His language shocked his father before he was twelve, and by that age, what with touting for parcels at the station and selling the Bun Hill Weekly Express, he was making three shillings a week, or more, and spending it on Chips, Comic Cuts, Ally Sloper's Half-holiday, cigarettes, and all the concomitants of a life of pleasure and enlightenment.
Bert lived in, became almost a trick rider--he could ride bicycles for miles that would have come to pieces instantly under you or me--took to washing his face after business, and spent his surplus money upon remarkable ties and collars, cigarettes, and shorthand classes at the Bun Hill Institute.
And his lady, as they were able to see her at Bun Hill, was a weather-bitten goddess, as free from refinement as a gipsy--not so much dressed as packed for transit at a high velocity.
But his gardening made him attentive to the heavens, and the proximity of the Bun Hill gas-works and the Crystal Palace, from which ascents were continually being made, and presently the descent of ballast upon his potatoes, conspired to bear in upon his unwilling mind the fact that the Goddess of Change was turning her disturbing attention to the sky.
The sky of Bun Hill began to be infested by balloons.
This, however, was not an affair that was visible from Bun Hill; it was something that occurred in private grounds or other enclosed places and, under favourable conditions, and it was brought home to Grubb and Bert Smallways only by means of the magazine page of the half-penny newspapers or by cinematograph records.
Flying slumped, even ballooning fell away to some extent, though it remained a fairly popular sport, and continued to lift gravel from the wharf of the Bun Hill gas-works and drop it upon deserving people's lawns and gardens.
Old SmallWays went to his grave under an intricate network of wires and cables, for Bun Hill became not only a sort of minor centre of power distribution--the Home Counties Power Distribution Company set up transformers and a generating station close beside the old gas-works--but, also a junction on the suburban mono-rail system.
The advancing wave soon produced a sympathetic ripple in the Bun Hill establishment.
They watched from the crest of Bun Hill, from which they had so often surveyed the pyrotechnics of the Crystal Palace.
The morning that Dickon--after they had been enjoying themselves in the garden for about two hours--went behind a big rosebush and brought forth two tin pails and revealed that one was full of rich new milk with cream on the top of it, and that the other held cottage-made currant buns folded in a clean blue and white napkin, buns so carefully tucked in that they were still hot, there was a riot of surprised joyfulness.
And then forgetting his grandeur he fell to and stuffed himself with buns and drank milk out of the pail in copious draughts in the manner of any hungry little boy who had been taking unusual exercise and breathing in moorland air and whose breakfast was more than two hours behind him.
You can trifle with your breakfast and seem to disdain your dinner if you are full to the brim with roasted eggs and potatoes and richly frothed new milk and oatcakes and buns and heather honey and clotted cream.