PRICKLY FIGS AND POTATOES 107
was the king of fruits, the pine-apple, which we all feasted on with delight.
Soon after, I discovered among the multitude of plants, which grew either at the foot or in the clefts of the rock, the karata, many plants of which were now in blossom. I pointed out to the boys the immense size of its leaves, hollowed in the middle like saucers, so that they hold the rain for a long time, also its beautiful red flowers. I knew that the pith of this plant is used as tinder by the negroes, who also make a strong kind of thread from the fibres of its leaves. Wishing to show how useful it was, I asked Ernest to take out my flint and steel.
Then breaking off a dried stalk of the plant, I stripped off the bark, and showed inside a kind of dry spongy substance, which I laid upon the flint; on striking it with steel, it instantly caught fire. The boys looked on with astonishment, and soon exclaimed :
' We'll call it the fire-tree !'
But this was not all. On turning up the leaves I showed some red fibres, which could be pulled off and were as strong as thread. Of course, they were not long, being only the length of the leaf itself, but none the less they would ,be very valuable-