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´╗┐Title: Floor Games; a companion volume to "Little Wars"
Author: Wells, H. G. (Herbert George), 1866-1946
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Floor Games; a companion volume to "Little Wars"" ***

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(H)erbert (G)eorge Wells


   I.  The Toys To Have
  II.  The Game Of The Wonderful Islands
 III.  Of The Building Of Cities
  IV.  Funiculars, Marble Towers, Castles And War Games,
         But Very Little Of War Games

Section I


The jolliest indoor games for boys and girls demand a floor, and the
home that has no floor upon which games may be played falls so far
short of happiness. It must be a floor covered with linoleum or cork
carpet, so that toy soldiers and such-like will stand up upon it, and
of a color and surface that will take and show chalk marks; the common
green-colored cork carpet without a pattern is the best of all. It must
be no highway to other rooms, and well lit and airy. Occasionally,
alas! it must be scrubbed--and then a truce to Floor Games. Upon such a
floor may be made an infinitude of imaginative games, not only keeping
boys and girls happy for days together, but building up a framework of
spacious and inspiring ideas in them for after life. The men of
tomorrow will gain new strength from nursery floors. I am going to tell
of some of these games and what is most needed to play them; I have
tried them all and a score of others like them with my sons, and all of
the games here illustrated have been set out by us. I am going to tell
of them here because I think what we have done will interest other
fathers and mothers, and perhaps be of use to them (and to uncles and
such-like tributary sub-species of humanity) in buying presents for
their own and other people's children.

Now, the toys we play with time after time, and in a thousand
permutations and combinations, belong to four main groups. We have (1)
SOLDIERS, and with these I class sailors, railway porters, civilians,
and the lower animals generally, such as I will presently describe in
greater detail; (2) BRICKS; (3) BOARDS and PLANKS; and (4) a lot of
objects--tin ships, Easter eggs, and the like--of which I shall make
incidental mention, that like the kiwi and the duck-billed platypus
refuse to be classified.

These we arrange and rearrange in various ways upon our floor, making a
world of them. In doing so we have found out all sorts of pleasant
facts, and also many undesirable possibilities; and very probably our
experience will help a reader here and there to the former and save him
from the latter. For instance, our planks and boards, and what one can
do with them, have been a great discovery. Lots of boys and girls seem
to be quite without planks and boards at all, and there is no regular
trade in them. The toyshops, we found, did not keep anything of the
kind we wanted, and our boards, which we had to get made by a
carpenter, are the basis of half the games we play. The planks and
boards we have are of various sizes. We began with three of two yards
by one; they were made with cross pieces like small doors; but these we
found unnecessarily large, and we would not get them now after our
present experience. The best thickness, we think, is an inch for the
larger sizes and three-quarters and a half inch for the smaller; and
the best sizes are a yard square, thirty inches square, two feet, and
eighteen inches square--one or two of each, and a greater number of
smaller ones, 18 x 9, 9 x 9, and 9 x 4-1/2. With the larger ones we
make islands and archipelagos on our floor while the floor is a sea, or
we make a large island or a couple on the Venice pattern, or we pile
the smaller on the larger to make hills when the floor is a level
plain, or they roof in railway stations or serve as bridges, in such
manner as I will presently illustrate. And these boards of ours pass
into our next most important possession, which is our box of bricks.

(But I was nearly forgetting to tell this, that all the thicker and
larger of these boards have holes bored through them. At about every
four inches is a hole, a little larger than an ordinary gimlet hole.
These holes have their uses, as I will tell later, but now let me get
on to the box of bricks.)

This, again, wasn't a toy-shop acquisition. It came to us by gift from
two generous friends, unhappily growing up and very tall at that; and
they had it from parents who were one of several families who shared in
the benefit of a Good Uncle. I know nothing certainly of this man
except that he was a Radford of Plymouth. I have never learned nor
cared to learn of his commoner occupations, but certainly he was one of
those shining and distinguished uncles that tower up at times above the
common levels of humanity. At times, when we consider our derived and
undeserved share of his inheritance and count the joys it gives us, we
have projected half in jest and half in earnest the putting together of
a little exemplary book upon the subject of such exceptional men:
Celebrated Uncles, it should be called; and it should stir up all who
read it to some striving at least towards the glories of the avuncular
crown. What this great benefactor did was to engage a deserving
unemployed carpenter through an entire winter making big boxes of
wooden bricks for the almost innumerable nephews and nieces with which
an appreciative circle of brothers and sisters had blessed him. There
are whole bricks 4-1/2 inches x 2-1/4 x 1-1/8; and there are
quarters--called by those previous owners (who have now ascended to, we
hope but scarcely believe, a happier life near the ceiling) "piggys."
You note how these sizes fit into the sizes of the boards, and of each
size--we have never counted them, but we must have hundreds. We can
pave a dozen square yards of floor with them.

How utterly we despise the silly little bricks of the toyshops! They
are too small to make a decent home for even the poorest lead soldiers,
even if there were hundreds of them, and there are never enough, never
nearly enough; even if you take one at a time and lay it down and say,
"This is a house," even then there are not enough. We see rich people,
rich people out of motor cars, rich people beyond the dreams of
avarice, going into toyshops and buying these skimpy, sickly,
ridiculous pseudo-boxes of bricklets, because they do not know what to
ask for, and the toyshops are just the merciless mercenary enemies of
youth and happiness--so far, that is, as bricks are concerned. Their
unfortunate under-parented offspring mess about with these gifts, and
don't make very much of them, and put them away; and you see their
consequences in after life in the weakly-conceived villas and silly
suburbs that people have built all round big cities. Such poor
under-nourished nurseries must needs fall back upon the Encyclopedia
Britannica, and even that is becoming flexible on India paper! But our
box of bricks almost satisfies. With our box of bricks we can scheme
and build, all three of us, for the best part of the hour, and still
have more bricks in the box.

