Harker and the Count: Chapter II

David Bowles
8 min readApr 23, 2023

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23 April 1893. Exeter.

Against my better judgment, it appears I will be going abroad soon, though not to broker a land deal in India as I have done before.

My mother, encouraging me to learn English and other languages spoken around us in East London, was wont to cite a Romani adage:

“Mashkar le Gazhende lêski shib si le Rromêski zor.” Amongst white strangers, the Rom’s best defence is his tongue.

I might now add a phrase:

“Hai le Rromêsko kovlimos.” And his greatest weakness.

This afternoon I strolled up Grandy Street toward Barnardo’s Home for Orphan Girls. Wilhelmina Murray was already awaiting me on the corner of Bradninch Place, looking very pretty in a yellow dress and broad-brimmed hat.

Her smile lit up her otherwise serious features, softening the sharp angles of eyebrows, cheekbones, and chin. I was reminded of the first time I ever saw her, a shivering ragamuffin at the girls’ orphanage that neighbored the boys’ home in London. She was being beaten by bigger, whiter girls for the crime of having, one presumes, a Black father. I rushed to stop them, and they scattered at the sight of an older and quite indignant boy. The bullied child encircled my waist with thin arms as she wept and called me “Big Bruva.”



David Bowles

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