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The Lost Souls’ Hotel
by [?]

“And would you have fish in this lake of yours?” I asked.

“Oh, yes,” said Mitchell, “and any ratty old shepherd or sundowner, that’s gone mad of heat and loneliness–like the old codger we met back yonder–he could sit by the lagoon in the cool of the evening and fish to his heart’s content with a string and a bent pin, and dream he’s playing truant from school and fishing in the brook near his native village in England about fifty years ago. It would seem more real than fishing in the dust as some mad old bushmen do.”

“But you’d draw the line somewhere?” I asked.

“No,” said Mitchell, “not even at poets. I’d try to cure them, too, with good wholesome food and plenty of physical exercise. The Lost Souls’ Hotel would be a refuge for men who’d been jail-birds once as well as men who were gentlemen once, and for physical wrecks and ruined drunkards as well as healthy honest shearers. I’d sit down and talk to the boozer or felon just as if I thought he was as good a man as me–and he might be, for that matter–God knows.

“The sick man would be kept till he recovered, or died; and the boozer, suffering from a recovery, I’d keep him till he was on his legs again.”

“Then you’d have to have a doctor,” I said.

“Yes,” said Mitchell, “I’d fix that up all right. I wouldn’t bother much about a respectable medical practitioner from the city. I’d get a medical wreck who had a brilliant career before him once in England and got into disgrace, and cleared out to the colonies–a man who knows what the d.t.’s is–a man who’s been through it all and knows it all.”

“Then you’d want a manager, or a clerk or secretary,” I suggested.

“I suppose I would,” said Mitchell. “I’ve got no head for figures. I suppose I’d have to advertise for him. If an applicant came with the highest testimonials of character, and especially if one was signed by a parson, I’d tell him to call again next week; and if a young man could prove that he came of a good Christian family, and went to church regularly, and sang in the choir, and taught Sunday-school, I’d tell him that he needn’t come again, that the vacancy was filled, for I couldn’t trust, him. The man who’s been extra religious and honest and hard-working in his young days is most likely to go wrong afterwards. I’d sooner trust some poor old devil of a clerk who’d got into the hands of a woman or racing men when he was young, and went wrong, and served his time for embezzlement; anyway, I’d take him out and give him another chance.”

“And what about woman’s influence?” I asked.

“Oh, I suppose there’d have to be a woman, if only to keep the doctor on the line. I’d get a woman with a past, one that hadn’t been any better than she should have been, they’re generally the most kind-hearted in the end. Say an actress who’d come down in the world, or an old opera-singer who’d lost her voice but could still sing a little. A woman who knows what trouble is. And I’d get a girl to keep her company, a sort of housemaid, with a couple of black gins or half-castes to help her. I’d get hold of some poor girl who’d been deceived and deserted: and a baby or two wouldn’t be an objection–the kids would amuse the chaps and help humanize the place.”

“And what if the manageress fell in love with the doctor?” I asked.

“Well, I couldn’t provide against love,” said Mitchell. “I fell in love myself more than once–and I don’t suppose I’d have been any worse off if I’d have stayed in love. Ah, well! But suppose she did fall in love with the doctor and marry him, or suppose she fell in love with him and didn’t marry him, for that matter–and suppose the girl fell in love with the secretary? There wouldn’t be any harm done; it would only make them more contented with the home and bind them to it. They’d be a happy family, and the Lost Souls’ Hotel would be more cheerful and homelike than ever.”