" The farther we penetrate into the study of animals, we shall find more and more of the irregularities of zoological classification.
Here are five paws of animals placed by naturalists in the same order - the carnivorous. This order, which is considered one of the most natural, is at the same time full of contradictions. True, it has been subdivided into classes and families ; but even in those subdivisions nature is not better respected. Even with the little knowledge we possess of the habits and instincts of animals, who can witness without astonishment such dissimilar creatures as the mole, lion, dog, bear, and cat, placed in the same order? How much more plainly than their teeth do the paws of those animals proclaim their proper classification ? At the first sight of this paw (fig. 7), short and thick, with claws long and hooked, can you not read the history of the animal it belongs to ? You require no book - no long, finely-worded description. You see that it is constructed to scrape and burrow in the earth, or to seek food and a shelter from its enemies. In short, the whole history of the mole is legibly inscribed on this one solitary claw. Again, examine these paws, belonging to the four best-known species of the carnivora, whom man has placed together in one family group, though nature has most distinctly separated them. Admire, in this paw of a Lion (fig. 8), the striking provision of nature, which applies a tendon to each claw to prevent them being blunted by contact with the earth. Does rot this arrangement proclaim to us that the lion tears his prey before he devours it. On the contrary, the claws of the bear (fig. 9) are sunk in a clumsy mass of flesh; decidedly that animal does not tear its prey. Observe this paw of a cat
(fig. 10) ; the toes and claws are partly concealed by hair. You know a cat has a velvet paw, but its claws are sharp and cutting - a significant proof of the dissimulation and cunning of the animal. In the paw of the dog (fig. 11), the friend and companion of man, the claws are blunt and harmless, and the length of the toes denote his docility and intelligence.
" If time permitted, I could detail a great many traits in the character of these animals, clearly pointed out in the forms of their fore-paws; but you must be satisfied with this hasty sketch at present, and I will pass on to the well-known order termed by naturalists, from the peculiar form of their incisor teeth, the rodents. All the animals of this order have four toes on their anterior paws, though some have as many as five, and others only three on their hind feet. This regularity of conformation in the fore-paws of so many animals is an evident proof of the importance attached by nature to those organs. Now, notice these three paws, and tell me if the animals to which they belong can have the same habits or the same intelligence? Decidedly not! With the exception of some slight analogy in their teeth, naturalists have no grounds for placing the squirrel (fig. 12), the jerboa (fig. 13), and the marmot (fig. 14), in the same class. Destined to live in forests, to leap from bough to bough at a great height, the squirrel exhibits a paw admirably adapted for such a state of existence. Its crooked claws can be easily inserted into the bark of the hardest tree"; and the length of the hinder part of the paw permits the animal to suspend itself from the thickest branch. Moreover, as if nature wished to show that it was the most intelligent animal of its class, it is furnished with the rudiments of thumbs. No appearance of such organs can be detected on the paws of the jerboa or marmot, and their toes being united by a ligament, as far as the first joint, clearly indicates that their intelligence is likewise contracted."
"Excuse me for a moment," I said, interrupting him. "If the junction of the
- indicates a want of intelligence, pray, then, explain how the amphibious mammalia, with toes deeply impacted in a fleshy web, are so much superior to the rodents in intelligence ?"
" Undoubtedly they are," my friend triumphantly exclaimed; "but you must not overlook one essential circumstance in the study of the relations of the paw with the intelligence, and that is the number of the fingers. The seal, the walrus, and other amphibious mammalia, are certainly more intelligent than the rodents: and this superiority is plainly indicated by the number of their fingers, which is five.
Here, with an air of triumphant pleasure, he counted the five toes, or fingers, as he termed them, of a preserved paddle of a seal (fig 15 that lay upon the table.
" According to your doctrine, then," I rejoined, pointing to some hoofs, "the elephant must be less intelligent than the , and the horse inferior to the cow and other ruminating animals, which is contrary to well-known facts."
" I understand your objection," he replied, with a smile; " and it is utterly worthless. Among all living beings, the organs are valued according to the functions they are called upon to fulfil. In the animals I brought under your notice, the functions of touch and prehension are executed by the extremities of the two fore limbs, and I attempted to demonstrate that the more or less imperfect state of those organs is in strict accordance with the more or less imperfect development of intelligence, - in other terms, that the functions of touch and prehension always correspond with the intellectual faculties. You object to my argument by referring me to the feet of hoofed animals. Remember, they are never termed paws, and, in this instance, the vulgar tongue is strictly in accordance with science; for the extremities of the anterior limbs of hoofed animals are not organs of touch and prehension, - they are merely organs of locomotion. As such, I have nothing to do with them, and seek elsewhere for the organs I require. In the elephant I find them in the trunk : in the horse, and the ruminating animals, I find them in the upper lip. Here, however, there is still the same general law. The elephant, whose Sagacity is so remarkable, has, in its proboscis, an admirably-constructed instrument for its relations with the exterior world, to examine and take hold of any object it may desire. The horse, in its upper lip, has a less perfect organ, and consequently, its intelligence is inferior to that of the elephant. If we descend the scale of the hoofed animals, each step will more and more confirm the great truth that the sense of touch is intimately connected with the faculty of intelligence."
"Yes," he continued, after a moment's pause, " the intelligence, habits, instincts, of all living creatures, are not the only tilings portrayed in the organs of touch and prehension ; the temperament and diseases can also be read in them. You smile at my assertion ; but if you were a medical man you would not do so You- would know that some physicians, from the form of the hand alone, can foretel consumption twenty years before the insidious disease appears in the lungs. Consumption is not the only disease that can be thus anticipated and guarded against. The lower animals have also the same privilege of indicating their diseases. Ah!" he abstractedly continued, "it is a new science, and has yet to be created; but its boundless horizons are worthy to tempt the ambition of the most venturous explorers of the most elevated minds."
" And, pray, what do you term this new science ?" " It is Comparative Chiromancy." My friend then fell into a deep reverie, under cover of which I ventured to take my