Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Of all the passengers and crew on board the ship, only the Robinson family is saved when the vessel breaks apart on a reef and the crew and other passengers jump into lifeboats without waiting for the little family to join them. As the ship tosses about, the father prays that God will spare them. There is plenty of food on board, and after they eat, the boys go to sleep, leaving the father and the mother to guard them.
In the morning their first concern is to get to the island they can see beyond the reef. With much effort, they construct a vessel out of tubs. After they fill the tubs with food and ammunition and all other articles of value they can safely carry, they row toward the island. Two dogs from the ship swim beside them, and the boys are glad they will have pets when they reach their new home.
Their first task on reaching the island is to erect a tent of sailcloth they brought from the ship. They gather moss and dry it so that they will have some protection from the ground when they sleep. They are able to find a lobster and to shoot some game, thus to add fresh food to their supplies. Since they have no utensils for eating, they use shells for spoons, all dipping out of the iron kettle that they brought from the ship. They released some geese and pigeons while they were still on the ship and brought two hens and two cocks with them. The father knows that they must prepare for a long time on the island, and his thoughts are as much...
(The entire section is 1295 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of The Swiss Family Robinson Summary. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Although The Swiss Family Robinson may seem to be old-fashioned in its outlook, it is still widely read and available in several different editions as a result of alterations made to the original German text. The various versions might have different names of people and places, new episodes added, the text shortened, or very different endings, but there is no one edition that is considered the correct version. For all its quaintness, it is a wonderful tale of adventure. A family of six are tossed upon an Eden-like island, where they gradually find everything they need for their comfort. The worst disaster that occurs during their ten-year stay is the loss of their donkey to a thirty-foot boa constrictor, the only monster in the entire story.
The story proceeds episodically through ten years of adventures. It is quite possible to choose a chapter to read at random without considering the rest of the story, for the central plot is slight. The family—a father, mother, and four sons—is based on the Wyss family. The characterizations are not strong, but young readers easily identify with the group. The reader can easily become any of the children living in the fabulous tree house or in the wonderful cave during the rainy season. For the young person with a creative imagination, The Swiss Family Robinson is a wonderful storehouse of entertainment.
(The entire section is 229 words.)
Chapter 1 Summary
Since its first publication in 1812, Johann Wyss's novel, The Swiss Family Robinson, has been edited and/or translated into various lengths, ranging from eighteen to fifty-two chapters. The longer versions are "unabridged." The version this summary covers is a popular 1879 unabridged version of forty-four chapters, edited by William H. G. Kingston.
The story is narrated by the father of four sons who, with his wife, journeys on a ship. A violent storm pulls them off their charted course and tosses the ship so wildly that after a few days none of the crew knows where they are. The storm lasts a long time, leaving all aboard distressed and hopeless of being saved.
One afternoon, a crew member sees land, and soon the ship runs aground on rocks, which crack the bow. As night falls, the father, fearful for the lives of his family, goes on deck to determine the ship's damage. What he sees is difficult to believe: The crew is boarding lifeboats, leaving the family behind.
Before they sleep that night, the father creates vests to buoy his family should the ocean water crash through the bow. When they awake the next day, they are thankful that the storm has ceased. In the distance, the father sees land; now he must figure out how to get his family there.
Over the next few days, his sons help him devise a system of floatable old wine kegs, large barrels with enough room to hold one person each. When he places the kegs in the water, however, he discovers that they easily tip over. To rectify this, he attaches the kegs to one another and builds a bow that curves around them. He then connects an outrigger like those he has seen on small boats that native island people use.
The outrigger offers even greater balance. The kegs, however, continue to float too high on the water and do not appear safe. The father realizes the kegs need more ballast, or extra weight, to stabilize, and he and his family search through the wrecked ship for materials. They choose objects that not only will add weight but also will be useful for survival on the island. They spend one more night on the ship, planning to leave in the morning.
(The entire section is 379 words.)
Chapter 2 Summary
Upon awakening, the father realizes they have enough kegs to transport more supplies, and the family searches the ship for more provisions. In the process, his wife, Elizabeth, discovers animals on board, including a cow, a pig, and some geese, chickens, and ducks. The father releases the fowl, as they can fly or swim to the island, and decides to give the other animals enough to eat for a couple of days. He will come back for them later.
The boys gather tools, such as hammers, nails, and fish hooks, while the father collects large pieces of canvas to build a tent. They also find food and drink to tide them over until they find other sources of meat and fruit on the island. One son finds two large dogs in the captain's quarters. At first the father is concerned about two more mouths to feed but concedes they might be worth the sacrifice to help guard the family and hunt.
Finally they enter their individual kegs. Elizabeth sits up front. Next comes the youngest, Franz, who is almost eight. In the third keg is Fritz, who is fifteen. In the middle are two kegs holding supplies. Then sits Jack, who is ten. Finally, at the rear are Ernest, who is twelve, and the father. Since there is no room and they refuse to stay on the shipwreck, the dogs jump into the ocean and swim. The distance is frightening long, but the dogs occasionally rest by clinging to the outrigger.
The family lands successfully on the island. They set up a tent and soften the floor with armloads of grass they cut and spread to serve as their beds. As they search their immediate surroundings, they are happy to discover a plentiful supply of ocean creatures such as lobsters and oysters, which they gather to make stews. The ducks and geese find a comfortable spot on a nearby river, and the dogs are not shy about hunting for themselves.
By nightfall, everyone's appetite is satisfied. In the morning the father will survey the island and search for any other survivors. A Christian, the father leads the family in a prayer of thanksgiving before they sleep.
(The entire section is 366 words.)
Chapter 3 Summary
In the morning, the father and Fritz leave to scour the island for food, survivors, and possibly a better location to set up camp.
They traverse the river, then walk upstream until they come to a grove of trees. One tree grows what look like gourds on its trunk. The father tells Fritz the gourds will make excellent bowls and spoons, and they cut them into various utensils. They set them to dry in the sun, planning to pick them up on their way back.
The father, a traveler and great reader, shows Fritz how the native cultures he studied carve the gourds with a string. He also explains that ancient people used the gourds to cook. However, they did not place the gourds on a fire since they would burn. Rather, they filled them with hot water and then steamed food inside the gourds.
At the top of a tall hill, father and son can see most of the coastline. There are no lifeboats in sight. There are also no people on the beach. The father concludes that the crew must have perished in the storm. Otherwise, the scenery is very beautiful. However, they feel a tinge of loneliness, knowing they are likely the only people on the island. As far as they can see, there is no other land near them.
As they walk down the hill, the father fears stepping on venomous snakes, so he has one of the dogs walk in front of them. The dogs can smell and notice the snakes more quickly, hopefully before they can do harm.
Farther on, they find a clump of sugar canes. The father instantly identifies the plant but does not tell Fritz. Instead, he instructs Fritz on how to cut the cane and then suck out the sweet juices. Fritz is so excited about the candy-like treat that he cuts armloads to bring to his family.
Next they find a coconut tree, but the large coconuts are too high to reach. So the father shows Fritz a trick. He has seen two monkeys climb the tree. Once they reach the top, the father throws a stick at them, knowing they will mimic him. Sure enough, a few minutes later, the monkeys pick a few coconuts and throw them to the ground. Fritz gathers them and tastes his first sip of coconut milk.
(The entire section is 394 words.)
Chapter 4 Summary
As the father and Fritz make their way back to camp, they encounter a large monkey family. Their dog is in their midst before they can reach him. Ravenous with hunger, the dog destroys a female monkey, the mother of a young baby. At first the baby monkey hides in tall grass. However, when Fritz runs to the dead mother, the baby jumps onto his shoulders and grabs his hair. Fritz attempts to shake the creature off, but the monkey holds fast. To save both the baby and his son, the father offers the monkey a piece of a biscuit. The monkey, no bigger than a kitten, finally releases Fritz and waddles to the father, who picks him up.
Fritz asks if he can raise the orphan and his father agrees, sensing the monkey might be useful. Even as a baby, it probably already knows what wild fruits are edible or poisonous. Although the dog had devoured the mother, it does not complain when the father places the baby monkey on its back. The baby holds tightly to the dog's coat as they continue to camp.
The younger boys greet them excitedly as they near the river. First they notice the monkey, but they are also interested in the sugar cane after Fritz tells them how good the canes taste. Each then takes an item to carry.
Elizabeth is delighted to see the bowls and spoons they have carved. The utensils make her feel more civilized and make her dinner preparations much more exciting. The night before, they had eaten with oyster shells instead of bowls and spoons.
In the meantime, the father is happy to see that his younger sons have caught fish. A large one roasts on a spit made of sticks. He can also smell the tantalizing aroma of a stew Elizabeth made from ingredients from the ship. There is also a round of cheese from the ship's kitchen.
After they go to bed that night, there is a frightening sound outside their tent. The dogs bark loudly and the geese and ducks cackle in warning. Hearing this ruckus, the father and Fritz grab their guns and run outside. In the distance is a horrific battle between the two dogs and a pack of jackals. Four jackals are dead, but the others continue fighting. Fritz and his father shoot two, and the rest run away.
(The entire section is 398 words.)
Chapter 5 Summary
The father and Fritz take this day to return to the shipwreck to salvage materials. They must also bring back the livestock. Before leaving the island, the father erects a pole and places a makeshift flag. If there is trouble, Elizabeth is to lower the flag and shoot the rifle he leaves her three times so they know to return. Otherwise, the two men will stay on board overnight, giving them ample time to load the barrel-raft they have constructed for transporting themselves and the goods. As they are about to leave, Fritz suggests that they rig a sail to catch the steady breeze and save them the trouble of rowing against ocean currents.
On board, the men busy themselves searching for valuable merchandise. They find a large quantity of powder and shot for their rifles, as well as more guns, swords, daggers, and knives. They believe they can never have enough weapons against wild animals and possibly pirates or other marauders from the sea. They also pack kitchen utensils, wine from the captain's cabin, and meats, soups, seeds, and grains from the storage compartments. In addition, they load their kegs with more tools, sulphur for matches, and agricultural implements. By the time they finish, their raft sits very low in the water.
Nightfall darkens the landscape, but they see by the light of the campfire on shore that the flag is still flying high. They know the family is safe. This fact plus the work they have done provide them with sound sleep.
