George Harley.

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murdered fine young long-haired Skye terrier, worth £5 at
least. The brute of a man had smothered the poor animal
by tymg it up in the towel and then sitting on it. I
afterwards ascertained this was his usual method of
despatching the dogs, and that he received 6 sous
(threepence) for each dead dog he took to the con-

' Here, then, was the proof that his excuse was a lie.
He had been out early, captured his prey, returned home
and despatched them while pretending to have been in bed
and getting ready to come to me. How could I compete


•with such a blackguard? Fight him with his own weapons?
That was impossible.

'"Henri," said I, "you shall come along with me and
take away that dog."

'"If you will only kill it," said he, "I promise to do
anything you please."

' Seeing that I stared at him and made no remark, he
quickly added : "If you even muzzle him, I will take him
away at once."

'"Coquin!" retorted I; "you shall muzzle him your-
self. So follow me."

' I began to descend the staircase, but he still hesitated.

* "Are you coming?" I called out.

' " Oui, monsieur, tout de suite ; allez, je vous suis."

' Every minute being to me precious, for, as I said
before, I dreaded leaving the dog in the garden, lest anyone
should be bitten by him, I hurried home, now and then
turning round to see if Henri was behind me. Not he ;
nor, as it afterwards proved, had he ever the slightest
intention of coming for the dog.

'Arrived once more in the garden, I found things just as
I had left them. I paced up and down, I fumed, I waited.
Henri never came. It would soon be ten o'clock, dejeuner
would be ready half an hour later, people would be coming
into the garden to promenade for a few minutes before
sitting down to table. What on earth was to be done? To
wait longer for Henri was out of the question. To pith
the dog seemed the easiest way of killing him, and that I
determined to try.

' A word on " pithing." There is one little point in an
animal (vertebrated) the mere puncturing of which with a
darning-needle means instantaneous death. The French
savant Flourens, its discoverer, gave to it the name point
vitale (vital point). This remarkable spot is situated close
to the top of the spinal marrow, and near the base of
the brain. And while a quarter of an inch below or a
quarter of an inch above it the spinal marrow may be


pricked with comparative impunity, when that special point
is touched by the needle, life is at an end — no restorative
means can ever again bring back the vital spark. It is a
knowledge of this spot that enables the matador to kill the
bull by thrusting the point of his sharp sword into his
neck immediately behind the head as the animal rushes
upon him at full tilt. By skilled hands the proper spot is
easily struck when the animal's head is still. But if the
head be moved about from side to side, the operator is more
likely to miss his mark than he is to hit it.

' Knowing all this, it required a little moral courage on
my part to determine upon making the venture with an un-
muzzled dog with rabies. I must admit that now I should
think twice before attempting such a task. But young
blood is more regardless of consequences than mature age,
so I ran upstairs to my bedroom in search of an instrument
likely to answer my purpose. I could find nothing, how-
ever, except a tooth-punch, which lay in a case of dental
instruments. This I seized, together with the ewer of
water, and rapidly retraced my steps to the garden. Now
for a bit of strategy. How was I to get hold of the
dog, and keep his head steady while I pithed him? He
had a mind of his own ; and with dogs, as with men, self-
preservation is the first law of Nature. He had Jaws,
and he had teeth, strong teeth, in them. Moreover, he
was foaming at the mouth, and his eyes were glaring. Was
he likely to remain quiet while I deprived him of his life ?
" Not quite," thought I ; " but I will do my best." Hold-
ing the tooth-punch between my teeth, I took the ewer
in my left hand, and began ladling out the water at

* As I did so he shrank back from me till he could go no
further. Then, dragging on the chain with his face turned
towards me, his tail was at the extreme diameter of a circle,
whose centre is to be regarded as the point at which the
chain was fastened to the railings. Now was the moment
for attack. Down went the ewer on the ground, and with


a sudden bound, in the twinkling of an eye, I had firm hold
of his tail. Pulling him tight towards me, while the collar
kept him stretched out to his utmost length, he could not
turn to attack me. Grasping his tail firmly with my
right hand, I bent over and seized him by the under part
of the neck with my left. Compressing his neck as tightly
as I could, I released the tail in order to leave my right
hand free to use the punch.

