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- Floor Games - 3/4 -


supplied here has an enviable reputation, to judge by the alacrity with which a number of riflemen move to-wards the door. The inn, by the by, like the station and some private houses, is roofed with stiff paper.

These stiff-paper roofs are one of our great inventions. We get After the game is over, we put these roofs inside one another and stick them into the bookshelves. The roof one folds and puts away will live to roof another day.

Proceeding on our way past the Cherry Tree, and resisting cosy invitation of its portals, we come to the shopping quarter of the town. The stock in windows is made by hand out of plasticine. We note the meat and hams of "Mr. Woddy," the cabbages and carrots of "Tod & Brothers," the general activities of the "Jokil Co." shopmen. It is de rigueur with our shop assistants that they should wear white helmets. In the street, boy scouts go to and fro, a wagon clatters by; most of the adult population is about its business, and a red-coated band plays along the roadway. Contrast this animated scene with the mysteries of sea and forest, rock and whirlpool, in our previous game. Further on is the big church or cathedral. It is built in an extremely debased Gothic style; it reminds us most of a church we once surveyed during a brief visit to Rotterdam on our way up the Rhine. A solitary boy scout, mindful of the views of Lord Haldane, enters its high portal. Passing the cathedral, we continue to the museum. This museum is no empty boast; it contains mineral specimens, shells--such great shells as were found on the beaches of our previous game--the Titanic skulls of extinct rabbits and cats, and other such wonders. The slender curious may lie down on the floor and peep in at the windows.

"We now," says the guide-book, "retrace our steps to the shops, and then, turning to the left, ascend under the trees up the terraced hill on which stands the Town Hall. This magnificent building is surmounted by a colossal statue of a chamois, the work of a Wengen artist; it is in two stories, with a battlemented roof, and a crypt (entrance to right of steps) used for the incarceration of offenders. It is occupied by the town guard, who wear 'beefeater' costumes of ancient origin."

Note the red parrot perched on the battlements; it lives tame in the zoological gardens, and is of the same species as one we formerly observed in our archipelago. Note, too, the brisk cat-and-dog encounter below. Steps descend in wide flights down the hillside into Blue End. The two couchant lions on either side of the steps are in plasticine, and were executed by that versatile artist, who is also mayor of Red End, G. P. W. He is present. Our photographer has hit upon a happy moment in the history of this town, and a conversation of the two mayors is going on upon the terrace before the palace. F. R. W., mayor of Blue End, stands on the steps in the costume of an admiral; G. P. W. is on horseback (his habits are equestrian) on the terrace. The town guard parades in their honor, and up the hill a number of musicians (a little hidden by trees) ride on gray horses towards them.

Passing in front of the town hall, and turning to the right, we approach the zoological gardens. Here we pass two of our civilians: a gentleman in black, a lady, and a large boy scout, presumably their son. We enter the gardens, which are protected by a bearded janitor, and remark at once a band of three performing dogs, who are, as the guide-book would say, "discoursing sweet music." In neither ward of the city does there seem to be the slightest restraint upon the use of musical instruments. It is no place for neurotic people.

The gardens contain the inevitable elephants, camels (which we breed, and which are therefore in considerable numbers), a sitting bear, brought from last game's caves, goats from the same region, tamed and now running loose in the gardens, dwarf elephants, wooden nondescripts, and other rare creatures. The keepers wear a uniform not unlike that of railway guards and porters. We wander through the gardens, return, descend the hill by the school of musketry, where soldiers are to be seen shooting at the butts, pass through the paddock of the old farm, and so return to the railway station, extremely gratified by all we have seen, and almost equally divided in our minds between the merits and attractiveness of either ward. A clockwork train comes clattering into the station, we take our places, somebody hoots or whistles for the engine (which can't), the signal is knocked over in the excitement of the moment, the train starts, and we "wave a long, regretful farewell to the salubrious cheerfulness of Chamois City."

You see now how we set out and the spirit in which we set out our towns. It demands but the slightest exercise of the imagination to devise a hundred additions and variations of the scheme. You can make picture- galleries--great fun for small boys who can draw; you can make factories; you can plan out flower-gardens--which appeals very strongly to intelligent little girls; your town hall may become a fortified castle; or you may put the whole town on boards and make a Venice of it, with ships and boats upon its canals, and bridges across them. We used to have some very serviceable ships of cardboard, with flat bottoms; and then we used to have a harbor, and the ships used to sail away to distant rooms, and even into the garden, and return with the most remarkable cargoes, loads of nasturtium-stem logs, for example. We had sacks then, made of glove-fingers, and several toy cranes. I suppose we could find most of these again if we hunted for them. Once, with this game fresh in our we went to see the docks, which struck us as just our old harbor game magnified.

"I say, Daddy," said one of us in a quiet corner, wistfully, as one who speaks knowingly against the probabilities of the case, and yet with a faint, thin hope, "couldn't we play just for a little with these sacks . . . until some-body comes?"

