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25.The Machines—Concluded
Here followed a very long and untranslatable digression about the different races and
families of the then existing machines. The writer attempted to support his theory by
pointing out the similarities existing between many machines of a widely different
character, which served to show descent from a common ancestor. He divided machines
into their genera, subgenera, species, varieties, subvarieties, and so forth. He proved the
existence of connecting links between machines that seemed to have very little in
common, and showed that many more such links had existed, but had now perished. He
pointed out tendencies to reversion, and the presence of rudimentary organs which
existed in many machines feebly developed and perfectly useless, yet serving to mark
descent from an ancestor to whom the function was actually useful.
I left the translation of this part of the treatise, which, by the way, was far longer than all
that I have given here, for a later opportunity. Unfortunately, I left Erewhon before I
could return to the subject; and though I saved my translation and other papers at the
hazard of my life, I was a obliged to sacrifice the original work. It went to my heart to do
so; but I thus gained ten minutes of invaluable time, without which both Arowhena and
myself must have certainly perished.
I remember one incident which bears upon this part of the treatise. The gentleman who
gave it to me had asked to see my tobacco-pipe; he examined it carefully, and when he
came to the little protuberance at the bottom of the bowl he seemed much delighted, and
exclaimed that it must be rudimentary. I asked him what he meant.
"Sir," he answered, "this organ is identical with the rim at the bottom of a cup; it is but
another form of the same function. Its purpose must have been to keep the heat of the
pipe from marking the table upon which it rested. You would find, if you were to look up
the history of tobacco-pipes, that in early specimens this protuberance was of a different
shape to what it is now. It will have been broad at the bottom, and flat, so that while the
pipe was being smoked the bowl might rest upon the table without marking it. Use and
disuse must have come into play and reduced the function to its present rudimentary
condition. I should not be surprised, sir," he continued, "if, in the course of time, it were
to become modified still farther, and to assume the form of an ornamental leaf or scroll,
or even a butterfly, while, in some cases, it will become extinct."
On my return to England, I looked up the point, and found that my friend was right.
Returning, however, to the treatise, my translation recommences as follows:-
"May we not fancy that if, in the remotest geological period, some early form of
vegetable life had been endowed with the power of reflecting upon the dawning life of
animals which was coming into existence alongside of its own, it would have thought
itself exceedingly acute if it had surmised that animals would one day become real
vegetables? Yet would this be more mistaken than it would be on our part to imagine that