' Then came the tug-of-war. Little did I imagine that the
brute had such strength. Instead of being able to take the
instrument in my right hand, the services of both were
instantly required to enable me to cope with the animal.
We struggled ; I lost my footing, and down I fell on the top
of him. For a minute he almost slipped from my grasp.
He nearly freed his neck from my clutch. He almost
mastered me. In the struggle my face got within an inch
of his jaws, and I felt if my hand slipped from his throat it
would be all up with me. It was indeed a battle for life.
How long it lasted I cannot tell. When danger is great,
moments are minutes — ay, even minutes seem hours. I
dared not cry for help. The question therefore was, Whose
strength would hold out the longest, or whose tactics would
eventually triumph ? I advisedly use the word "tactics";
for the dog displayed as much tact in availing himself of
my weak points as I did in counteracting his movements.
At length I got the whole weight of my body upon him — I
literally lay upon the huge creature ; and pinioned to the
ground he ceased to struggle for a minute. My right hand
thus freed, I seized the instrument from between my teeth,
and quick as thought plunged it in his neck. One powerful
convulsion was rapidly succeeded by another, and then all
was still.

' The dog which had seemed so formidable in my eyes a
minute before was now as nothing. With the vital spark,
all power for ill had departed. I lay panting for a minute
beside the poor brute, afterwards slowly rose, took out my
handkerchief and wiped the perspiration from my forehead.



' The battle finished, I could quietly review the scene. A
moment more, and terror seized me. There was blood on my
hand ! The skin had been rubbed off my left forefinger by
the chain or collar during the fray. My hand was covered
with deadly saliva from the dog's mouth. Here was a nice
affair. I had escaped being bitten ; but a raw surface and
saliva upon it was quite as dangerous as a bite. The hand-
kerchief was instantly employed to wipe away the secretion,
and my lips as rapidly applied to the wounded surface.
That done, I undid the chain, picked up the dog, and
carried him with much difficulty, he was such a size, to an
outhouse at the bottom of the garden. Eeturning to the
house, I washed my hand, made myself tidy, and at half-
past ten sat down with the others to breakfast as if nothing
unusual had happened. Whatever my thoughts on that
occasion may have been — and needless to say the wound
made me a little anxious — my outward appearance bore no
trace of them, and never did an inmate of that dwelling
hear one syllable of the story here related.

'P.S. — Like a lady's letter, my tale would not be com-
plete without a postscript, so here it is :

' Henri never appeared till the afternoon, when, being
too angry to see him, I sent a message ordering him to take
away the dog, which he did. Much as I disliked the man,
I could not do without his services, so I went on employing
him for many months afterwards — indeed, until I left Paris.
Although I related the story to no one in the house, it was
well known among my companions, and at the laboratorj^
in the College de France. Everything must have an end.
You have heard the dog's finish ; now let me tell you that
of Monsieur Henri. After leaving Paris, I passed two
years and a half at German Universities, and when re-
turning home to England visited Paris on my way. The
day after my arrival I went to the College de France to call on
my old teacher, Professor Claude Bernard. I had scarcely
entered the quadrangle, when the laboratory porter came
running up to me, his face radiant with smiles, and ere he


had fully completed his little congratulatory speech on my
return, he burst out into a chuckle of delight, exclaiming :

' " Votre ami Monsieur Henri est au galeres."

'"Thanks for the news," said I; "and long may he
stay there."

' The cause of that gentleman's visit to the galleys I do
not remember, but it is unlikely his punishment was alto-
gether undeserved.'

In reply to a friend's question concerning the definition
of a mad dog, my father wrote :

' That a mad dog is not mad at all is a paradox which I
shall explain. The word mad comes from Old Gothic mod,
signifying rage. A "madman," in English of the present
day, is synonymous with a maniac, a lunatic, a person of
unsound mind. Now, a madman in this sense is a person
who thinks, and acts differently in the ordinary affairs of
life from the ordinary run of mankind. There exist other
conditions of body in which men act differently from the
ordinary run of mankind, without rendering them liable to
be regarded as madmen or lunatics. Thus, for example,
the thoughts and acts of a drunken man differ from those
of the same individual when sober. Again, a person
labouring under the delirium of disease — such as the
delirium which is associated with, and the direct result
of, typhus, scarlet and other fevers — is not, properly
speaking, insane, although the actions of the individual
labouring under this delirium are, while it lasts, as much at
variance with those of sane men as those of a maniac.