In the morning, Fritz and his father make floating belts to wrap around the livestock to help them swim. They will tie the animals together and gently pull them alongside the raft. Although the pig is stubborn, eventually they successfully launch the cow, goats, and sheep. On their raft, the father and Fritz relax, munching on crackers. The trip back goes smoothly until the father, looking through a "glass" at the distant shore, hears a loud cry from Fritz.
The father sees Fritz with a rifle at his shoulder, prepared to shoot. In the water is a huge shark threatening to eat one of the sheep. As the shark turns to make a fatal attack, Fritz shoots and wounds him. A trail of blood moves through the water as the shark swims away.
(The entire section is 387 words.)
Chapter 6 Summary
The morning after her husband returns from the shipwreck, Elizabeth informs him that she wants the family to move to a safer place. Their current camp is not only exposed but also very dry and hot. She tells him that the previous day, she and her sons crossed the river and explored more pleasant, treed land on the other side. The trees' shade offered comfort, and if they built a house up in one of the large trees, they would be safe from jackals.
She describes a perfect tree for the project, one whose trunk is nearly forty feet in diameter. The limbs are very long and extend straight out from the trunk, making them perfect platforms for a structure. Surrounding the grove of trees are wide fields of tall grasses with many wild birds, which they could hunt for food. On the nearby beach, they had discovered turtle eggs to provide much needed protein.
Elizabeth says that the longer she and her sons stayed in the area, the more charming it appeared, even enchanted. If they could live there, she would feel "perfectly safe and happy."
While they were there, Jack asked her to help him make collars for their dogs. Jack had skinned one of the dead jackals and dried it in the sun so it would turn into leather. His idea was to make collars with embedded spikes poking out so that when the dogs wore them, jackals and other beasts could not tear at their throats. Jack had enough leather left to make belts to carry their guns, thus freeing their hands and arms to carry their foraged goods.
When Elizabeth and her sons went back to the beach, they found some large casks that must have floated away from the wrecked ship. These were too heavy to carry, so they dragged them out of the water and left them high on the beach to dry. They also saw the dogs devour crabs they caught on their own, relieving Elizabeth of worry about feeding them.
As she closes her story of her adventures, Elizabeth implores her husband to consider living on the other side of the river. Her husband thinks about the proposition and teases her about how much easier it would be to live in a tree if they all had wings.
(The entire section is 387 words.)
Chapter 7 Summary
The father argues against moving from the beach to the tree. He finds the beach easier to protect from intruders. Where they landed, the beach is very rocky, thus making it difficult for ships to make their way in. If he blasts the rocks near the river, an approach by land would also be more challenging.
Elizabeth refuses to give in, saying the heat during the day is oppressive. While he transports supplies from the ship or surveys the island in the shade of the trees, she remains behind on the beach all day.
Finally they reach a compromise. The father will build the house in the tree but they will keep the beach compound as a secret retreat. The children are ecstatic and call the grove of trees on the other side of the river the Promised Land.
To carry all their equipment, they must construct a bridge to cross the fast-moving water safely and without fear of getting the supplies, such as their precious gun powder, wet.
First the father and his sons consider rowing back out to the wrecked ship and confiscating lumber. They even row out, but only a short distance from the shore, they notice a large congregation of seagulls squawking around a pile of rocks inside a separate cove. Curious, they change their direction and pull into shore. There they find the shark Fritz had shot. They shoo the seagulls away and then skin the shark, thinking it may one day come in handy. In the cove, they also find long lengths of good lumber piled on the beach from previous storms. They decide to use the wood for the bridge, saving them another trip to the ship.
The sons help their father find the best spot to bridge the river. Then they tie a rock to a line and throw it over to the other side to measure the width. The father adds a few more feet on either side to stabilize the structure. With a series of ropes and pulleys, they begin construction of the bridge.
(The entire section is 344 words.)
Chapter 8 Summary
In preparation for their trip to the other side of the river, the father makes sure his sons realize the potential dangers. They have not been on the island long enough to be aware of all the animals living there. There may be more than jackals to attack them. As they start across the river with their supplies and livestock, he admonishes them to stay close and be constantly on the lookout.
After placing the youngest child on the one donkey they saved from the ship, Elizabeth is free to assist in rounding up the chickens, ducks, geese, and pigeons. Her sons had attempted this the wrong way, by chasing after the birds. Elizabeth reminds them they have more intelligent brains than the fowl and should use them. She demonstrates how to use feed to attract them. She throws seed into the family tent, and the birds quickly enter; then she ties the door flaps down and easily gathers the birds into the roughly made cages she has made for them. She straps these to the sides of the cow, which graciously and silently accepts the burden.
Elizabeth then joins her son on the donkey while Jack conducts the goats across the bridge. The baby monkey sits on a goat, one which has been supplying the little monkey with milk directly from her udder. The goat has become the monkey's surrogate mother, although reluctantly; she has lost her patience with the monkey's constant frolicking.
On their way to the tree Elizabeth has chosen, the dogs encounter a porcupine and are about to attack it when Jack senses the danger of its quills. So he shoots the animal and suggests the family eat the meat for dinner and save the quills to reinforce the dogs' collars. His father praises Jack for his bravery and ingenuity. Later the father bores holes in one end of some of the quills and makes sewing needles for his wife.
When they reach the grove of trees, the father takes his time selecting the proper tree that will eventually hold their house. After selecting one, he and his sons attempt to throw a rope across one of the lowest branches to begin the construction of a rope ladder. However, the branch is at least thirty feet off the ground and their attempts fail. He will have to devise a better plan.
(The entire section is 395 words.)
Chapter 9 Summary
After dinner that first night in the grove, the father prepares for their sleeping arrangements, slinging the ship's hammocks across the high roots of the trees. Then he covers the area above them with sailcloth to protect them from possible rain and biting insects.
The father and sons then wander to the beach in search of wood to make the ladder and platforms they will build the next day for the tree house.
At first, all they find is driftwood, which is too rough. Then Ernest discovers some bamboo poles half buried in the sand, which are exactly what they needed. They cut the bamboo into five-foot lengths and bind them to carry back. The father also cuts smaller reeds to carve into arrows.
As they explore the beach, they come across a flock of flamingos. Fritz shoots one, which they will eat, and wounds another, which the father will clean for the boys to tame as a pet.
Later, when determining the height of the lowest branches, the father teaches the boys geometry and how to use triangles to measure big objects. He measures a defined distance from the trunk, then calculates angles using several measured rods, determining that the lowest branch is thirty feet off the ground.
Next, the father makes a bow and arrow. He ties the arrow with a long cord and shoots it over the limb. When the arrow drops to the ground, they have the first secured strand of what will become their ladder. Once they have knotted a rope at certain intervals and attached pieces of bamboo in each knot, they create their ladder. Tying the end to the cord lying across the high limb to the ladder, they can pull the ladder upward and secure it.
To test the ladder, the father decides that Jack, the lightest of the older boys, will be the first to ascend the tree. Fritz soon follows. Using a pulley, they haul up boards to make the first platform across the high limbs. As the father is busy constructing the platform, he hears his sons' voices above him and looks up to find them at the top of the tree, singing in thanksgiving for their new home. Although worried for their safety, he cannot bring himself to scold them.
That night, the father draws up the ladder and for the first time in many days, they fall asleep feeling very secure.
(The entire section is 404 words.)
Chapter 10 Summary
The father has made bows and arrows for all the boys, and the next day they practice their shooting. Later, while they are making more arrows, the boys hear a shot and then Ernest shouting after two small birds fall to the ground. The father notes the names of the birds and tells the boys that in Europe, these birds are considered a great delicacy. Their treehouse is on a fig tree and the birds are attracted to the fruit, so their chances of having fine meals from these delicious birds are very good. After making more arrows, the father also creates quivers so each boy can carry arrows on his back.
Over dinner, the conversation turns to choosing names for various places on the island. Fritz wants to call the bay where they landed Oyster Bay because of all the oysters they found. Jack wants to name it Lobster Bay because of a large lobster that bit him on the leg. Elizabeth, however, believes the best name is Safety Bay, since it provided them with a safe landing. Everyone agrees.
Tentholm is the name for the beach where they erected their first tent home. The swamp where they saw the flamingos becomes Flamingo Marsh. Everyone is a bit stumped about the treehouse; eventually they settle on Falconhurst. Later they apply names to other prominent places such as Cape Disappointment, where they searched in vain for other survivors.
After dinner, Jack continues making armor for the large dog, Turk, out of a piece of porcupine skin, and then ties the tough leather around the dog's chest. With this new coat, Turk frightens the other dog, Juno, who stays away from Turk. While Jack made armor for Turk, his father made a helmet for Jack out of the porcupine needles. Jack is duly impressed.
The next morning, the family travels back to Tentholm to bring all remaining supplies. As they make their way over the territory, Ernest notices a patch of wild potatoes, which they gratefully dig up. This staple will greatly increase their food supply. The father also identifies several wild plants, such as pineapple, prickly cactus, aloe, and vanilla bean. He explains how each plant can be utilized. Of particular interest to Elizabeth is the karatas plant, which has long filaments usable as thread.
Their trip to Tentholm was successful. Back at Falconhurst, they are exhausted but very pleased.
(The entire section is 400 words.)
Chapter 11 Summary
The father returns to the beach and collects driftwood, thinking it will be perfect to build a "sledge," a sled built on runners rather than wheels and used to transport materials. To help him, he awakens Ernest, whom the father considers prone to laziness. As they walk toward the beach, the father asks Ernest if he feels sorry for himself for having been roused. Ernest acknowledges his laziness but says he has been trying to break himself of it, so he is glad his father awoke him so early. The father commends his self reflection.
While collecting driftwood, the father finds a small chest. At the house, the other boys are excited until they open it; the chest is filled with clothes. The father reminds them that after the clothes they are wearing disintegrate, they will be very pleased to have new pants and tops.
After breakfast, the boys shoot dozens of small birds to consume later in the day. However, their father lectures them on conserving ammunition. Hearing that the gunpowder and shot are in limited supply, Franz suggests that instead of planting seed for food, should they be planting powder and shot.
