David Lewis Paget
The Baker of Warley Copse
On a twisting, winding, rutted track
That weaved from under the pines,
A figure came in a burlap sack
Where the crossroad intertwines,
I could only see the bleeding feet
As they peeped from under the sack,
And the hood hid every feature that
Would deem it a Jill or Jack.
There was purpose in that stolid walk,
And determination fixed,
I thought to offer a helping hand
But my feelings there were mixed,
There were leaves and twigs on the figure’s back
And a slime that looked like mud,
I thought that it might have been attacked
When I saw that the slime was blood.
Nothing could stop its slow advance
As it plodded into the street,
I reached on out but it just walked by
So I thought I’d be discreet,
The day was settling into dusk
As it reached the village square,
And just as the ancient gas lamps lit
It gave a cry of despair.
The cry was that of a woman lost,
Was more of a hell-fire screech,
It echoed up to the steepletop
And I thought of Caroline Beech,
The girl who’d gone to the woods one day
For a picnic of pies and mince,
The basket lay for a week and a day,
She hasn’t been heard of since.
The figure stopped and its arm flew out
To point at the Baker’s door,
I saw his face at the window lace
As pale as a painted whore,
The sweat stood out on his beady brow
As he hurried from room to room,
Locking each door and window now,
And shivering there in the gloom.
A crowd was gathering in the square
Surrounding the baker’s house,
‘You’d better come out and show yourself! ’
But he was quiet as a mouse.
The men of the village burst right in
And they thrust him down on his knees,
She put one bloody foot on his head
And he squealed, ‘God help me… Please! ’
‘I only wanted some love, ’ he said,
‘But you just pushed me away,
I’d never have hurt a hair of your head
If you’d loved me once that day.’
And that was enough for the surly crowd
Who called on Oliver Beech,
To bring a rope from the stableyard
For a lesson they had to teach.
Her father fastened the rope around
The cringing baker’s neck,
Just as the daughter’s burlap sack
Collapsed to a heap on the deck.
There was nothing inside the hood or sack
As it lay there on the street,
Only the footmark stains of blood
From the murdered woman’s feet.
They dragged him down to the wood of pines
And he showed them where she lay,
Under a pile of autumn leaves
He’d covered her with that day,
They left him hanging above the spot
As they bore her gently home,
Now there is no baker in Warley Copse
So the villagers bake their own.
19 November 2013
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