Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

The Vampires Of Berwick And Melrose
by [?]

At Berwick-on-Tweed a man had died. In life he was a man of much weight, one of the wealthiest of the freemen. He did his good deeds with pomp. The devoutness of his religion was visible for every man to see, and his look of sanctity as he went to pray was surely an example and a reproach to every rough mariner whose boat was moored in the harbour beneath the walls.

But when death came to him, an evil thing befell the reputation of that holy man of means.

Those tongues that had been tied in his lifetime began to wag. The dark passages of his history, of the doors to which he had held the keys, were thrown open. And a horrified town discovered that their respected fellow-citizen had been a man of foul life, guilty of many a fraud and of many a crime, and that a dog’s death had been too good a death for him. What wonder that every decent person in the town spoke of him with horror? But the horror they had of him who had so deceived them was but a little thing when compared with the hideous dread that the impostor inspired ere he had lain for a week in his grave in Berwick. Men who lived in those days had many an evil thing to dread, for wolves, ghouls, and vampires were as terribly real to them as in our day are the microbes of cancer, of fever, or of tuberculosis. And when a man who was notoriously a sinner came to his end, there was in the grave no rest for him, nor was there peace for his fellow-men. Night after night he was sure to rise from his tomb and go a-hunting for a human prey. He sucked blood, and so drained the life of the innocent clean away. He devoured human flesh. He chased his victims as though he were a mad dog, sending them crazed by his bite, or worrying and mangling them to a dreadful death.

This citizen, then, was not likely to rest in peace, and but a night or two after the earth had been heaped over his grave, he was up and out and rushing through the dark streets where his decorous footsteps had so often fallen solidly by day, so often slunk stealthily by night.

By Satan’s agency he was set free, all men averred, yet the master that he had faithfully served did but little to pleasure him. For all the night through, as long as darkness lasted, the dead sinner was hunted through the deserted streets by a pack of baying hell-hounds. Round the walls, down by the quay, up Hyde Hill, through the Scots Gate, down lanes and byeways and back again round the walls–a weariful hunt it was. Thankfully must the quarry have welcomed the first streaks of light on the grey sea line, when the chase was ended and he was permitted to rest in his coffin once more.

Only the bravest durst venture out of doors after dusk, and the good people of Berwick lay a-trembling in their beds as the hunt swept past their very doors, and the blood-curdling howls of the hounds turned their hearts to water within them.

But always, in such a case, there are to be found one or two bold spirits, or one or two so heedless of what is passing around them that they rush into danger unawares. Such there were at Berwick-on-Tweed, and to them the hunted soul spoke as he fled past, the hell-hounds slavering at his heels. “Until my body is burnt,” he cried, “you folk of Berwick shall have no peace!” And as they rushed for sanctuary into the nearest dwelling they fancied they could still hear the tormented wretch’s shriek, shrill above the baying of the dogs–“Burn! burn! Peace! peace!”