The older brothers laugh at the young boy's innocence. Their father, who cannot help laughing himself, tells the older boys to explain why they cannot cultivate powder and shot as they do vegetables and fruit. The boys explain that gun powder is derived from a precise mixture of charcoal, sulphur, and saltpeter. Then the father tells the boys that to conserve their powder, they should build snares rather than always relying on guns.
When it is time to return to Tentholm to collect more supplies, the father again chooses Ernest to go with him. They use the new sledge, tying it behind the donkey. At Tentholm, they load it with supplies they left behind.
Busy, the father loses track of Ernest; later he finds the boy asleep and the cow and donkey heading for the river. The father wakes Ernest by shouting at him for being lazy and failing to keep the animals from wandering away. Ernest tells his father there is nothing to worry about. Before he slept, Ernest removed several wooden planks from the bridge so the animals could not cross it. The father cannot help but commend Ernest's ingenuity. Later, he praises Ernest again when he catches a fifteen-pound salmon, a great addition to their supper.
(The entire section is 403 words.)
Chapter 12 Summary
The next day when it is time for the father and Fritz to leave for their trip back to the shipwreck, the father calls out for Ernest and Jack so that he can leave instructions for their day. However, the younger sons are nowhere to be found. The father must leave, but before he does, he tells his wife to discipline the boys upon their return. They know that they must not leave the area around the house without first informing their parents.
As the father and Fritz near the Jackal River, they are pounced upon by Ernest and Jack, who have been waiting for their arrival. The younger boys thought this would be a good joke on their father and oldest brother. The younger brothers also had hoped that by stealing away and waiting for them at the bridge, their father would let them come along on the trip to the ship. Though the father is slightly amused by the young boys' tactics, he cannot reward them for disobeying the rule of asking permission before they leave the family compound. He sends the boys home.
While on the ship, the father and Fritz build a new raft. This time they use full-sized, capped barrels as floating devices. They lay the barrels on their sides and tie them together and then build a platform on top. This creates more area for carrying supplies.
After searching through the ship once again, they discover many new items, including a chest filled with gold coins and another with jewelry. Though they are tempted to take these chests with them, they soon realize that on the island the gold and jewelry hold no value for them. Instead they load the raft with more food, cooking utensils, gardening tools, and an assortment of fruit trees. Since the ship had been packed with implements suitable for starting a new colony, the items they discover suit them remarkably well, given they must set up a homestead on the island.
When Fritz finds harpoons, his father allows him to load them onto the raft, though he has no idea how they will ever use the whaling tools. Fritz lets the harpoons hang in the water as they make their way to shore. About halfway back, Fritz notices something big floating in the water nearby. Upon examining the creature, the father identifies it as a large sea turtle asleep on the water. They steer the raft closer to have a better look. The raft's sail is between the father and son, so the father cannot see what Fritz is doing as they come upon the sleeping turtle. However, suddenly...
(The entire section is 518 words.)
Chapter 13 Summary
Upon returning to the ship the next day with his sons Jack and Fritz, the father is surprised when he comes across a package containing the components for making a "pinnace," a small sailboat, complete with a proper mast, a sail, and rigging. The package even contains a couple of small brass guns to be mounted on the boat when it is completed. The father exclaims that this is one of their greatest discoveries. When constructed, this boat will prove to be much safer than the rafts they have been using to travel between the island and the shipwreck. Jack is most excited, however, upon discovering three wheelbarrows, which he envisions will help the family transport potatoes and other wild foods from the fields back to their home.
The day is almost gone when the father and his sons make these discoveries on the ship, so they must hurry back to shore without being able to spend any time constructing the new sailboat. As they approach the shore on their return, they are greeted by a flock of penguins. It is the first time they have seen these flightless birds on the island. When they are close enough to them, Jack, who is always eager to gather food for the family, jumps off the raft and kills several of the penguins with his oar. His father reprimands him for being overly destructive, as Jack has killed more than the family needs to eat. Moreover, the father does not believe that penguins provide very tasty meat. He and the boys are fascinated by the birds, however, and capture several to add to the flock of animals they have already collected.
After they arrive at the house, Elizabeth announces that the garden she has been tending is producing healthy plants. Corn, melons, pumpkins, and cucumbers are already growing. She also has found manioc root, which impresses the father and leads him to tell the others that he thinks he can make a type of bread from it. He had found a grinder on the ship and quickly puts it to work, grinding the manioc into a fine powder. He warns his family, though, that juice from this root is poisonous, so he must carefully wash and then squeeze the powder to rid it of its toxicity. Once this is done, he toasts the powder and then creates a type of thick pancake from it. To make sure the little bread wafers are safe, he feeds some to the monkey and the pig. Then the family waits as they observe the health of the two animals. After some time, the animals do not react negatively, and the family enjoys...
(The entire section is 449 words.)
Chapter 14 Summary
On the next trip to the ship, the father takes all his sons, except the very youngest. The father will need the boys' assistance if he wants to put the small sailboat together. The mother is reluctant to allow her sons to leave the island. Although she always worries that they will not return safely, she finally gives her blessing to the project.
Upon reaching the ship, the father notes how cleverly every piece of the unmade sailboat has been numbered to aid construction. However, the various pieces lie in a dimly lit, tightly confined space in the hull of the ship; even reaching them will be very difficult. Also, the separate pieces are very heavy. Lifting them will be a great challenge. The father and his sons contemplate the problem. Their first solution is to hack away with axes, clearing the debris and timbers from the site to provide more room in which to work. They attempt this but soon tire from the task without having made much progress.
Night is falling fast. They must return to the island as they had promised Elizabeth. When they arrive on shore, they are not happy about having to trudge across the island in order to reach their new home. To their surprise, though, they find that Elizabeth has set up temporary quarters at Tentholm, on the beach where they used to live. Until the sailboat is complete, Elizabeth informs them, they will lodge on the beach, giving them less distance to cover in order to reach home. This greatly pleases everyone.
For the next few days, the father and his oldest sons travel back and forth from the beach to the ship, as they take on the task of building the sailboat. While they work, it seems as if the boat is longing to awaken from a long sleep and wants to spread her wings and fly. However, as the boat nears completion, the father has yet to determine how they are going to get the sailboat out of the wrecked ship and onto the water. There is no way that he can lift the sailboat or even push it. Even if he could, the hull of the ship is still very much in tact, allowing no opening big enough for the sailboat to exit.
Then, having been inspired with a somewhat irrational plan, the father works on a project without telling his sons what he is doing. He fills a large cast-iron mortar with gunpowder and secures a large piece of oak on the top of it. He then wraps it in chains and connects it to the floor and sides of the ship. After telling his sons to get on the...
(The entire section is 621 words.)
Chapter 15 Summary
Taking a day off to celebrate Sunday, the father decides to engage his sons athletically. First he has them run, leap, wrestle, and climb, telling them they should practice daily to build strength. To encourage exercise, he also incorporates new skills, such as using a lasso like those he has seen Mexicans and South American tribes use. The lasso is a rope contraption with stones fastened to one end. The trick is to twirl the rope overhead and release it toward a target. The stone wraps the rope around the target, which comes in handy, he tells them, when aimed at a cow's legs or tiger's neck. The pressure causes the animal to stop running and sometimes makes them fall.
They create the lassos quickly. Fritz is first to become accomplished in the art, with the other boys in fast pursuit. When they tire of this exercise, the father suggests a hike into Calabash Wood in search of materials to make more vessels and utensils. The entire family rarely goes off together, so everyone is in great spirits. Along the way, they plant more trees. When they run out of daylight, the father suggests continuing early in the morning.
At sunrise, the father ties the sledge to the donkey and they set out. At a grove of coconut trees, Ernest sees no coconuts on the ground and says he wishes some would fall. Right away, two coconuts fall at his feet, a somewhat scary coincidence. The family looks high in the trees, but no one sees monkeys, who usually toss coconuts down. Then Fritz sees a "hideous creature," which his father identifies as a large land crab. He explains that the crabs climb the trees and use their claws to cut the coconuts free. In falling, many crack, giving the crabs access to the soft, sweet meat inside the nuts.
The next day, only the father and Fritz travel to the woods, exploring and finding such exotic plants as one with waxy fruit, from which candles can be made. Fritz discovers a tree exuding a rubbery sap, from which the father claims they can make boots. Inside a sago palm, the father finds some fat grubs gorging themselves on the pith of the tree. The father has heard that grubs are not only edible but also very tasty, so he roasts them. The large fried worms are so delicious that Fritz must also try them.
(The entire section is 405 words.)
Chapter 16 Summary
After collecting many bags of wax berries, they declare themselves candlemakers and set to work. The father is not certain about how to make them, although he has seen the process. Elizabeth makes wicks from fibers pulled from sailcloth while the father boils the berries and skims off wax. Next they dip the wicks and hang them to dry. Once the wicks cool, they dip again, repeating this several times until the wax has the desired thickness. They let the candles harden, and for the first time since arriving, they have enough light to illuminate their quarters and stay up past sundown.
The next day, the father and boys work to attach wheels from the ship to the sledge. Although not perfect, the new cart will be easier for their donkey to pull. They load the cart with more trees to plant and head for Tentholm on the beach, which the father is determined to make a refuge from danger.
They plant a thick, prickly hedge around the entrances, where they also mount two guns. It takes six weeks to complete the project. When finished, the father notices how ragged everyone's clothes are and plans a final trip to the ship for a new wardrobe.
On the ship, they find trunks filled with sailors' outfits and bales of cloth. They take all weapons and ammunition; this will be their last trip to the disintegrating ship. Before they leave, the father sets an explosive device with a long fuse so there will be no explosion until they reach shore. Back on the beach, they say a sad goodbye to their last link to their European home. The next morning their spirits are raised when they gather objects that have floated to shore. Elizabeth announces a discovery that pleases everyone: Several ducks and geese have returned to Tentholm, bringing new families. Their flock will flourish on the island.
Back at Falconhurst, the family quickly plans another expedition to a wide expanse of meadow spread over a hill, with a magnificent ocean view. They decide to camp for a few days. The boys show off a new skill. Using ropes wrapped around the trunks of coconut trees and grasped in each hand, and pieces of shark skins attached to their pants at the inside of their knees, they climb the tall coconut trees. No longer must they wait for monkeys or crabs to throw them tasty coconuts.
(The entire section is 404 words.)
