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The Boozers’ Home
by [?]

“A dipsomaniac,” said Mitchell, “needs sympathy and commonsense treatment. (Sympathy’s a grand and glorious thing, taking it all round and looking at it any way you will: a little of it makes a man think that the world’s a good world after all, and there’s room and hope for sinners, and that life’s worth living; enough of it makes him sure of it: and an overdose of sympathy makes a man feel weak and ashamed of himself, and so moves him to stop whining–and wining–and buck up.)

“Now, I’m not taking the case of a workman who goes on the spree on pay night and sweats the drink out of himself at work next day, nor a slum-bred brute who guzzles for the love of it; but a man with brains, who drinks to drown his intellect or his memory. He’s generally a man under it all, and a sensitive, generous, gentle man with finer feelings as often as not. The best and cleverest and whitest men in the world seem to take to drink mostly. It’s an awful pity. Perhaps it’s because they’re straight and the world’s crooked and they can see things too plain. And I suppose in the bush the loneliness and the thoughts of the girl-world they left behind help to sink ’em.

“Now a drunkard seldom reforms at home, because he’s always surrounded by the signs of the ruin and misery he has brought on the home; and the sight and thought of it sets him off again before he’s had time to recover from the last spree. Then, again, the noblest wife in the world mostly goes the wrong way to work with a drunken husband–nearly everything she does is calculated to irritate him. If, for instance, he brings a bottle home from the pub, it shows that he wants to stay at home and not go back to the pub any more; but the first thing the wife does is to get hold of the bottle and plant it, or smash it before his eyes, and that maddens him in the state he is in then.

“No. A dipsomaniac needs to be taken away from home for a while. I knew a man that got so bad that the way he acted at home one night frightened him, and next morning he went into an inebriate home of his own accord–to a place where his friends had been trying to get him for a year past. For the first day or two he was nearly dead with remorse and shame–mostly shame; and he didn’t know what they were going to do to him next–and he only wanted them to kill him quick and be done with it. He reckons he felt as bad as if he was in jail. But there were ten other patients there, and one or two were worse than he was, and that comforted him a lot. They compared notes and sympathized and helped each other. They discovered that all their wives were noble women. He struck one or two surprises too–one of the patients was a doctor who’d attended him one time, and another was an old boss of his, and they got very chummy. And there was a man there who was standing for Parliament–he was supposed to be having a rest down the coast. . . . Yes, my old mate felt very bad for the first day or two; it was all Yes, Nurse, and Thank you, Nurse, and Yes, Doctor, and No, Doctor, and Thank you, Doctor. But, inside a week, he was calling the doctor ‘Ol’ Pill-Box’ behind his back, and making love to one of the nurses.

“But he said it was pitiful when women relatives came to visit patients the first morning. It shook the patients up a lot, but I reckon it did ’em good. There were well-bred old lady mothers in black, and hard-working, haggard wives and loving daughters–and the expressions of sympathy and faith and hope in those women’s faces! My old mate said it was enough in itself to make a man swear off drink for ever. . . . Ah, God–what a world it is!