiting until she should hear the clock strike five, to prepare tea. But it was not yet a
quarter to five when a one-horse wagon containing four men came slowly down the
street. Dorcas first saw the wagon, and she instantly stopped knitting.
"Mercy on me!" she exclaimed. "Whoever those people are, they are strangers here, and
they don't know where to stop, for they first go to one side of the street and then to the
The widow looked around sharply. "Humph!" said she. "Those men are sailormen. You
might see that in a twinklin' of an eye. Sailormen always drive that way, because that is
the way they sail ships. They first tack in one direction and then in another."