The Magic Egg and Other Stories
Captain Eli's Best Ear
The little seaside village of Sponkannis lies so quietly upon a protected spot on our
Atlantic coast that it makes no more stir in the world than would a pebble which, held
between one's finger and thumb, should be dipped below the surface of a millpond and
then dropped. About the post-office and the store--both under the same roof--the greater
number of the houses cluster, as if they had come for their week's groceries, or were
waiting for the mail, while toward the west the dwellings become fewer and fewer, until
at last the village blends into a long stretch of sandy coast and scrubby pine-woods.
Eastward the village ends abruptly at the foot of a windswept bluff, on which no one
cares to build.
Among the last houses in the western end of the village stood two neat, substantial
dwellings, one belonging to Captain Eli Bunker, and the other to Captain Cephas Dyer.
These householders were two very respectable retired mariners, the first a widower about
fifty, and the other a bachelor of perhaps the same age, a few years more or less making
but little difference in this region of weather-beaten youth and seasoned age.
Each of these good captains lived alone, and each took entire charge of his own domestic
affairs, not because he was poor, but because it pleased him to do so. When Captain Eli
retired from the sea he was the owner of a good vessel, which he sold at a fair profit; and
Captain Cephas had made money in many a voyage before he built his house in
Sponkannis and settled there.
When Captain Eli's wife was living she was his household manager. But Captain Cephas
had never had a woman in his house, except during the first few months of his
occupancy, when certain female neighbors came in occasionally to attend to little matters
of cleaning which, according to popular notions, properly belong to the sphere of woman.
But Captain Cephas soon put an end to this sort of thing. He did not like a woman's ways,
especially her ways of attending to domestic affairs. He liked to live in sailor fashion, and
to keep house in sailor fashion. In his establishment everything was shipshape, and
everything which could be stowed away was stowed away, and, if possible, in a bunker.
The floors were holystoned nearly every day, and the whole house was repainted about
twice a year, a little at a time, when the weather was suitable for this marine recreation.
Things not in frequent use were lashed securely to the walls, or perhaps put out of the
way by being hauled up to the ceiling by means of blocks and tackle. His cooking was
done sailor fashion, like everything else, and he never failed to have plum-duff on
Sunday. His well was near his house, and every morning he dropped into it a lead and
line, and noted down the depth of water. Three times a day he entered in a little note-
book the state of the weather, the height of the mercury in barometer and thermometer,
the direction of the wind, and special weather points when necessary.
Captain Eli managed his domestic affairs in an entirely different way. He kept house
woman fashion--not, however, in the manner of an ordinary woman, but after the manner