Chapter 17 Summary
At the end of one day on their camping trip, they hear their donkey braying loudly and see it kick up its hoofs and, without apparent cause, run into a thicket of tall bamboo. They follow the donkey and send the dogs to chase it without success. They are worried as they depend on the donkey to pull their new cart, but since it is getting dark, they cannot chase it.
In the morning, the father half expects to find the donkey outside their tent, but there is no sign of the animal. The father is determined to find it. He leaves his oldest son behind to guard Elizabeth and the remaining sons and takes Jack and both dogs to help him in his search.
At first, the father and Jack follow hoof marks in the soft dirt. This proves difficult after awhile because the donkey's hoof marks become mixed with those of larger animals, possibly oxen. Although the father despairs, Jack urges him to follow the prints of these larger animals. So they trudge forward and reach a hill, gaining a helpful viewpoint looking down on a herd of animals grazing in a field. As they draw nearer, the father identifies them as buffalo.
Concerned about making the herd stampede, they hold back the dogs and retreat into the woods. However, the dogs rush past them and seize a young calf by the ears. The herd, aiding the calf's mother in defending it, stamp their hooves and bellow loudly. Heads down and massive horns forward, the buffalo charge the dogs, the father, and Jack. The father must shoot the buffalo at the head of the pack. The buffalo falls dead, which checks the progress of the herd. The animals stop, sniff, then turn around and gallop across the prairie.
The father notices that the dogs still have the young calf and wants to capture it alive to increase their livestock. Jack surprises his father when he comes to the rescue with his lasso, entangling the calf's hind legs and causing the calf to fall. In this way, the buffalo becomes the family's newest possession. After tethering the buffalo, they lead the reluctant animal back to camp and tie him to the cart to take over the duties of the lost donkey.
(The entire section is 382 words.)
Chapter 18 Summary
Elizabeth complains that it is too difficult for her to climb the rope ladder to their quarters on the large tree. She asks if her husband might devise another way to ascend. The father puzzles over this until he realizes a staircase might be built on the inside of the trunk. He remembers that Franz has seen bees enter the tree, making the father consider whether the trunk is hollow.
As soon as the older boys hear about the possibilities, they begin exploring the hole where Franz has seen bees enter. The boys' enthusiasm quickly fades when each suffers several bee stings. After applying mud to their faces and hands to draw out the bee venom and soothe the pain, the father shows his sons a better plan for getting at the bees. First, he takes a large gourd that he intends to make into a beehive. He does not want to drive the bees out and then lose them to another undetected location. He would rather keep them nearby to give a steady supply of honey.
Since the boys agitated the bees, the father waits until almost sundown for them to settle down. Once they do, the boys help him plug all the holes in the trunk with mud. In the morning, the father inserts a hollow bamboo tube into one of the mud patches and blows smoke into the tree trunk with his lit tobacco pipe. The smoke stupefies the bees, making them easier to handle.
The father then cuts a door into the side of the hollow tree and gathers the bees, hanging in large clumps and clinging to one another, and places them in their new gourd beehive. Once the bees are settled, the father, with the help of his sons, extracts the honeycomb left in the tree, separates the honey from the wax, and stores both for future use.
The next step is to make a proper opening at the base of the trunk and attach a planked door taken from the ship. Then they clear the rotten portions of the inner trunk and build a spiral staircase. They even cut windows into the trunk to allow light to enter. The construction of this inner staircase consumes a month of hard labor. When it is completed, Elizabeth is very pleased.
(The entire section is 385 words.)
Chapter 19 Summary
One morning, the family hears a loud ruckus; outside is their long-missing donkey accompanied by what the father identifies as an onager, a relative of the donkey family found in parts of Asia. The family is happy to see their donkey, named Grizzle. Grizzle is easily tempted by food the boys set out, but the onager is wary of humans. Eventually they tie a noose around her and secure her to their treehouse.
The next day, the father is determined to tame the onager and tries to do so as he has read cowboys in North America tame their horses. He jumps on the onager's back and seizes her ears, holding on for a very tumultuous ride. The onager finally gives in and allows the boys to ride her.
As the father senses the change in season, he begins to prepare for winter. Not certain what winter will bring, he notices the cloud cover growing thicker each day and the ocean waves becoming more stormy. He predicts that temperatures will cool down, even though the island is near the equator, and that the rains will be more prevalent.
To shelter his animals from the rains that will soon arrive, the father makes a roof over the vaulted roots of the family tree. This structure will serve as a stable, poultry yard, hay and provisions loft, and dairy. The family will share space with the animals, using the newly covered area as a kitchen and dining room. After the room is completed, the father directs his boys to fill the larder with provisions to last them through the colder months.
Foraging one day, they discover a field of broad grass, which the boys gather for various projects such as making whips. However, their mother is excited to recognize the grass as flax, from whose fibers linen is made. She orders her sons to bring as many leaves as they can harvest. Then she implores her husband to build her a spinning wheel. Over the next few days, they figure out how to extract the fibers from the leaves, and the father creates the best spinning wheel he can muster.
The rains begin. At first, the family enjoys having time for indoor activities. However, each member becomes restless as the rains never stop, giving them no chance to go outside without becoming completely soaked. The gray skies and torrential downpours make everyone a bit depressed.
(The entire section is 403 words.)
Chapter 20 Summary
The rains finally stop, and the family celebrates spring by fixing up both their abodes, which were damaged by the rain and wind. First they refurbish Falcolnhurst, and then they travel to Tentholm, where they plan to stay for awhile.
At Tentholm, they are dismayed to see how much damage the winter storms have caused: their tent torn to shreds, their provisions useless, and even some precious gunpowder spoiled. However, they are pleased that their new sailboat weathered the storms. The rafts, however, were broken to pieces.
Thinking ahead to the next winter, the father decides to create a place safe from the elements, a strong storage spot to protect themselves and their belongings. Fritz comes up with the idea of a cave. Not finding one, they think to carve out their own cave in the rock abutting their camping site. On the smooth face of the rock, the father marks the dimensions for an opening and they pick away at the hard surface with their axes, chisels, hammers, and shovels. After six days of labor, their progress is minimal, but they do not despair and continue chipping away. A few days later they are rewarded when they notice that the composition of the rock, under the more difficult outer layer, is softer and more yielding to their efforts.
On the tenth day, Jack yells that his axe has made it all the way through the rock. When the father inspects the spot, he can also push his hammer through, as if there were an empty space inside.
The father is about to step into the hole when he smells a noxious gas. Feeling faint, he immediately yells at his sons to run away. Later he explains how poisonous gases can build in cavities where the air has been stagnant for long periods of time. Before they can explore, they must first allow the air to escape. Once this is done, they enter the cave and find what look likes diamond crystals all around. The father tastes the crystals and tells them it is salt, a precious mineral that will improve their animals' diet.
Over the next several days, the family cut windows in the rocks to allow for crosscurrents of air and for sunlight to enter the cave. When they are finished, they have four rooms, complete with a fireplace. They now have a new winter home.
(The entire section is 398 words.)
Chapter 21 Summary
As the weather continues to improve, the family searches for places that might serve them better. Their idea is to build several dwellings spaced throughout the island. Each place will provide shelters at various intervals so they can more easily explore without having to camp or travel back to their main dwelling. The separate dwellings each offer different advantages. One has a pasture nearby that will feed their grass-grazing and seed-eating animals. Another sits on top of a hill, giving the family a wide view of the coastline.
As they journey across the island, they first come across the site that would make an excellent pasture. Below the pasture runs a pleasant brook. Small groves of trees surround the grasslands, providing shade from the summer sun and heat. They decide to camp out in this place to better explore what else the area might offer.
They discover cotton bushes, which provide yet another fiber to make clothing. The small woods offer lumber. They decide this is an excellent location and immediately start building. While the father and his sons cut wood and erect a four-room building, Elizabeth gathers raw cotton and makes soft mattresses.
Within days, they erect a rough farmhouse with four sections. There is space for their animals and belongings as well as a large room for food preparation and another for sleep. The family names this new dwelling place The Woodlands.
After working so diligently, the father notices that their storages of food are dwindling. They must gather more. While hunting, they are delighted to come across a wide field of wild rice. The island continues to surprise the family with its bounty.
Traveling on, the family climbs a hill and are so impressed with the setting that they build another small cottage. This structure takes less time as they have gained experience. They name this abode is Prospect Hill.
While at Prospect Hill, the father discovers a grove of trees that remind him of the European birch. He had been looking for suitable trees to build a canoe. He finds that two of the trees, tall and straight, should satisfy his purpose. He gathers his sons, fells the tree, and begins carving out the center. The trees prove to be perfect. The bark is moist enough to make it flexible. When the canoe is finished, the family heads back to Falconhurst, where they rest for a day, and then continue on, with their new canoe, to Tentholm.
(The entire section is 411 words.)
Chapter 22 Summary
The family cow gives birth to a male calf, and the father must decide who will care for him. All the other animals have been assigned. Ernest trains his monkey. Jack raises the buffalo calf and a jackal cub. Fritz watches over the onager. In addition to all of Elizabeth's tasks is the care of Grizzle, the donkey. The father cares for the others.
The only member of the family without an animal is the youngest boy, Franz. The father asks Franz if he is up to the task. The boy is ecstatic. Franz had heard about a boy who raised a calf, and now he wants to try it. He hopes that if he teaches the calf to obey him while it is young, he will be able to ride it when the calf reaches full size, just like the boy in the story.
The father tells Franz to train the animal well so that it becomes gentle and obedient. If Franz is successful, he might be allowed to ride it. However, the father also warns that the calf will grow and be at his fullest strength faster than the boy will. Franz decides to call the calf Grumble because he makes a low rumbling sound. Jack laughs when he hears the name. Jack has named his buffalo Storm, which he believes is more majestic. One day, Jack tells Franz, when they are both riding their animals, their mother will say, oh, look, here comes Jack on Storm. And here comes Franz on Grumble. The difference will make everyone laugh, Jack claims.
Later, as the father makes a new carpet for the salt-cave house at Tentholm, he realizes that the next day will mark one year since the shipwreck. They not only survived all that time, the father realizes, but are flourishing. For this, the father feels both gratitude and humility. He plans to celebrate the day as one of thanksgiving.