' The aberrations of the mind in delirium come with
the bodily fever, and depart with the cessation of the fever.
The aberrations of the mind in insanity — madness — on the
other hand, are not necessarily associated with any feverish
condition of the body, but spring entirely from an abnormal
condition of the brain, which may give rise to no tangible
disturbance in any other organ of the body. Man is liable
both to delirium and to insanity. The dog, too, is liable
both to insanity and to delirium. The madness of hydro-



phobia, either in the dog or in the man, is the madness of
delirium of bodily disease, not of insanity.

' I once possessed an insane dog. He had not a single
symptom of hydrophobia (now called rabies), or of any
other febrile disease. He was m my possession several
days before I knew there was anything abnormal the matter
with him. The way in which I discovered that he was
insane was the same as that by which I should discover it
in a human being (barring speech), viz., by his acts. The
first insane act I noticed in this dog was his suddenly
jumping up from my feet, where he had been quietly lying
asleep, rushing to, and violently barking at, the door, as if
there were someone outside it, though, on rising and going
to the door, I found no one. The dog, as soon as the door
was opened, ceased barking, and again lay down at my feet.
This cncumstance, taken by itself, indicated nothing. The
dog may have heard a noise outside the door, which was
quite inaudible to me, and his judgment might have been
perfectly correct in guiding him to bark : for which reasons
I thought nothing more of the matter, till, on the following
day, without any premonitory sign, he rushed from the fire-
place where he was sitting (in my laboratory at University
College, London), and snarled and barked at the corner of
the room, as if he saw some opposing and offensive object.
Now the thought dawned upon me that the dog was labour-
ing under some hallucination, and I began to pay particular
attention to his manners and mode of life, giving my servant
strict orders to be on the watch, and to tell me of anything
in the dog's actions which might appear to him peculiar.

' Once made alive to the dog's condition, I soon had ample
ojpportunity of studying his mental state and diagnosing
his form of insanity. He was a true monomaniac, and
suffered from mental delusions and hallucinations. At one
time he was troubled with imaginary noises, at another
time he saw visions, and would stand staring into vacant
space ; or else he made rushes at nothmg, as if he saw real
and tangible objects before him. Occasionally he would


bark at me or my man, as if we were perfect strangers ;
then, a minute afterwards, as if on discovering his mistake,
would approach us fawningly, to be fondled.

' He had no dread of water ; he would drink it ; he would
swim in it. He had no hydrophobia, and I had no fear of
him. He constantly shared my room at the college, and
was to me a most interesting, as well as a most instructive,
companion. Somehow or other, it got mooted about among
the students that Dr. Harley had a mad dog, and at the
suggestion of the secretary my poor harmless lunatic was
destroyed. I grieved over his loss, for his eccentricities
and oddities had become a source of amusement and also
of instruction to me. During the six weeks he was in
my possession he yielded a rich harvest of medical informa-
tion. He taught me the vast gulf which lies between
insanity and hydrophobia. He showed me that, although
there is danger in associating with a case of the latter,
there is perfect safety in coming in contact with one of the
former. He had his lucid intervals, just as madmen have,
and when lucid behaved as rationally, in proportion to his
lights, as any human being would do.

' There is a marked difference in the appearance of an
insane dog and a dog suffering from rabies. The former
is brisk and lively, the latter downcast and morose. The
eyes of the former are clear and bright ; those of the
latter are glassy and heavy. No saliva dribbles from the
jowl of the former ; a frothy secretion hangs round the
mouth of the latter. Coaxing and fondling are appreciated
by the former, while the latter receives one and both with
indifference, if not even with dislike. The appetite of the
former is natural and good, of the latter capricious and
bad. The former drinks freely ; the latter shuns water in
every form.

' In one word, the dog labouring under hydrophobia
carries with him the appearance, and possesses the
symptoms, of febrile disorder, while the insane or mad
animal shows none of the signs of bodily disease.


