I read the story in a hard bound science fiction anthology which I purchased after 1968 and probably in the 1970s. The anthology was rather old when I bought it, so could have been printed in the sixties, fifties, or forties perhaps. Most of my books are now packed up.

In this story a doctor, develops an immortality drug and is accused of murdering a neighboring boy whose dissected corpse is found in his laboratory. It seeems likely that the boy had access to the immortality drug. The boy's first name was Peter, he was about 12, and had a club foot, and the doctor had disliked him since delivering him.

And though the boy's death is not seen, I always had the unpleasant suspicion that the protagonist murdered him.

I sort of remember it as a story by British author S. Fowler Wright.

Here is a link to a list of stories by S. Fowler Wright in case any of the titles seems familiar to anyone.


And the only other story by Wright which I remember reading is "Brain", so I can't eliminate any others.

1 Answer 1


The Rat by S. Fowler Wright.

I tracked it down from a mention in the Wikipedia article on S. Fowler Wright:

Wright was critical of modern industrial civilization, and his 1932 collection The New Gods Lead contained several stories attacking trends Wright disagreed with, including birth control and the motor car (The "New Gods" of the book's title were described by Wright as Comfort and Cowardice).[4][7] The New Gods Lead includes several stories of note, including "The Rat", about a doctor who discovers an immortality serum ...

And I found it in the March 1929 edition of Weird Tales (page 337).

The protagonist is Dr. Merson. He starts by experimenting on a old rat and finds his immortality serum works on it - the rat is restored to perfect health. He then considers testing the drug on a patient of his, Minnie Corner, who is dying of tuberculosis. Peter is one of Minnie's three children. Peter has a club foot and Dr. Merson agonises about whether he should grant immortality to someone who is deformed:

About two of the children there would be no difficulty. But he disliked Peter. He disliked Peter intensely. He could not endure the thought of an immortal Peter. It wasn't the clubfoot, though it did seem a pity that it should become an abiding feature of a world grown static: it was certain qualities of meanness and cruelty which the boy had shown from infancy, which his mother had lamented, but which she was powerless to influence.

The ISFDB has a link to an online copy of the story but the linked web site has disappeared. However I managed to find a copy on the Wayback Machine here.

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