Without relating his plans, the father prepares a special event. Throughout the day, he supervises a detailed cleanup and reorganization of the outside and inside of Tentholm, where they first landed. That night at the dinner table, the father announces the celebration. Everyone is surprised. Elizabeth even challenges her husband's calculation. To prove himself, the father shows his wife his journal, in which he has written at least once a week since their arrival. The next day marks exactly one year.
(The entire section is 403 words.)
Chapter 23 Summary
To celebrate the anniversary, the father announces a sports carnival, a grand display of athleticism. He and his wife will be both spectators and judges and will offer prizes for each competition. The events include shooting, running, riding, leaping, climbing, and swimming.
The first event is shooting. The father has set up a target, a board in the shape of a kangaroo. Three boys are enrolled, Fritz, Ernest, and Jack. The first target is stationary, and Fritz proves to be the best shot. When the father creates a moving target by throwing a smaller piece of wood into the air, Ernest is the winner. After shooting comes archery, at which even little Franz proves quite skilled.
After a short break, the boys test their running abilities. The three older boys are told the running track is the trail to Falconhurst. The first boy is to go into the house and retrieve their father's penknife on the dining table. The knife is proof of the winner. Jack returns first, although he is not on foot but riding his buffalo. He tells his parents that upon seeing that he had no chance to win the race, he hurried back to Tentholm to be there when the real winner crossed the bridge. The winner, as the family sees a few minutes later, is Ernest, who hands the penknife to his father.
Jack proves the most agile as the boys enter into the next event, climbing the tallest palm trees. All reach the tops of their trees, but Jack is the most graceful. After climbing comes riding, during which Fritz and Jack demonstrate their ease on the backs of their animals. The father is surprised when he sees Franz, the youngest, come forward with his young bull calf. Franz shows off the training he has accomplished and finishes by climbing onto the animal's back and trotting in front of the family.
The sports festival ends with a swimming match, which the boys find very refreshing after having spent the day in hot competition. Fritz shows himself to be a master.
For prizes, Fritz, the oldest, receives a double-barreled rifle and a hunting knife for his efforts in shooting. Ernest, who won the running match, is given a gold watch. For climbing and riding, Jack receives a pair of silver-plated spurs and a riding whip. The youngest, Franz, is given a pair of stirrups and a bull trainer whip.
(The entire section is 404 words.)
Chapter 24 Summary
This chapter is titled "A Midnight Raid" and centers on a mischievous band of monkeys. Visiting their house in the prairie at The Woodlands, the family finds that the house that they built has been ravaged. All the food has been gotten into, and all the animals are scattered into the woods. Tables and chairs are overturned and clothes torn and tossed about. After looking for clues, they conclude that monkeys caused the damage, so the father and his sons decide to set a trap.
They return to the prairie house with new weapons. Instead of using guns, they string netting smeared with a very sticky tar mixture. They also paint the trunks of trees nearby, as well as anything the monkeys might touch. To lure the the monkey tribe, they set out coconut shells not only filled with food but also smeared with the tar. Then they hide in the woods and wait.
Keeping their dogs tied so they will not charge, the boys and the father remain vigilant through the night. About halfway through, they are startled by a loud noise. The clamour includes banging and howls of despair and anger. When the father lights some bamboo torches, the nightscape is lit up, and they see the chaos in front of them. There are hundreds of monkeys in various stages of incapacitation. Some have their hands stuck on the house doors. Others are entangled in nets. One monkey has a coconut shell stuck on its face.
The father releases the dogs. The dogs are merciless and attack and kill many of the primates. When the struggle has subsided, the once peaceful setting takes on the appearance of a ghastly battle. When the boys see the full extent of the massacre, the father keeps them busy working so they do not have too much time to think about it. Instead, they dig holes and bury the dead monkeys, hoping they will never have to experience anything like this again.
After the dead animals are buried, the family restores order. Then they go into the woods and retrieve their animals, bringing the goats, chickens, and cows back to the prairie. When it is time to go back, everyone is happy to return to the quiet of Tentholm, their beachfront residence.
(The entire section is 380 words.)
Chapter 25 Summary
With bad weather setting in, the family takes up residence at Tenthurst for the next few months. The winds have been causing huge ocean swells, and the skies are almost always gray with thick clouds.
Because of the low light, the cave house they have built feels oppressive. To remedy this, the father and Jack rig a new light. They find a bamboo pole that will reach from the floor to the ceiling. Then after securing it, Jack climbs to the top of the pole and hangs a large oil lamp that they had rescued from the ship. The artificial light fills the cave, making the room feel more comfortable.
Since the weather is not conducive to outdoor activities, the family spends their time arranging the interior rooms of the cave. Ernest and Franz set up a library, sorting and then placing the family's collection of books on shelves their father has made. Elizabeth and Franz set up the kitchen, while the father and Fritz organize a workshop. During this time, the family also opens for the first time the boxes and chests that had been salvaged from the ship. The atmosphere created by the uncovering of new treasures makes everyone's spirits rise. In the chests they find mirrors, chairs, writing tables, and even a music box. With these new treasures, the cave house quickly becomes very festive.
Finally the storms cease, and the family wanders outdoors. Fritz, being one of the more curious members of the family, walks over to Flamingo Marsh, where he notices what looks like a boat turned upside down on the beach. When he draws nearer, he is surprised to find that what he thought was a boat turns out to be a beached whale.
When the other boys and the father approach, they are amazed at the size of the whale. The boys wonder what they can do with it, not thinking that it could be eaten. Their father tells them that to make the best use of the whale, they will process the blubber to use as fuel for their lanterns.
As they work at collecting the blubber, the family constantly remarks on the size of the whale. The father estimates that it is at least sixty-five feet long; its wide jaw alone is at least sixteen feet long, and the whale must have weighed 50,000 pounds. As they continue their work, the father educates his sons about the physiology of the whale. He tells them that the whale is not a fish, as they had supposed. The boys are also curious about how small the whale's throat is, especially in comparison...
(The entire section is 532 words.)
Chapter 26 Summary
The next day is spent processing the whale blubber. The blubber must be boiled and then pressed in order to extract the oil. The smell is horrendous. Everyone is happy when the task is completed.
Afterward, the father attempts to devise a rowing machine. He places an iron bar across the top of his boat. The bar is long enough to extend a foot beyond each side of the boat. Onto each end of the bar, he then attaches paddles; he rigs a cogged wheel and winds it up. When he releases the spring, the wheel turns, and the paddles move the boat forward. His family is delighted with his invention.
The father and Fritz are the first ones to try out the new contraption. As the rest of the family cheers from the beach, the boat quickly glides through the water with only minimum effort by the father. When the boat turns back, the entire family wants to go for a ride.
The next day, the family takes the boat to Cape Disappointment. From there, they will be just a short walk from Prospect Hill, their pasture home. When they arrive at Prospect Hill, the animals they have left there react to them as if they were strangers. Some of the younger animals have never seen a human, having been born during the period when the family was living at other locations.
For dinner that night at Prospect Hill, the family has planned to eat the tongue of the whale. However, this proves to be a daunting task, as the tongue has a very foul taste, like that of very strong oil. Fortunately, Elizabeth has brought other provisions. In addition, the family gathers coconuts and also milks the goats for extra nourishment.
On their return trip to Tentholm, the father takes a side trip to the beach to plant some trees. When his sons tire of this task, the father allows them to explore. The boys are not gone long when Jack comes running back, exclaiming that they have discovered the bones of a huge monster. The father suspects that Jack has discovered the skeleton of the whale. However, Jack swears that the bones he has found look nothing like fish bones.
When they reach the site where the bones lie, the father announces that the rib and tail bones indeed belong to the whale. Never missing an opportunity to educate his children, the father shows his sons how the bones differ from those of other animals. Pointing out that they are hollow and filled with air, he explains that this feature adds buoyancy to the whale's body....
(The entire section is 522 words.)
Chapter 27 Summary
Fritz is outside his cave home at Tentholm with his parents when he sees something very strange. He describes it as something that draws up into coils and then raises itself into the air before it sinks back down and coils its body again. As Elizabeth hears his description, she becomes worried and calls out to the other boys who are playing farther away from the house. The family members then retreat into the cave, retrieve their guns, and aim them out the upper windows. The father takes out his spyglass to get a better look at the creature. It is, as he has feared, a giant snake.
The boys want to shoot the snake immediately. However, the father cannot allow this; so far the reptile has done no harm. Besides, the snake is too far away, and all the members of the family are safely in the cave where the snake cannot get them.
As the father continues to watch, the snake crosses the bridge. When it comes closer, the father hastens to assist his family in securing all the lower-level doors and windows. The snake, though it moves erratically, continues to slither forward, coiling and uncoiling and frequently raising its head to look about. Suddenly, the family can no longer contain themselves, and everyone shoots at the snake. None of them hit their mark. The snake then slithers quickly into the marsh and disappears.
At first the family is glad that the snake has left. However, knowing it is near the house is discomforting. The father insists that no one leave the house. For three days, the family remains alert for any signs of the snake. The huge reptile does not return. The father determines by the snake's size that it is is a boa. If it were not for the restlessness of the ducks and geese who refuse to enter the marsh where they normally go each evening, the father would have thought that the snake had left their territory.
As the days go by, the tension does not ease. The father is frustrated by his inability to free the family of this concern. However, there is no way of finding the snake in the marsh without putting himself in the greatest of dangers. The snake, at this point, has all the advantages.
After so many days have gone by that the animals are in great need of fodder, the father is forced to let his animals out so that they might be taken to one of the other residences for food. As he and his sons are tying the animals together so that they can travel in a group, their donkey,...
(The entire section is 563 words.)
Chapter 28 Summary
The father insists on following the trail of the dead boa to find out if there are any other snakes like it. This means that he must trudge through the marsh. His sons are very reluctant to go with him, but he insists. They take some wooden boards with them to use in walking over the boggy ground. They place the boards in front of them, cross over, pick them up, and then repeat the process to keep moving forward.
They search the whole marsh in this way but do not find any more serpents, although they do find the boa's track. The search goes on for two days. At the end of the second day, they come across another cave. The floor of the cave is covered in what looks like white soil. Touching it, the father finds that it feels slippery like soap. He refers to it as "fuller's earth," a substance that can indeed be used as soap.
