19 NOVEMBER 1910, Page 18


[To TEE EDITOR OF THE "SPECTATOR.") Sin,—In reference to the subject of rat-catchers, who were honoured by being described in an article in your columns on November 5th, it may interest your readers to know that Paris possesses, or possessed, a semi-official rat-catcher. His name is Henry Dayve, and he has been following his curious profession in the sewers of the French capital since before 1870. He catches his "game," not with traps, but with his hands. I had an interesting conversation with Pere Dayve in 1908, and found that he had once been asked to go over to Washington to rid the White House of its thousands of unwelcome rodents. When I asked him what he thought of microbes as a means of ridding buildings of rats, be scoffed at the idea, and when I explained to him that experiments were

about to be made with food containing millions of bacilli, he could not restrain his hilarity :—

" Excuse me, Sir," he said at the fag-end of a chuckle, "but I can't help smiling at these new-fangled inventions. I ain't & believer in 'em no more than I'm a believer in what these doctors say about rats spreading disease. Propagate epidemics, do they ? Well, they haven't done one much harm, and I've spent the whole of my life among 'em on intimate relations, so to speak. No, Monsieur, rats don't spread disease unless you kill 'em with microbes and leave 'em to die under buildings where you cannot get at 'em- That's why I'm not in favour of microbes, and hold that my system's the best,—the good old system of catchin"em with my hands, aided by a pocketful of pebbles, and my secret method of calling "em out of their holes."

" You have then a method of your own?" I asked. " Will yon tell me what it is ?"

"Give away the secret of my whistle !" exclaimed the old rat- catcher in astonishment. "Not if I know it! It's a secret pro- fessionnel, and nobody's going to learn it until I'm gone. But I don't mind showing you how I catch my little beauties in the Path sewers, and if you like, you can accompany me one of these nights. Now, what do you say to that ? "

Needless to say, I accepted his invitation and witnessed no fewer than twenty captures. Pere Dare caught nearly all his rats by means of what he called the " sugar dodge." Taking a pebble from his pocket, he threw it into the hole where the rat was concealed in such a. manner that, like a boomerang, it came half-way back to him. Whether the animal really thought it was sugar, or whether he was merely curious or frightened, I cannot say. Anyway, out he came from his hole like a flash. But not quick enough to escape Dayve's fingers, which, with years of practice, had become as agile as a. cat's paw. Pong r down his hand came upon him, right on the scruff of his neck, and the next moment he was in the "King" of the rat- catchers' bag.—I am, Sir, &c., FREDERIC LEES. 52 Rue des Volontaires, Paris.