Of course the setting-out of the city is half the game. Then you devise incidents. As I wanted to photograph the particular set-out for the purpose of illustrating this account, I took a larger share in the arrangement than I usually do. It was necessary to get everything into the picture, to ensure a light background that would throw up some of the trees, prevent too much overlapping, and things like that. When the photographing was over, matters became more normal. I left the schoolroom, and when I returned I found that the group of riflemen which had been converging on the publichouse had been sharply recalled to duty, and were trotting in a disciplined, cheerless way towards the railway station. The elephant had escaped from the zoo into the Blue Ward, and was being marched along by a military patrol. The originally scattered boy scouts were being paraded. G. P. W. had demolished the shop of the Jokil Company, and was building a Red End station near the bend. The stock of the Jokil Company had passed into the hands of the adjacent storekeepers. Then the town hall ceremonies came to an end and the guard marched off. Then G. P. W. demolished the rifle-range, and ran a small branch of the urban railway uphill to the town hall door, and on into the zoological gardens. This was only the beginning of a period of enterprise in transit, a small railway boom. A number of halts of simple construction sprang up. There was much making of railway tickets, of a size that enabled passengers to stick their heads through the middle and wear them as a Mexican does his blanket. Then a battery of artillery turned up in the High Street and there was talk of fortifications. Suppose wild Indians were to turn up across the plains to the left and attack the town! Fate still has toy drawers untouched. . .

So things will go on till putting-away night on Friday. Then we shall pick up the roofs and shove them away among the books, return the clockwork engines very carefully to their boxes, for engines are fragile things, stow the soldiers and civilians and animals in their nests of drawers, burn the trees again--this time they are sweet-bay; and all the joys and sorrows and rivalries and successes of Blue End and Red End will pass, and follow Carthage and Nineveh, the empire of Aztec and Roman, the arts of Etruria and the palaces of Crete, and the plannings and contrivings of innumerable myriads of children, into the limbo of games exhausted . . . it may be, leaving some profit, in thoughts widened, in strengthened apprehensions; it may be, leaving nothing but a memory that dies.

SECTION IV FUNICULARS, MARBLE TOWERS, CASTLES AND WAR GAMES, BUT VERY LITTLE OF WAR GAMES

I have now given two general types of floor game; but these are only just two samples of delightful and imagination-stirring variations that can be contrived out of the toys I have described. I will now glance rather more shortly at some other very good uses of the floor, the boards, the bricks, the soldiers, and the railway system--that pentagram for exorcising the evil spirit of dulness from the lives of little boys and girls. And first, there is a kind of lark we call Funiculars. There are times when islands cease somehow to dazzle, and towns and cities are too orderly and uneventful and cramped for us, and we want something-- something to whizz. Then we say: "Let us make a funicular. Let us make a funicular more than we have ever done. Let us make one to reach up to the table." We dispute whether it isn't a mountain railway we are after. The bare name is refreshing; it takes us back to that unforgettable time when we all went to Wengen, winding in and out and up and up the mountain side--from slush, to such snow and sunlight as we had never seen before. And we make a mountain railway. So far, we have never got it up to the table, but some day we will, Then we will have a station there on the flat, and another station on the floor, with shunts and sidings to each.

The peculiar joy of the mountain railway is that, if it is properly made, a loaded car--not a toy engine; it is too rough a game for delicate, respectable engines--will career from top to bottom of the system, and go this way and that as your cunningly-arranged switches determine; and afterwards--and this is a wonderful and distinctive discovery--you can send it back by 'lectric.

What is a 'lectric? You may well ask. 'Lectrics were invented almost by accident, by one of us, to whom also the name is due. It came out of an accident to a toy engine; a toy engine that seemed done for and that was yet full of life.

You know, perhaps, what a toy engine is like. It has the general appearance of a railway engine; funnels, buffers, cab, and so forth. All these are very elegant things, no doubt; but they do not make for lightness, they do not facilitate hill-climbing. Now, sometimes an engine gets its clockwork out of order, and then it is over and done for; but sometimes it is merely the outer semblance that is injured-- the funnel bent, the body twisted. You remove the things and, behold ! you have bare clockwork on wheels, an apparatus of almost malignant energy, soul without body, a kind of metallic rage. This it was that our junior member instantly knew for a 'lectric, and loved from the moment of its stripping.

(I have, by the by, known a very serviceable little road 'lectric made out of a clockwork mouse.)

Well, when we have got chairs and boxes and bricks, and graded our line skilfully and well, easing the descent, and being very careful of the joining at the bends for fear that the descending trucks and cars will jump the rails, we send down first an empty truck, then trucks loaded with bricks and lead soldiers, and then the 'lectric; and then afterwards the sturdy 'lectric shoves up the trucks again to the top, with a kind of savagery of purpose and a whizz that is extremely gratifying to us. We make switches in these lines; we make them have level-crossings, at which collisions are always being just averted; the lines go over and under each other, and in and out of tunnels.


Floor Games - 3/4

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