When the father and Fritz walk deeper into the cave, they discover crystal stalactites. At first Fritz believes they are salt crystals like the ones they had found at Tentholm. The father disagrees. He says they are rock crystals, a type of quartz which would have been valuable to them if they had had access to European markets.
Fritz and his father emerge from the cave to find Jack in tears. He was afraid that his father and Fritz were lost. Then the three of them find Ernest, who claims to have shot a big snake. This news causes a very nervous reaction in the father, who fears that there may be more boas in the area. Upon reaching Ernest, though, the father sees what his son has killed. It is an eel. They take it with them, anticipating a good meal.
The father and his sons return home and announce that it is time to make a journey to Woodlands to check on their livestock. They begin their journey the next day. While they are in the prairie, Franz shoots a strange animal that resembles a pig. Covered in bristles, it has a broad snout and no tail; its feet are webbed. Upon examining it, the father declares it might be a capybara.
When they carry the animal back to the Woodlands, they find dozens of dead rat-like creatures surrounding the home. Ernest and the dogs have killed them. Ernest had broken into a clay mound out of curiosity, and a swarm of these creatures had emerged quite unexpectedly. Upon finding similar mounds around the property, the father breaks into them, one by one. When the creatures come out of an especially large mound, they almost overtake him,...
(The entire section is 462 words.)
Chapter 29 Summary
Still fearful of the boa constrictor and wondering if there might be more like it, the father and his sons set out to explore as much of the island as they can. During their first day of camping, they come across the sugarcane fields they had discovered months ago and renew their enjoyment of the sweet juice. While they are refreshing themselves, they hear their dogs barking in the distance. When they look in the direction of the sounds, they find a single line of strange animals running out of the thickest part of the sugarcane. The animals look like small pigs, but they have very pointed snouts with sharp, short tusks. The father shoots two of the creatures before the rest of the herd gets away.
They are probably peccaries, the father says. He remembers having read about these animals having an odoriferous gland in their backs that must be quickly removed before the meat becomes tainted and unfit to eat. With the help of his sons, the father quickly removes the glands from the kill.
As they are cleaning the pig-like creatures, they hear gunshots coming from the hut where they had left the mother with Ernest; the father sends Jack to make sure that the rest of the family is all right. When Jack returns, he reports that the pig-like creatures had marched right past the family hut, and Ernest had killed three more of them. With this news, the father loads the cart and rejoins the rest of the family.
Now that they have a great supply of new meat, they must preserve it. They sear the skin, cut out the hams, and give the rest of the meat to the dogs. Then they salt the meat, preparing it to be smoked. However, they first must build a smokehouse. When the shed is erected, they hang the slabs of meat over fires they build on the earthen floor. They use green wood to create more smoke than flames.
They then dig a hole and prepare it to cook the other portions of the meat. They burn heaps of grass, sticks, and weeds in the hole, and once the fire is strong, they place stones on top. The meat is then wrapped in large leaves, sown together, to make a tight package. This is placed onto the now-hot stones, and the dirt they had dug for the hole is shoveled over it. The meat will cook in this way as if it were in an oven. The mother is doubtful about this new cooking process, but when the meat is served, everyone is delighted with how good it tastes.
(The entire section is 442 words.)
Chapter 30 Summary
Once again exploring the island, the father and three of his sons have traveled to a place where they have never been. This part of the island is dry like a desert. The heat is oppressive, and the scenery seems very strange to them since they have lived on the wet, lush side of the island.
While they walk, Fritz shouts out that he sees horsemen. Concerned, the father takes out his spyglass and attempts to identify the figures galloping toward them. Whatever they are, though, they are too far away for him to recognize. The boys agree on Fritz's assertion that they are horsemen, until the father looks a second time and realizes that he sees a flock of ostriches.
As the huge birds draw even nearer to them, the father and his sons try to figure out a way to capture some of the ostriches. The father determines by the coloring of their plumage that the flock consists of four females and one male. Capturing one of these large birds is a daunting task, the father says, because of the ostriches' powerful legs. Not only can the birds run faster than most horses, they also can attack with strong kicks that can be deadly.
Unfortunately, the dogs work their way free of their bindings and race forward, scaring the birds away. Not wanting to lose the flock, one of the boys, who has a trained falcon, unhoods his bird. The falcon flies toward the ostriches, singles out the male, and kills it. The dogs soon join the falcon, tearing at the fallen body.
After grieving over the dead bird, the father looks up to see Jack signaling for him to come to where he is standing. Jack has found a nest of ostrich eggs. There are twenty of them; each is as large as a baby's head and weighs about three pounds. They decide to take the eggs home.
Before going home, though, the father and his sons wander through a valley. While exploring the land, Ernest had gone off on his own, but he suddenly returns, yelling that a bear is chasing him. The father prepares his gun, crouches down, and waits. Then he sees not one but two bears chasing Ernest. The bears are eventually killed and skinned.
Exhausted by their efforts of the day, the family finally reconvenes back at their tent, where they continue to clean the hefty bear skins that will be used as rugs. While they eat dinner, the boys ask permission to go out on a hunt by themselves the next day. They will each ride one of their animals and search for the ostriches....
(The entire section is 455 words.)
Chapter 31 Summary
The boys return from their first solo hunting trip with many stories to tell. They herded several antelope onto their territory either to use as meat or raise for the future.
Fritz says it was exhilarating to take their animals onto the open prairie and give them room to fully gallop at top speed. It was at the top of a hill that they saw the antelope. At first, they thought they would run down and shoot as many as possible but decided it would be even better to steer them home. So they rode down, formed a semicircle behind the pack and with the help of their dogs, guided the animals along the stream to home.
The boys also brought back some angora rabbits. The father is concerned since rabbits multiply so quickly. They could become a nuisance, gorging in the gardens; the family would have trouble getting rid of them. Fritz says that if the rabbits are on Whale Island, they would not make trouble, but the boys could still hunt them whenever they wanted to.
Jack tells his parents of a cuckoo who led them to a bees' nest filled with honey. Jack attempted to smoke the bees, as his father had taught, but it did not work. Instead of sedating the bees, the smoke appeared to make them angry. They flew out as if in one body and stung Jack all over.
The next day, the father has one more excursion to make with his sons, so they each choose an animal to ride and search for the ostriches. They ride across Green Valley and past Turtle Marsh. In the distance, they spy the ostriches. Jack and Franz, who had ridden ahead, drive the ostriches back toward their father. This time the flock consists of a new male and possibly the same three females.
Before releasing his falcon, Fritz binds the bird's beak so it cannot kill. The bird swoops down on the lead ostrich's head, confusing the ostrich so it is incapable of moving. Jack throws his lasso around the ostrich's middle. When the father reaches them, he wraps a piece of cloth around the ostrich's head, subduing him.
Elizabeth is not happy to see the ostrich, thinking how much he will eat. Jack, however, believes he can train the ostrich to take a rider, making him the fastest of all the animals they ride.
(The entire section is 400 words.)
Chapter 32 Summary
It is time for the family to return to Tentholm. On their way they stop at their various abodes to organize the houses, tend the animals they are leaving behind, and look over their plants and trees. Everything seems to be thriving, and the family is pleased.
Finally they are back in the salt cave. Once they are rested and their loads put in place, the father focuses on training the ostrich. This does not prove easy as the ostrich is extremely belligerent. The father remembers a trick he used to help Jack tame the falcon. He fills his pipe with tobacco and works up a good smoke, which he blows in the ostrich's face. To his dismay, it puts the large bird into a deep sleep. When the bird awakens, he will not eat.
Elizabeth decides the ostrich needs a female hand. She mixes some cornmeal with butter and pats this into ball shapes. The ostrich cannot resist the temptation. After he consumes five cornmeal balls, the family declares victory. The bird will be well fed. After this, the ostrich is easier to handle, and the father sets out to train it. Bribing the ostrich with food is a good way to get him to do what they want.
The ostrich is first taught to trot and gallop. They then teach it vocal commands. Eventually the bird eats from their hands and proves to be a very docile pet. However, they still have challenges. The more difficult technique of riding will require some kind of saddle and bridle, an interesting puzzle as the bird's shape is so different from their other animals.
For a bit, the father constructs a leather hood long enough to reach from the ostrich's beak down its neck. Remembering how a piece of material tied over the ostrich's eyes had calmed the bird, the father makes small blinders and places them over the eye-holes of the leather hood. He connects the blinders to the reins so the flaps can be raised or closed. With both blinders open, the bird is trained to gallop straight ahead. If the left blinder is closed, the bird turns right, and if the right blinder is closed, the ostrich goes left. If both blinders are closed, the ostrich comes to a complete stop. When the training is done, the father hands the ostrich over to Jack, the nimblest rider.
(The entire section is 399 words.)
Chapter 33 Summary
Another winter is upon the family. The wind and rain pound against the rock-walled cave. Although they are safe and dry inside with plenty of provisions, they grow depressed. They are used to being outside, and the long hours in the cave make them feel very dreary.
To occupy their minds, the father suggests they make another boat, tightly constructed but very light and modeled after a Greenlander's kayak. Everyone but Elizabeth is excited and quickly jumps to the task. Elizabeth constantly fears they will drown; the lighter the boat, she imagines, the more easily it will tip.
Attempting to allay her fears, the father promises this boat will be much sturdier than any of the others. He uses whalebones for the ribs of the kayak and splits bamboo for the sides and deck. The entire boat will be covered except for a square hole where the sole rower will sit.
It takes the entire rainy season to finish major construction of the kayak. When it is done, the clouds have broken and the weather is good enough to venture out. Outside, they encase the kayak in seal skin and make the entire vessel watertight with a coating of sealing mixture. Although curious in appearance, the kayak is light enough to be lifted with one hand. When they place the boat in the water, it floats easily. Since it was Fritz's idea to make the kayak, his father gives his eldest son the right to ownership. However, before Elizabeth allows Fritz to make his first journey, she insists on him waiting until she has constructed a "swimming dress" to make him buoyant should his kayak capsize.
Although the father assists his wife in making the outfit, he admits he has no proof that it will do what she has intended. It looks like a "double waistcoat" to which they have applied a solution of India rubber, thus making the outfit completely airtight. They configure it with a double lining that is then inflated. Of course, when Fritz puts the outfit on, his brothers cannot stop laughing.
