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, pawing at him and biting him. The dogs come to his rescue.