' The bite of an insane dog would, I believe, be no more
dangerous than that of a healthy one, and that means not
dangerous at all. If the bites of healthy dogs were liable
to produce hydrophobia, I should have been in my grave
long ago ; for not once, but many times, have I been bitten
by them, both in fun and in earnest.

' Even the hydrophobic dog can only communicate
rabies during the time he has the disease in him, just
as a man can only convey small-pox to his fellow-man
while the poison yet exists in his system.'

This is a divergence ; but hydrophobia is of such
universal interest that a little elucidation on the subject
may prove of interest, especially as we know the Pasteur
treatment is now an almost safe preventive of rabies,
if the patient only undergoes the treatment in time.

For Pasteur and his work my father always had the
profoundest admiration ; indeed, he sent my brother
Vaughan, who has followed in his footsteps, to work at
the Institut Pasteur after he had finished his Edinburgh
University curriculum. In the long ago, when Pasteur was
practically unknown in this country, my father always
maintained he was a most original thinker and brilliant
worker, and considered it quite distressing how little he
was known and appreciated in this country. He was ever
most keen about there being a Pasteur Institute in London,
and thought it disgraceful that a rich country like England
should send sufferers from hydrophobia to Paris for treat-
ment. As far as his means could allow, coupled with
unlimited interest and sympathy, he was one of the most
energetic men in founding the British Institute of Pre-
ventive Medicine.

' Scientific medicine,' my father was wont to say, ' is
based on physiological and pathological investigation, and
such results could not have been reached without recourse
when requisite to experimental research, which is the
quickest and surest way to discover the secrets of life,
that enable us to solve the dark problems of disease.'


The man who had studied the subject deeply, and was a
scientist at heart, shuddered at the cruelty practised daily
in our midst by mischievous children and uneducated
people. He longed for some form of steam-carriage to
ease the suffermgs of bus and dray horses, he turned in
repulsion from the old maid's overfed pug dying from
fatty degeneration, while the promiscuous administration
of arsenical poison was his horror.

He was most gentle, and spared animals pain from purely
moral and ethical reasons. He was loved by dogs and
horses, always had a number of the former about him,
and spent much time with his horses, who sought for the
carrots he hid in his pockets, and with whom he played like
a child.

All the time we were in the Isle of Man a jackdaw was
his constant companion, either perched on his shoulder or
actually sitting on his head as he wrote, excepting when
Jacky in a wicked mood descended to the inkpot and, filling
his beak, spluttered the contents over everything. A story
he wrote of a white rat he called ' My Bosom Friend,' for
the rat rushed and hid herself inside his waistcoat for
protection whenever a stranger entered the room ; indeed
the man who was fearless of death, who experimented on
his own body, who was a vivisectionist when the necessities
of science demanded, was the gentlest of created beings and
the champion of all animal life.

[ 56 ]



Gboege Harley was elected President of the Parisian
Medical Society, and some of those who were present at its
anniversary dinner — among them Sir William Priestley and
Dr. Burdon Sanderson — may still remember the sad and
curious coincidence which happened after that event, when
the distinguished Orfila was present. Mathieu Orfila was
Dean of the Faculty of Medicine under Louis Philippe.
He was the most celebrated toxicologist of his age, and
having investigated every department of medical juris-
prudence with brilliant success, gained a world-wide reputa-
tion. At this dinner, in proposing Dr. George Harley's
health, he stated * although he had never before taken part
in any of the society's dinners, the pleasing experience of
that night would in future not allow him to miss an
opportunity of being present at its annual reunions.'

After leaving the house, Orfila, linking his arm in my
father's, walked a short distance in the rain to his carriage.
Unfortunately, through having on thin boots, he was
during the night seized with fatal inflammation of the
lungs, and on that very day fortnight the whole of the fifty
gentlemen who had dined in his company attended the
great public funeral bestowed upon him by the State.

In a note-book on Orfila, written in 1868, I find :

' What a flood of fast-fading memories that name lets


loose ! Back, back rushes thought upon thought to days of
youthful ardour, healthy ambition, buoyant hope.

