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point of view of those who study crime vict on less cogent evidence than that. and its prevention, is that the ridges It will be evident that the systematic in question afford a trustworthy means study of finger-prints is a most valuof distinguishing between human be- able aid to the anthropometrist, who ings. They form patterns, as Mr. Gal- busies himself with the methods of ton has pointed out in his brilliant con- identifying men chiefly in order that tinuation of the work originated by habitual criminals may be detected Purkenje eighty years ago, "consider- with ease and certainty. Mr. Galton able in size, and of a curious variety maintains that the system to which he of shape, whose boundaries can be has done so much to call attention is firmly outlined, and which are little superior in ease of application and worlds in themselves. They have the sureness of results to the well-known unique merit of retaining all their pe- Bertillon system, which is now in opculiarities unchanged throughout life, eration in most civilized countries, in and afford in consequence an incom- spite of the deserved discredit which its parably surer criterion of identity than inventor drew upon himself when in any other bodily feature." the Dreyfus case he ventured beyond his own special ground. If a record is made of a criminal's finger-prints when he is first sent to prison, he can always be identified in his next appearance. Even if he submits to the painful process of destroying his skin with fire or acids, the same tell-tale marks emerge once more when the new skin grows. It is easy to classify and index any number of such records, and it is not surprising that the criminologists of most countries are regarding the finger-print method with increasing favor. Since 1894 it has been in regular use by our own authorities, in conjunction with photography and the Bertillon measurements. Of course it is only rarely that finger-prints can actually be used in the detection of crime, and the case already mentioned is the first that one recalls in real life, though a novelist in Chambers's Journal and Mark Twain in "Life on the Mississippi" have shown how murderers might be convicted by the evidence of their blood-stained finger-marks on a damnatory document.
It may seem at the first glance that the apparently simple markings on the thumb cannot possibly afford such a criterion. Among a number of men the same markings will surely be repeated, so that no reliance can be placed on their evidence. But experience and theory alike show that this is not the case. A great many thousands thumb-prints made in permanent ink on convenient cards for reference have been examined, and no two alike have yet been discovered. By a calculation which depends on the mathematical laws of probability, and has been purposely "watered down" so far as to be certainly on the safe side, Mr. Galton has shown that there are at least sixty-four thousand million varieties in the arrangement of these lines, any one of which is as likely to occur as any other; in other words, if we assume the number of the human race to be sixteen hundred millions, the chance of any two right or left thumbs presenting the same marks is one in forty. If we take impressions of all ten digits, the chance that two men will be found with the same sets of marks is but one in the tenth power of forty, which is as near a certainty that no two such men will be found as human intelligence can desire. Most juries will con
In both East and West, in ancient and modern times, indeed, finger-prints have been put to practical use. India and China furnish many instances in which the signature of a deed has been confirmed by the impression of a fin
ger smeared with Indian ink, though it is doubtful how far this was used in the present sense. It has even been suggested that one of the apparently meaningless forms of our law may be traced to a survival of some forgotten anticipation of Mr. Galton's discoveries. Laying the finger on a wafer as you remark that you deliver a bond as your act and deed possibly alludes to an ancient practice of leaving a fingerprint on the document, just as in some savage tribes a mystic value is attributed to the impression of a chief's gory hand on a sacred stone or weapon. The ancient Sovereigns of Japan used to seal State papers with the impression of the Royal hand in vermilion. wick, probably acting on his own idea, authenticated some of his books and receipts by an engraved thumb-mark. But the first practical use of thumbmarks as signatures is due to Sir William Herschel, a Bengal Civil servant, who began to use them about 1860 with a view to checking the native taste for forgery and personation. His first idea, borrowed from a native contract on which a thumb-mark was impressed, was to frighten the wily Bengali by attaching a magical significance to the act, but he speedily noticed the value of the finger-prints as a natural signature that could not possibly be forged. In a land where, as Mr. Kipling observes, a complete murder-case can be purchased, including the corpse, for fifty-four rupees, such a check to fraud
was most valuable, and Sir William Herschel's experience has been largely utilized by his successors. In 1896 the Postmaster-General of Bengal decided that post-office crders should in future be authenticated by the impression of the receiver's thumb. A Hindu has a natural genius for forging a signature, but no amount of study has yet enabled him to adopt the markings on another man's fingers. In this country such a system would happily not be worth the trouble that its introduction would cause; but there are large possibilities before the study of fingerprints. The whole Tichborne case, for instance, would have fallen to the ground at the outset if the missing Baronet had taken the precaution of leaving an impression of his thumb with his banker, and the easy method of identification which is thus provided must appeal to all who have found by experience the difficulty of persuading foreign authorities, if trouble arises, that they are really the men named on their passports or letters of credit. Forgery, too, would become a lost art if the finger-print were made a compulsory addition to the signature of wills and other important documents. In that case it would appear that Sydney Smith was really an unconscious prophet when he assured an heraldic inquirer that "the Smiths had no arms, but always sealed their letters with their thumbs."
corroborate the absolute correctness of his assertion, for during nine out of the ten days we spent on the coast there were hardly two successive hours during which rain was not falling. Fortunately the rain, though chilly, was not exceedingly cold, and we rapidly got into a sort of amphibian frame of mind, so that although we were wet to the knees all the time, and to the waist nearly half the time during our stay, and the only way to dry off was to go to bed in our wet clothes and sleep them dry, none of us caught any serious cold, and in a short time we came to regard a condition of permanent water-soak as part of our normal environment. One of the local authorities solemnly assured us that whenever it refrained from raining for more than two weeks at a stretch his feet began to crack: We began to believe in the existence of those mythical ancestors of ours, the ancient Britons, who, according to the veracious chronicles of the times, used to crouch down in water up to their shoulders to keep themselves warm and allay the pangs of hunger.