Fritz paddles the kayak to Shark Island with his family following in the larger boat. The kayak proves to be sleek and fast. Once on the island, despite their earlier humor, the younger boys all ask their mother to make similar "swimming dresses" for them.
(The entire section is 391 words.)
Chapter 34 Summary
There are two seasons of planting. The first is ending, and harvesting is upon the family. The crops have done so well that collecting the grains and starches is overwhelming. To ease their burden, the father tells his family they will harvest their crops the Italian rather than Swiss way.
The boys and their father reap the grains without completely cutting down the stalks. Elizabeth finds this wasteful and begs them to cut the entire length of the stalks, normally used for animal fodder. The father insists this applies too much pressure on the boys' backs; they would spend the day bent over. If they stand upright, grab the stalks, and cut off the heads of the grain, they can harvest more without wearing out. Later they can take their animals to the fields and let them eat the remaining stalks. In this way, the fields will be cleared for a new planting and the boys can dig up the potatoes that need harvesting.
The father also creates a faster way of skinning animals. He arranges a large syringe confiscated from the shipwreck together with some tubes and valves. He tops this with a perforated stopper, to which he connects a powerful air pump. His sons look on curiously at this new contraption and courteously question their father's sanity. They cannot, however, hide their laughter when they think their father will attempt to blow the skins off.
The father, unimpressed with his sons' doubts and ridicule, ties a kangaroo they shot to a high limb on a tree. He cuts a small incision in the skin, inserts the syringe, and forces air between the skin and body. In time and with great effort, the hide distends, causing the animal to grow in size. The father continues to blow air until the skin is almost completely separated from the carcass. With a few careful cuts, the skin falls away in less than half the time it would have normally taken.
The father takes this opportunity to explain the physiology of the body. He explains that the skin of an animal is attached to its body by delicate fibers. Between these fibers and the skin are thousands of pockets of air enclosed in bladders. Blowing up the bladders causes the skin to have nothing to hold onto and thus it falls away. The boys, witnessing their father's spectacular accomplishment, stop laughing.
(The entire section is 399 words.)
Chapter 35 Summary
Fritz is about to embark on his first solo kayak trip. He dons the swimming suit and feels strange puffing into tubes to inflate the suit, making him look twice his size. Of course, his family cannot help but laugh.
Before leaving, Fritz practices several maneuvers, rowing swiftly, veering right and left, and flinging the boat on its side and righting it. When he feels ready and has received his family's applause and encouragement, Fritz rows the kayak into the river current that will take him to the bay. The current proves stronger than he anticipated and soon Fritz is farther out into the ocean than intended.
The father cannot allow Fritz to be truly on his own. When Fritz is out of sight, he and two sons take their sailboat to follow Fritz. When they reach the ocean, they cannot see Fritz. Finally they hear a gunshot and locate the kayak in the far distance. By the time they reach him, Fritz has harpooned a walrus. His father is amazed by the quickness of the kayak, the swiftness of his eldest son in learning to handle the boat, and his hunting skills. However, he reprimands Fritz for going so far outside the bay.
The walrus is too heavy, so the father suggests they leave the animal. The boys beg him for the fine white tusks, and he agrees. Fritz, however, wants to take the walrus head to clean and embalm for mounting on the kayak's bow. The father says it will create a horrific smell, but Fritz thinks he can prevent that. Finally the father consents.
Decapitating the walrus takes longer than anticipated. They had not brought the right tools. Engrossed, they do not notice dark clouds on the horizon. The storm moves in quickly, and there are huge waves. They must make their way back.
Fritz leaves first. The father keeps his son's boat in sight, although he is absorbed in preventing the sailboat from capsizing. The rains intensify and the cloud cover lowers, narrowing visibility to a few feet.
The father can no longer see the kayak and fears for his son's life, bemoaning his decision to allow him to make his way home alone. Finally, the storm passes. Visibility is restored, although the sea remains disturbed. The father can finally make out the shoreline and sees his wife and youngest son. He is ecstatic and grateful to see his oldest son also safely home.
(The entire section is 408 words.)
Chapter 36 Summary
Fritz, Jack, and young Franz plan another hunting trip on their own. Just before they leave, their father notices Jack has slipped a basket with several pigeons onto the cart. He says nothing, believing Jack has done so as backup for food. Although pigeon meat is not tasty, the father surmises it is better than nothing.
The boys leave with the buffalo and the bull pulling the wagon in which Fritz and Franz ride. Jack has chosen to ride his ostrich, Hurricane, and is far ahead of them. Fawn and Bruno are the two dogs that accompany them.
After their departure, the father and Ernest continue constructing a sugar mill. The father notices Ernest seems to be hiding a smile, as if he has a secret. Later, when the father wonders what the boys might be doing, Ernest says they might be hearing news. Immediately, they hear a bird alight on the dovecote, the pigeons' housing structure. The father cannot see whether the bird is one of theirs, so Ernest says he will make sure everything is all right. When he returns, he hands his father a scrap of paper, a note Fritz attached to the pigeon's leg.
The note details a hyena attack that has killed one of their rams and two lambs at one of the family's outposts. The dogs caught the hyena, and the boys killed it. The father is glad his boys are doing well but is most excited they have devised a way to communicate while they are gone. Ernest says the next message might arrive in the evening.
Hearing of the note, Elizabeth is not as happy as her husband. She would rather hear all the news at once, upon her sons' return. In that way, there would be less suspense because her boys would be safely home. Nonetheless, they look forward to each new message.
After a couple of days, the family receives another message, very urgent. One of the family's huts has been completely destroyed and the cultivated fields around it are trampled and ruined. There are huge footmarks everywhere. Although safe, they urge their father to come as soon as he can because they are concerned that the unknown danger is too big for them to handle on their own.
(The entire section is 379 words.)
Chapter 37 Summary
The father saddles a donkey and rides to their rescue. Before he leaves, he asks Elizabeth and Ernest to follow with their cart and provisions for a month. He calculates it will take several weeks to build a stronger residence to replace the demolished one.
Nearing the area, he sees massive damage to trees as well as many huge footprints, which he identifies as belonging to an elephant herd. The footprints, to his great relief, have moved in two different directions—one forward, the other returning. He hopes the herd has moved back to their normal feeding grounds on the wilder side of the island.
Reaching his sons, the father is very relieved to find them well. Through the night, as they sit by their signal fire, they discuss what must be done. In the morning, they expect Elizabeth and Ernest to arrive with the wagon.
The next morning, the family begins to design a new defense to discourage all wild animals from entering their cultivated lands. They also complete their ideas about the new residence. Rather than building a house on stilts which the elephants easily could knock down, they will use four strong trees growing in a square near one another as the foundation. The trees are of equal size, approximately twelve feet apart.
Twenty feet above the ground, they build a bamboo platform and raise four walls. Then they strip the bark off trees they cut down to construct a waterproof roof. They allow the flooring to stick out from the front wall, thus providing a porch.
After constructing sheds for their animals and restocking their food stores, the family returns to Tentholm. Jack has brought a mysteriously bulging bag that he insists on keeping wet. Once home, Jack disappears into the marsh and returns empty handed.
That night, the whole family is startled by strange loud sounds from the marsh. Jack runs back into the marsh as his parents fret. When he returns, Jack exhibits his prize, one he had hoped to show after another month, when the creatures would be mature. Out of the bag, Jack pulls two African bullfrogs, the biggest anyone has ever seen. They are to grow even larger, Jack points out, and would have been an even bigger surprise if they had not enjoyed so much singing.
(The entire section is 386 words.)
Chapter 38 Summary
"After Ten Years" explains the passage of time. The young boys are now young men, and their parents are very proud. They call the island New Switzerland. Tentholm (now called Rockburg because of their cave-like residence) continues to be their winter home because of its protection from storms. Falconhurst is home in the summer months, close to their cultivated fields and away from the hot beach. Out in Safety Bay lies Shark Island, planted with coconut trees and decorated with a tall lookout tower. They have cleaned the swamp, which now boasts a beautiful lake with a flock of black swans. The African bullfrogs have attained their full size, as large as rabbits, and respond to Jack's call.
Elizabeth and the boys are all in good health. Fritz is twenty-five, very strong and high spirited. Ernest is twenty-three, taller than Fritz and more studious. Jack, at twenty, is as tall as Fritz but more thickly built. He retains his grace and agility. Franz is seventeen and possesses, in his father's estimation, the greatest wit.
Many adventures have occurred over the years, the father writes, but he does not want to tire the reader. However, he does relate one involving Fritz. The boys often went on hunting and exploring trips on their own, so he often lost track of where they were. One day, the whole family was so busy working that they did not notice until almost nightfall that Fritz was gone. They discovered that the kayak was also missing. This worried the father, as Fritz had never before gone on a sea voyage without telling his parents. As night fell, the father sailed to Shark Island, climbed the lookout tower, and searched the horizon. Finally, he noted a small dark spot that slowly grew larger as Fritz rowed his kayak to shore.
Arriving home, Fritz related his adventures, including finding pearls in huge oysters he spied on the floor of a quiet bay. He thought the oysters might taste better than the smaller ones in Safety Bay. So he dragged the bottom and gathered a bag full of them. As he sat on the beach, resting for his return, the sun caused the oyster shells to open. Fritz was surprised to find the round jewels inside.
Although his father reprimanded him for leaving without telling anyone, he praised Fritz for finding a true treasure.
(The entire section is 395 words.)
Chapter 39 Summary
The morning after Fritz's journey, when he discovered the pearls, the boy tells his father he also found a mysterious message. He did not want to alarm the others and waited to tell his father in private.
On the shore of another island, Fritz had knocked down an albatross threatening to attack him and found a rag tied to the large bird's leg. On the rag was a message that an Englishwoman was stranded on the "smoking rock." Fritz had no idea how old the message was. His father suggests that "smoking rock" sounds like a reference to a volcano. Since there are no volcanoes in the vicinity, the bird might have come from hundreds of miles away.
Despite his father's convictions, Fritz feels that someone needs his help, and he is determined to do his best to find the sender. Before returning home, he had written his own note on the rag, retied it to the albatross's leg, and watched the bird fly off. The note told whoever received it to "not despair. Help is near!"
