108 THE SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON
It was difficult to detach them owing to the prickles which grew thickly round them, but I knew that if we put the leaves to dry, either in the sun or by a gentle fire, the useless part of the leaf would separate after being beaten, and the mass of thread would remain.
My wife exclaimed with pleasure at this, having been anxious as to how she could renew her stock of thread when it was exhausted, and she remarked to her boys how useful a thing it was to read and remember, otherwise we should never have known of the supply of good things by which we were surrounded.
The next plant I noticed was the Indian fig, or prickly pear, which grew upon the rocks, and seemed to flourish the better the poorer the soil.
There was growing on it a kind of fig, and I showed the boys how to gather this prickly fruit without hurting their fingers. As the figs were growing at a considerable height, I threw up a stone and brought one down, which I caught upon my hat; I cut off one end and held it on a knife while I peeled off the skin, and then gave it to the others to taste. They liked it, and very soon got some for themselves. I saw Ernest holding- one