Old Town Types No. 22 - The Baker

Our baker, Mr Brackenby, toiler in the night,
Was a lean, tall, glum man whose face was very white;
A brooding man 'twas said of him, and mannerisms odd;
For a grunt of recognition and a rather surly nod
Were all he granted any who came strolling by his shop
In the cool of summer even, when a man might wish to stop
For a bit of neighbor's gossip. But our baker chose to mope
Like one who nursed grave illness or deep grief beyond all hope.

His chirping little 'missus' had the old town's sympathy;
For she loved to hold a customer and let her tongue run free
On stay bits of tittle-tattle; and we said, 'Poor thing,
With a dumb man for a husband, well, she has to have her fling.'
For silent Mr Brackenby, he never seemed to speak
To wife or child or anyone from week to dreary week.
There he sat upon his doorstop, and he stared and stared ahead
Like a being sore afflicted. But he baked good bread.

Yet once a year, on Show Day, some urge removed his gag,
And gloomy Mr Brackenby went out upon a 'jag.'
He visited the taverns from the morn till deepest night
Getting gradually garrulous and gradually 'tight.'
He laughed, he sang, he spent, to talked to any who would hear:
A merry man for just one day and night in all the year.
He sang of 'Champagne Charlie' and 'Where Did You Get That Hat?'
'Belle Mahone,' 'Tarpaulin Jacket,' and a score of songs like that.

Thro' the night he roared and revelled till the daylight broke the spell;
Then our baker, Mr Brackenby, crept back into his shell.
Stale the bread we got that morning; but, for twelve months after that,
In the loaves that came at dawning folk found nought to grumble at.
For he shunned the noisy taverns in the cool of summer eves,
And he squatted on his doorstep in the pose of one who grieves,
With his hand cupped in his white palm, he just stared and stared ahead
Like a man remorse had ravaged. But he baked good bread.

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