The father consents to Fritz undertaking another solo journey. He suggests Fritz alter his kayak so the boat can carry two people. After Fritz packs extra provisions, he is ready to set out to find the stranded stranger. The father plans to follow the boy to the place where Fritz found the oyster beds and the note.
Without telling the others about the note for fear of raising their expectations to no avail, the father prepares for their journey. However, that night, the father tells his wife that he believes Fritz is ready for his independence. He thinks they should leave Fritz at liberty to act on his own without asking approval, even to the point of allowing Fritz to leave the island at own discretion. Elizabeth, with just a little hesitation, agrees.
Fritz travels with his family, leading the way and pointing out all the hazardous currents and reefs so his father's boat makes it through the sometimes narrow channels without mishap. Once they reach the island of the oyster beds, Fritz assists in setting up camp. At one point, Jack, who had gone hunting, is rushed by a large, wild boar, who knocks him over and tramples him. The family dogs save Jack by attacking the boar, but not before Jack suffers serious bruising. The family, including Fritz, sleep in the sailboat that night to ensure safety.
(The entire section is 406 words.)
Chapter 40 Summary
Lying on the sailboat's deck, the family is awakened by strange, ferocious howls and roars from the neighboring woods. Fritz jumps up and adds wood to the beach fire to increase the flames. He tells everyone to stay on the boat as he attempts to find out what is making the noise. Everyone loads their guns, staying watchful.
The first thing they see are the dogs running from the woods to huddle on the opposite side of the fire. They stare toward the woods, bodies erect as the roars come closer. The father remembers the boar they killed and thinks that whatever animal is making the sounds is coming because of the scent of the boar's blood.
Then a magnificent lion emerges out of the dark shadows. The animal paces in front of the fire, staring at the dogs. When it appears about to pounce, Fritz jumps out of the woods and shoots, striking the lion in the heart. The father jumps off the boat, but he is cautious as the dogs continue whining.
When the father turns around, he sees a lioness. She walks to her mate's body and paws at it, as if to awaken him. The father shoots the lioness but does not deliver a fatal wound. The dogs, sensing that the animal is weakened, jump on her. The father is poised to deliver a knife stab but not before the lioness swipes her paw across a dog's chest. The dog dies, as does the lioness from the father's knife.
The family's sleep is fitful for the rest of the night. The excitement of the day was overwhelming. They also mourn the loss of their dog, Juno, who had been with the family since the shipwreck. In the morning, they skin the lions, pack the dog's body, and prepare to return home.
The father asks Fritz to lead them safely through the channels. Under his breath, the father also bids farewell to Fritz. Fritz enters his boat and leads them away from the island, leaving the lion carcasses for scavengers. As they move away, the boys are busy handling the sails in the wind and do not see Fritz. Fritz then turns in the opposite direction and vanishes beyond a rocky point, which the father now will call Cape Farewell. When the other boys notice Fritz's absence, the father tells them Fritz wanted to do a little more exploring before coming home.
(The entire section is 405 words.)
Chapter 41 Summary
At home, the family mourns and buries their much loved pet, Juno. This temporarily takes their minds off Fritz's absence. After five days, the father begins to worry. On the sixth day, the family boards the sailboat, determined to find Fritz.
As they head for the island of the oysters, the last place they had seen Fritz, it is not the hidden reefs and rocks making their journey dangerous. This time it is a whale. The father identifies it as a cachalot whale, known for its bad temper and tendency to ram against boats, causing great damage. The father takes aim. Finally a bullet makes its mark and the whale turns away, leaving blood in its wake.
The family's fears are only momentarily diminished as ahead they see a canoe quickly dart behind a rock. The father glimpsed a dark-skinned native paddling away and suspects pirates. The family take up their arms and wait. Again the canoe appears and again quickly slips away. The father tells one son to hoist a white flag. Then he shouts the only Malayan words he knows. There is no reaction.
Jack yells threateningly that the man should come aboard and make friends or be shot. The father is shocked and scolds him for making the situation worse. Jack proves otherwise as he says, "He is paddling toward us!"
Franz recognizes his brother first, spotting the walrus head on the kayak. As the boat comes closer, Fritz tells them he thought, with the father speaking Malayan, they were pirates. Fritz has smeared his body with a dark material to look more like a native.
Fritz leads the family to another island, newly explored. On the way, the father tells Elizabeth of the note Fritz found.
Fritz is far enough ahead that he has time to land and run into the nearby woods. When the family dock, they see Fritz reemerge with what looks like a young sailor, whom Fritz introduces Edward Montrose. The father is not fooled; he detects something very feminine about the sailor. However, he waits until Fritz gives details.
Fritz tells his brothers how he found the note and traveled many islands, looking for a smoking mountain. He never saw smoke until one day, he noticed a plume. He rowed quickly to shore and called out that God had sent him for the person's safety: "Miss Montrose came quickly forward." At this announcement, the boys start shouting, asking what their brother means by "Miss."
(The entire section is 412 words.)
Chapter 42 Summary
For the next few minutes, the brothers tease Fritz about rescuing a girl. When finished laughing, they cheer the addition of a "sister" to their family.
Fritz tells the girl's story. Her name is Jenny, and she is the daughter of a British officer who served for many years in India. Jenny's mother died when she was three.
When her father was ordered to return home to England, he booked a passage for his daughter on a commercial ship. The ship ran into a storm and sank with all hands on board, except Jenny. This happened three years earlier. In the meantime, Jenny survived on her own. Fritz says he was amazed at all she had accomplished. She had built a tree structure, similar to their own at Falconhurst. She had made weapons such as bows and arrows, lances, and bird snares. She had learned to hunt and trained a cormorant, a fishing bird, to bring her food from the sea.
On their way home, the father and sons decide to find the whale carcass and cut the blubber for oil. They do not like to waste. When they find the whale beached on a small island, they also find a wolf pack making a meal of it. The family's dogs leap off the boat and rush the pack. A terrible battle ensues.
By the time the men arrive, two wolves are dead. The rest gallop away. Among the pack are a few jackals, and Coco, one of the familiy's domesticated jackals, goes with them. Coco is Jack's pet, but Coco will not listen to him.
When Jack tells Jenny, she says that once a wild animal is domesticated, the wild animals will not allow the animal back into the pack. She suggests they leave Coco alone for now but look for her the next day. She thinks that after Coco is shunned, she will be glad to return.
Jack is a little reluctant for Jenny to accompany him in the morning, but he finally relents. It does not take long to find Coco. She appears, her ears a bit ragged from bites and her fur looking very tattered, but without further urging, Coco walks back to camp with Jenny and Jack.
The family makes it home. Jenny is amazed at the luxury around her, and the boys are very pleased to have a sister.
(The entire section is 395 words.)
Chapter 43 Summary
One evening as the brothers and Jenny practice shooting, they hear three guns booming across the water. This stops everyone. Never have they heard such sounds coming from the island. What if the guns belong to pirates who intend to do them harm?
As their initial fears subside, they consider that the guns could be signals from a friendly ship. Fritz and Franz are the most excited. When their father hears the longing in their voices, he realizes they must be craving a more civilized life. Having Jenny in their presence might have spawned these desires.
The father decides to sleep on the matter and its consequences, although he sits on the porch all night, keeping vigil.
The next day, a hurricane-force storm creates dangerous swells. Everyone fears the ship might be in danger. The storm lasts two days. When it subsides, the men are concerned the ship might be gone. They go to the tower and search the horizon. They also fire their guns and wait, but they hear nothing. Then, when they hear the guns again, they rejoice. To decide whether the ship is friend or foe, Fritz and his father decide to sail in search of the source.
Finally they see the ship, which has laid anchor. An encampment is set up on one of the smaller islands. After checking the people through their spyglass, Fritz and his father decide to announce themselves after they return home and clean up. They do not want the crew to think they are savages.
The next day, Fritz and his father, after donning their best clothes, meet with the captain and tell him their own history as well as Jenny's. It was Jenny's father who had inspired the captain's search; he believed his daughter was still alive after three years. The captain had heard her story and, knowing he was in the vicinity of where the ship had capsized, decided to attempt to find her.
With a burst of celebration, the family, passengers, and crew of the British vessel head to New Switzerland. Everyone is amazed by the prosperity and good health of the survivors. The family is also enthralled with the possibilities that the British ship might offer them.
As the day ends, the father realizes that decisions must be made about who wants to stay on the island or return with the ship. It will be difficult to choose.
(The entire section is 401 words.)
Chapter 44 Summary
By morning, Elizabeth and her husband have confided in one another that they do not wish to live anywhere but on the island. They have been there for so long and have grown used to their life. They have no desire to return to the lifestyle that had been part of their past. They realize, though, that their sons might not feel the same way. They will allow their sons to make their own decisions.
Three of the passengers on the British ship ask permission to set up a colony on the island. The life they see that the family has established is very appealing to them. The people on the island receive this news gladly. In the midst of the celebration, Jenny asks if anyone will support her return to England. She says that if everyone continues to cheer about the people staying, she will feel sad about returning home to England and to her father. Fritz is the first to respond. He offers cheers for “us” who are going to Europe. This is the first time his father hears of his intentions to leave the island.
Ernest, on the other hand, wants to stay on the island. Jack also decides to stay. Jack comments that since Fritz is leaving, he will now be the best rider on the island. Franz, the youngest boy, decides to join Fritz in leaving. Franz wants a chance to receive an academic education. Then, the father says, all that remains is for the captain to agree to take his sons with him; the captain readily agrees.
That evening, the family members have trouble sleeping because they realize they are all standing on the threshold of altered lives. The father, who had been suffering from anxiety about his sons’ future, relaxes. His sons have chosen their paths, and the means to reach them have appeared.
The next few days are spent in packing. After the trunks are filled with clothes and provisions for the long journey to Britain, the father adds something more to benefit his sons. He gives them a large share of the pearls, corals, furs, spices, and other valuables they have collected over the years. His sons can exchange these items for cash on which to live and to establish their careers in the world of commerce.
Before Fritz leaves, he tells his father of his love for Jenny and his wishes to marry her. His father advises him to speak to Jenny’s father as soon as possible to ask for his approval of their engagement. The father hands over to the captain the journals he has been keeping, which record the...
(The entire section is 484 words.)