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24. CHAPTER XXIV (continued)
"It seems to me," he continued, "that the family is a survival of the principle which is more logically embodied in the compound animal--and the compound animal is a form of life which has been found incompatible with high development. I would do with the family among mankind what nature has done with the compound animal, and confine it to the lower and less progressive races. Certainly there is no inherent love for the family system on the part of nature herself. Poll the forms of life and you will find it in a ridiculously small minority. The fishes know it not, and they get along quite nicely. The ants and the bees, who far outnumber man, sting their fathers to death as a matter of course, and are given to the atrocious mutilation of nine-tenths of the offspring committed to their charge, yet where shall we find communities more universally respected? Take the cuckoo again--is there any bird which we like better?"
I saw he was running off from his own reminiscences and tried to bring him back to them, but it was no use.
"What a fool," he said, "a man is to remember anything that happened more than a week ago unless it was pleasant, or unless he wants to make some use of it.
"Sensible people get the greater part of their own dying done during their own lifetime. A man at five and thirty should no more regret not having had a happier childhood than he should regret not having been born a prince of the blood. He might be happier if he had been more fortunate in childhood, but, for aught he knows, if he had, something else might have happened which might have killed him long ago. If I had to be born again I would be born at Battersby of the same father and mother as before, and I would not alter anything that has ever happened to me."
The most amusing incident that I can remember about his childhood was that when he was about seven years old he told me he was going to have a natural child. I asked him his reasons for thinking this, and he explained that papa and mamma had always told him that nobody had children till they were married, and as long as he had believed this of course he had had no idea of having a child, till he was grown up; but not long since he had been reading Mrs Markham's history of England and had come upon the words "John of Gaunt had several natural children" he had therefore asked his governess what a natural child was--were not all children natural?
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