' Once more I see myself sitting among the dirty-handed,
ready-witted students of republican France, listening to the
brilliant eloquence of the learned Orfila, as he poured forth
his seemingly inexhaustible stock of medical and legal lore,
little dreaming that in after-years I should myself occupy
a similar professorship on this side the Channel. " Liberte,
Egalite et Fraternite," words which adorned the walls of
the Ecole de Medecine, as well as everj^ public building and
every drinking-fountain of Paris, have been buried beneath
the glitter of Imperialism ; but the memory of that man
and the influence of his teaching will go down to posterity.
Even now, although eighteen years have rolled away, I, the
mere accidental student, can see his snow-white hair, his
beaming smile and sparkling eye, as with cheery voice he
playfully, as it were, performed the most delicate toxico-
logical experiments, leading one almost to fancy that
Nature's elements were his toys, and scientific exposition
but his pastime.'

During his student days my father, who spoke French
fluently, went much into Parisian society, and so devoted
did he become to the gay capital that at one time he
thought seriously of settling there altogether. He con-
stantly met Louis Blanc, and sometimes his brother, whose
likeness to the reformer, or Socialist, was so remark-
able that it was supposed the idea of the Corsican
Brothers originated from these two fat little men. Louis
Blague was the nickname Paris gave to Louis Blanc,
Italian and Spanish by birth, but French by education and
sympathy, he spoke excellent English, which he always
attributed to the lessons given him by Fanny Kemble.
Meeting him, as my father did, in society, he seemed the
most amiable, quiet man, for it was not often that he
warmed up to discuss matters which lay very near his heart ;
but when he did, fire shot from his eyes, and he moved an


educated audience as mesmerically as the bourgeoisie of
France, though not so lastmgly. Some years after this
he was to be seen everywhere in London society, where he
was a great favourite. Perhaps people were sorry for him
in his exile. Be that as it may, he was a welcome and
constant guest at many houses.

My father loved Paris, and often spoke of the two years
spent in that gay city as among the happiest of his life.

One evening, when sitting in a cafe on a Paris boulevard,
a French officer produced a knife — quite a plain dagger
knife about six or seven inches long, with a horn handle,
something like those Scandinavian knives which are to be
seen hanging from the belt of every Norwegian and Finn.
He was showing it with great glee to a brother officer, who
remarked :

' I don't think it very beautiful, wherever you got it.'

' But it is very wonderful, for all that.'

' In what way ? Hein !'

' It will pierce a five-franc piece without turning the
edge. Parbleu !'

' Nonsense !' exclaimed the other, handling the ordinary-
looking blade.

Hearing this conversation, my father pricked up his ears,
and ultimately asked to be allowed to look at the knife.

'It seems impossible that this could do anything so
extraordinary,' he said.

Somewhat nettled at his remark, the officer exclaimed :

' As you both seem to doubt my word, I will show you.'
Whereupon, laying a five-franc piece on the table, and
raising the knife in his hand, with one stroke the blade
pierced the coin, which the officer presented, hanging to the
steel, to his two sceptical companions.

My father was amazed, and asked w^here he had bought
such a knife.

' In the Ptue near the Pont Neuf, in a little shop,

but I don't know the man's name, although it was next
the corner of the Piue Vert.'


* Do you think he has another like it ?' inquired my

* I don't know, but I should think not. It is a very
little shop, and I don't fancy he has much of anything.'

On his way home to the Eue Vaugirard, where he was
then living. Dr. Harley passed down the street, and eagerly
looked for the shop indicated, but failed to find it.

Pondering that night on the subject of the knife, he
determined to again try to discover the seller, and accord-
ingly started off next day, when his search was rewarded
by finding a sort of room half below the pavement, hardly
a shop at all, which seemed to contain rusty iron and rubbish
generally. Peering into the darkness, he saw a funny old
man working at a piece of metal, and accosted him in a
friendly manner. After some conversation he asked him
if he had ever seen a knife that would pierce a five-franc

' Oh yes, I have. I think I have one.'

* I should much like to see it.'

* Wait a bit, then, and I'll show it to you, young

Online LibraryGeorge HarleyLife of a London physician → online text (page 5 of 29)