Harker and the Count: Chapter I

David Bowles
11 min readApr 16


17 April 1893. Exeter.

When I was a child, my mother insisted we keep to ourselves, having as little contact with le Gazhe—white outsiders—as possible.

As consumption slowly claimed her, she kept me by her side, forcing me to watch the vitality slip from her flesh. On the last day of her existence, she pulled my ear to her lips, whispering a final message.

“Keep away from the world, Jonathan.” She added in Rrómani shib, the tongue of her people:— “Yekh dilo kerel but dile hai but dile keren dilimáta.”

Then she closed her eyes forever.

One madman makes many madmen, and many madmen make madness.

Even now, I cannot help but hear her voice rasping these words, which seem a cryptic warning about recent events.

The news of Richard M. Renfield’s abrupt, early return from his business trip to Transylvania has caused me great distress. My elder colleague appeared at first to be suffering from some kind of physical ailment — his greying hair gone completely white, his normally pale skin almost translucent. But now his physician tells us Mr. Renfield has become afflicted with nervous twitches and bouts of delirium. Mr. Hawkins, our employer, is perplexed by the incomplete and confusing documents that his most experienced solicitor brought back from our newest client abroad. However, Mr. Renfield is purportedly incapable of discussing anything other than the Count’s desire to journey to England and how he must be accommodated so that he may transform our society “in ways beyond our imagining.”

Two days ago, his son Christopher came to Follet & Hawkins (as Mr. Hawkins insists on preserving the name of the firm even a decade after the passing of his partner, Martin Follet). Yet it was not Peter Hawkins with whom he wished to speak.

“Jonathan,” he beseeched me, taking hold of my hands with a familiarity we have not shared since he ended our furtive trysts eight years ago, “you must come and see father. After lunch, he entered a state of lucidity and insisted I come fetch you at once. Something urgent, he swears. News that will explain everything.

With Mr. Hawkins’ permission, I accompanied Christopher to the flat above his chemist shop, where he and his father have lived together since the death of Christopher’s mother, Susan, some three years ago. The…

David Bowles

A Mexican American author & translator from South Texas. Teaches literature & Nahuatl at UTRGV. VP of the Texas Institute of Letters.