PRICKLY FIGS AND POTATOES 109
upon the end of his knife, turning it about in all directions and looking at it curiously.
' I wish I could know,' he said at length, ' what little animals these are in the fig, they are bright scarlet.'
' Let me look,' I said; ' I believe that it is the insect called the cochineal, which is used in dyeing, for nothing else produces so fine a scarlet. In America they stretch cloths under the branches and shake the tree, and when the insects have fallen in great numbers they are sprinkled with vinegar or cold water, and then dried and sent to Europe.'
I explained to the boys, also, that the thorny stalks of the prickly-pear are often used to form stockades, which are particularly effective because made with so little trouble, for if you plant only one of the leaves in the ground it immediately takes root, and grows with astonishing rapidity.
Jack, the thoughtless, here began to cut down with his clasp-knife a pretty large plant, striking to right and left with all his might, to show that he would not be daunted by such a fence, when one of the divided leaves fell with such violence against his leg that the thorns struck into the flesh, and he roared out piteously. We could not help laughing