Our first inquiry was what time next morning we should be able to go out to the rocks. At once a derisive howl went up from the entire wagon-party. "You had better ask what time next week, or how early in July"; and then it was borne in upon us that when you once enter the woods you must revert to the frame of mind of the savage who does his time-thinking in weeks and even moons, instead of in hours and minutes as in our railroad-ridden civilization. The Pacific Ocean, it seems, is what the French call an "extremely difficult" old lady. Not that she can be described as fickle; on the contrary she is persistently and far too consistently unkind. In spite of her bright blue smile and the velvet curves of her green land-lips, she is about the most utterly useless and unmanageable old
baggage in the shape of salt water that lies out of doors, for the oarsman and the yachtsman. In the first place, she has a steady surface pulse-wave onehundred miles long, with the wholedistance from Japan to get up its swing in. This never ceases day or night, but throbs incessantly like the pulse of a sleeping world, and provides a superbly responsive basal tone for the blandishments of the local winds. In the winter south-west gales are well nigh incessant, while in summer the high westerly "sun-wind" is of daily occurrence; scarcely has the disturb ance fomented by one subsided than that of a new day springs up, so that the would-be boatman or yachtsman finds himself constantly confronted six days out of the week, and even seven, by a surf from four to fourteen feet high. Even the floods of great rivers, like the Columbia, can make little or no headway against the incessant hammering of this wall of living water, but have to deposit their silt in the form of a bar, which makes a most serious impediment to the entrance or exit of craft of any description, and which usually only sea-going vessels and tugs can manage to pass, at the most favorable stages of the tide. Even after you have worked your way out through a four-foot surf, a storm, which has been racing all the way from Honolulu, may slip in under and past you, and before you can get back to shore at your best speed, be tossing up white-caps ten feet high.
As our enterprise involved the landing upon a rocky shelf at the foot of a precipitous cliff in mid-ocean, it was necessary to wait until all the conditions were favorable to have a reasonable possibility of success. So far as our boat and crew for the trip were concerned there was little left to be desired. About a mile up the coast from our camp a couple of fishermen had established a little hut for the pur
pose of killing (for their fat and hides) the sea-lions, which abound on the rocks for which we were bound. Their boat was a fine, staunch, old sea-going craft, the gig of a whaler, requiring at least six men to row her and ten to launch her, as we found to our sorrow. There was no lack of game, for directly in front of their little cabin and scarcely half a mile off shore the innermost group of rocky islands, which we hoped to visit, were covered with the great brown bodies of the sea-lions and their little, shiny black cubs. They are not aggressive animals at best, and at that distance the old ones looked like great round sticks of cord-wood and the youngsters like little black caterpillars. They simply carpeted the lower ledges, looking almost as if piled upon one another like driftwood after a storm, but as they receded from the water their ranks grew thinner and thinner, until finally the topmost ledges of the rock-reef were occupied by three or four magnificent old bulls, the selfconstituted sentinels and defenders of the herd. Their roaring was both cavernous and continuous and could be plainly heard all up and down the coast whenever the surf would moderate, but I am reluctantly compelled to admit that there was little in any way impressive about it. It did not in the least remind one of "the great seal roar that beats off shore above the loudest gale." It was much more accurately described by the light-keeper, of agricultural antecedents, who declared that he could hardly sleep for hearing them "a grunten' and a fitin' all night long, like a passel o' big hawgs under a barn." What the meaning of it all might be was hard to conjecture, for the mating-arrangements were long since settled and there was absolutely no fighting going on. Nor were the songs intended as danger-signals, for, with the exception of an occasional plunge by a single member for a cool
sea-bath and a little scurry after a cuttlefish, there was almost no movement going on in the herd. They were lying there in the sunshine, like so many logs of drift wood, only at intervals lifting their heads to join in the extraordinary chorus. Whether for some imaginary benefit to the crowd or merely for the pleasure of hearing their own voices it would be impossible to say.
The more I see of animals, the more firmly I am convinced that man for once has been grossly slandered when accused of being the only animal which talks purely for the pleasure of hearing its own voice. Those who moralize upon the vain loquacity of men and the dignified silence of animals usually know very little about animals. The motto of the whole animal world, man included, seems to be: "What is the use of having a voice if you can't use it?" Nearly every animal of gregarious habits and the slightest pretension to any social gifts spends the greater part of the time in which he is in the society of his fellows in some form of conversation, or at least vocal exercise. An afternoon tea or a Salvation Army testimony meeting is not by any means the only occasion upon which a continuous flow of remarks is considered an absolute necessity. A flock of rooks, a band of sparrows, a drove of elk, nay, a dignified senate of sea-lions or congress of seals, are all imbued with the same idea. Even cattle and sheep will keep up a constant interchange of sounds, excepting at such times as their mouths are actually engaged otherwise in the process of eating and drinking. Man is probably the one animal that talks while he is eating, but with that exception he is not a whit more loquacious than many of his blood relatives. Not only is this true of talking as a means of social intercourse, but I have also known a great variety of animals, including elk, bear and