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.