Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 46.djvu/390

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infant can project at an angle from the next toe, and the space between the big toe and the next is really the remnant of a space similar to that seen between our thumb and forefinger, when the toe was used for grasping like a thumb, and was opposable. It is not, as churchmen would have us believe, a relic of sandal-wearing times, and a special provision of a deity for the patriarchs to strap on their sandals: it is a relic of monkey ancestry taken advantage of by the ancients as the most appropriate place for the sandal strap. The big toe further reveals its former thumblike use in the fact that it and the thumb are the only two of the digits in which the last joint can be bent at will and independently of moving others. This can readily be exemplified in the thumb: the baby is fond of showing its power in this direction with its big toe. Further, a baby can move any of its toes independently, and it can move them one from another so as to make a v between any of them. As it grows older it loses this power and also the power of turning its ankle; but that it has such power over its muscles when young points to ancestors who used their feet more than their hands as organs for picking up small objects, and who relied on their arms and hands for supporting their bodies. Now we have reversed this process; we require our feet merely as pedestals, and as such they would be quite as serviceable to us did we possess but one toe. In time we may come to that monodactylous condition, for abortion of the toes is proceeding very rapidly. In a great measure we owe this to boots; and the more we try to hasten, unconsciously perhaps, this process of toe-abortion, the more we shall suffer. We suffer enough as it is in this respect. Certainly the sandal-wearing ancients were not free from encouraging the toe-abortion; for the examination of any old statuary will reveal a very marked abortion of the little toe, as a consequence of the strap-pressure; and there is even a certain amount of elevation of the outside of the foot from the ground, partial atrophy. Though from a hygienic point of view sandals were preferable to boots, nothing at all, except in extreme climatic conditions, would have been preferable to sandals. Boots are a curse to civilization. Every now and then one receives missionary circulars asking for sympathy and pity on behalf of children running about without shoes and stockings, citing it as a terrible proof of poverty. After all, it is the best thing for them; many doctors are prescribing "barefootedness" in cases of limb-weakness; and it is a good thing for all young children. There has been too much fussy meddlesomeness in these respects, particularly among savage races. Thus, Mr. J. Theodore Bent says: "The missionaries who teach and insist on clothing among races accustomed to nudity by heredity are responsible for three evils: firstly, the appearance of lung diseases among them; secondly, the spread of