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The Suspected Man
by [?]

He had found an abandoned vessel to the north of the Dogger Bank, and he boarded her. Finding no one on deck, he determined to sail the vessel into port and get the salvage on her. A retriever dog came floundering along the deck and fawned upon him. Now the man had heard that if any living thing is on board a vessel no salvage-money can be claimed when the ship is picked up, and he believed the story, so he coaxed the dog, patted him until he got the chance of a fair hold, then put his arms round the poor beast, and pitched it overboard.

The story was told everywhere by the other smacks-men, and the children used to cry, “Who drowned the dog?” whenever the doer of this wicked act appeared in the street. The fellow who drowned the dog was certainly close by when the brig touched, but beyond this we know nothing that could prove a crime. In the morning, when a troop of fishermen walked along the beach to see if anything could be picked up, they found Mary sitting on the sand beside the dead body of a man. The dead sailor’s head was bruised, and his waistcoat had been torn open. A rat-catcher who had crossed the moor said that he saw the man who drowned the dog skulking up the hollow from the place where the corpse lay, but no one brought any definite accusation, for, after all, the bruise on the head might have been caused by a blow on a stone. Still the suspected man had a bad life after this occurrence. Mary lost her senses completely, but she recognized him always, and whenever she saw him she crooked her fingers like the claws of a cat, and showed her teeth. Why she did so could only be guessed: perhaps she had seen more than the rat-catcher, but she never said anything.

The fellow who had earned this suspicion stayed in the village until one memorable winter night, when some youths waylaid him as he came sneaking off the moor with his lurcher. They put a lantern under a sheet and waited till their scouts told them that the victim was near. As soon as he had passed the marsh that borders the waste, the practical jokers pushed up a pole with the lantern on top, and with the sheet over the lantern. The poacher lay down on his face and shouted for mercy. He never came into the village after this, but went to an inland town and lived by his old mysterious industry. No crime worse than poaching was ever brought home to him, and, as he left the seafaring life, the unpleasant memory of him soon died away. Mad Mary wandered the countryside for a long time: some kind people wanted to put her in an asylum, because they feared she might get drowned as she walked the shore where the unhappy little brig went to pieces. But she was never put under restraint, and her innocent life passed amid kindness and pity.