Set at right
angles to the midrib, from eighteen to twenty inches long, and about one
and a half broad," etc. (pp. 74, 75).
When Sir John Kirk came home in 1881-1882, I spoke to him on the subject,
and he felt confident that the rofia or raphia palm-fronds were the
original of the ruc's quills. He also kindly volunteered to send me a
specimen on his return to Zanzibar. This he did not forget, and some time
ago there arrived at the India Office not one, but four of these ruc's
quills. In the letter which announced this despatch Sir John says: -
"I send to-day per s.s. Arcot ... four fronds of the Raphia palm, called
here 'Moale.' They are just as sold and shipped up and down the coast. No
doubt they were sent in Marco Polo's time in exactly the same state,
i.e. stripped of their leaflets, and with the tip broken off. They are
used for making stages and ladders, and last long if kept dry. They are
also made into doors, by being cut into lengths, and pinned through. The
stages are made of three, like tripods, and used for picking cloves from
the higher branches."
The largest of the four midribs sent (they do not differ much) is 25 feet
4 inches long, measuring 12 inches in girth at the butt, and 5 inches at
the upper end.