Julian Hawthorne (1846 ~ July), the only son of Nathaniel Hawthorne (one of the most well-known writers of the nineteenth century), was an American journalist and writer of sensational fiction. He had an active writing career and produced a number of novels, essays and short stories, often turning to the supernatural for inspiration. He was consistently strapped for cash, the quest for which landed him with a conviction for stock fraud and a four-month prison term in 1908, resulting in him becoming a vocal advocate for prison reform. In November 1883, Harper's Magazine published 'Ken's Mystery', probably Hawthorne's best short story, about a young banjo-playing artist who is lured into the arms of an Irish vampire on All Hallows' Eve. It was later republished in 1888 in a collection of short stories entitled David Poindexter's Disappearance. Vampires have been a bit absent from this blog, so I thought I'd share the tale here on this spooky Hallowe'en night. If you'd prefer to read the pdf version, just click on the image above.
by Julian Hawthorne
First published in Harper’s Magazine
One cool October evening - it was the last day of the month, and unusually cool for the time of year - I made up my mind to go and spend an hour or two with my friend Keningale. Keningale was an artist (as well as a musical amateur and poet), and had a very delightful studio built on to his house, in which he was wont to sit of an evening. The studio had a cavernous fire-place, designed in imitation of the old-fashioned fire-places of Elizabethan manor-houses, and in it, when the temperature out-doors warranted, he would build up a cheerful fire of dry logs. It would suit me particularly well, I thought, to go and have a quiet pipe and chat in front of that fire with my friend.
I had not had such a chat for a very long time - not, in fact, since Keningale (or Ken, as his friends called him) had returned from his visit to Europe the year before. He went abroad, as he affirmed at the time, “for purposes of study,” whereat we all smiled, for Ken, so far as we knew him, was more likely to do anything else than to study. He was a young fellow of buoyant temperament, lively and social in his habits, of a brilliant and versatile mind, and possessing an income of twelve or fifteen thousand dollars a year; he could sing, play, scribble, and paint very cleverly, and some of his heads and figure-pieces were really well done, considering that he never had any regular training in art; but he was not a worker. Personally he was fine-looking, of good height and figure, active, healthy, and with a remarkably fine brow, and clear, full-gazing eye. Nobody was surprised at his going to Europe, nobody expected him to do anything there except amuse himself, and few anticipated that he would be soon again seen in New York. He was one of the sort that find Europe agree with them. Off he went, therefore; and in the course of a few months the rumour reached us that he was engaged to a handsome and wealthy New York girl whom he had met in London. This was nearly all we did hear of him until, not very long afterward, he turned up again on Fifth Avenue, to every one’s astonishment; made no satisfactory answer to those who wanted to know how he happened to tire so soon of the Old World; while as to the reported engagement, he cut short all allusion to that in so peremptory a manner as to show that it was not a permissible topic of conversation with him. It was surmised that the lady had jilted him; but, on the other hand, she herself returned home not a great while after, and though she had plenty of opportunities she has never married to this day.
Be the rights of that matter what they may, it was soon remarked that Ken was no longer the careless and merry fellow he used to be; on the contrary, he appeared grave, moody, averse from general society, and habitually taciturn and undemonstrative even in the company of his most intimate friends. Evidently something had happened to him, or he had done something. What? Had he committed a murder? or joined the Nihilists? or was his unsuccessful love affair at the bottom of it? Some declared that the cloud was only temporary, and would soon pass away. Nevertheless, up to the period of which I am writing it had not passed away, but had rather gathered additional gloom, and threatened to become permanent.