So much now for the bricks. I will tell later how we use cartridge
paper and cardboard and other things to help in our and of the
decorative make of plasticine. Of course, it goes without saying that
we despise those foolish, expensive, made-up wooden and pasteboard
castles that are sold in shops--playing with them is like playing with
somebody else's dead game in a state of rigor mortis. Let me now say a
little about toy soldiers and the world to which they belong. Toy
soldiers used to be flat, small creatures in my own boyhood, in
comparison with the magnificent beings one can buy to-day. There has
been an enormous improvement in our national physique in this respect.
Now they stand nearly two inches high and look you broadly in the face,
and they have the movable arms and alert intelligence of scientifically
exercised men. You get five of them mounted or nine afoot in a box for
a small price. We three like those of British manufacture best; other
makes are of incompatible sizes, and we have a rule that saves much
trouble, that all red coats belong to G. P. W., and all other colored
coats to F. R. W., all gifts, bequests, and accidents notwithstanding.
Also we have sailors; but, since there are no red-coated sailors, blue
counts as red.

Then we have "beefeaters," (Footnote; The warders in the Tower of
London are called "beefeaters"; the origin of the term is obscure.)
Indians, Zulus, for whom there are special rules. We find we can buy
lead dogs, cats, lions, tigers, horses, camels, cattle, and elephants
of a reasonably corresponding size, and we have also several boxes of
railway porters, and some soldiers we bought in Hesse-Darmstadt that we
pass off on an unsuspecting home world as policemen. But we want
civilians very badly. We found a box of German from an exaggerated
curse of militarism, and even the grocer wears epaulettes. This might
please Lord Roberts and Mr. Leo Maxse, but it certainly does not please
us. I wish, indeed, that we could buy boxes of tradesmen: a blue
butcher, a white baker with a loaf of standard bread, a merchant or so;
boxes of servants, boxes of street traffic, smart sets, and so forth.
We could do with a judge and lawyers, or a box of vestrymen. It is true
that we can buy Salvation Army lasses and football players, but we are
cold to both of these. We have, of course, boy scouts. With such boxes
of civilians we could have much more fun than with the running,
marching, swashbuckling soldiery that pervades us. They drive us to
reviews; and it is only emperors, kings, and very silly small boys who
can take an undying interest in uniforms and reviews.

And lastly, of our railways, let me merely remark here that we have
always insisted upon one uniform gauge and everything we buy fits into
and develops our existing railway system. Nothing is more indicative of
the wambling sort of parent and a coterie of witless, worthless uncles
than a heap of railway toys of different gauges and natures in the
children's playroom. And so, having told you of the material we have,
let me now tell you of one or two games (out of the innumerable many)
that we have played. Of course, in this I have to be a little
artificial. Actual games of the kind I am illustrating here have been
played by us, many and many a time, with joy and happy invention and no
thought of publication. They have gone now, those games, into that
vaguely luminous and iridescent into which happiness have tried out
again points in world of memories all love-engendering must go. But we
our best to set them and recall the good them here.

Section II


In this game the floor is the sea. Half--rather the larger half because
of some instinctive right of primogeniture--is assigned to the elder of
my two sons (he is, as it were, its Olympian), and the other half goes
to his brother. We distribute our boards about the sea in an
archipelagic manner. We then dress our islands, objecting strongly to
too close a scrutiny of our proceedings until we have done. Here, in
the illustration, is such an archipelago ready for its explorers, or
rather on the verge of exploration. There are altogether four islands,
two to the reader's right and two to the left, and the nearer ones are
the more northerly; it is as many as we could get into the camera. The
northern island to the right is most advanced in civilization, and is
chiefly temple. That temple has a flat roof, diversified by domes made
of half Easter eggs and cardboard cones. These are surmounted by
decorative work of a flamboyant character in plasticine, designed by G.
P. W. An oriental population crowds the courtyard and pours out upon
the roadway. Note the grotesque plasticine monsters who guard the
portals, also by G. P. W., who had a free hand with the architecture of
this remarkable specimen of eastern religiosity. They are nothing, you
may be sure, to the gigantic idols inside, out of the reach of the
sacrilegious camera. To the right is a tropical thatched hut. The
thatched roof is really that nice ribbed paper that comes round
bottles--a priceless boon to these games. All that comes into the house
is saved for us. The owner of the hut lounges outside the door. He is a
dismounted cavalry-corps man, and he owns one cow. His fence, I may
note, belonged to a little wooden farm we bought in Switzerland. Its
human inhabitants are scattered; its beasts follow a precarious living
as wild guinea-pigs on the islands to the south.

Your attention is particularly directed to the trees about and behind
the temple, which thicken to a forest on the further island to the
right. These trees we make of twigs taken from trees and bushes in the
garden, and stuck into holes in our boards. Formerly we lived in a
house with a little wood close by, and our forests were wonderful. Now
we are restricted to our garden, and we could get nothing for this set
out but jasmine and pear. Both have wilted a little, and are not nearly
such spirited trees as you can make out of fir trees, for instance. It
is for these woods chiefly that we have our planks perforated with
little holes. No tin trees can ever be so plausible and various and
jolly as these. With a good garden to draw upon one can make terrific
sombre woods, and then lie down and look through them at lonely
horsemen or wandering beasts.

That further island on the right is a less settled country than the
island of the temple. Camels, you note, run wild there; there is a sort
of dwarf elephant, similar to the now extinct kind of which one finds
skeletons in Malta, pigs, a red parrot, and other such creatures, of
lead and wood. The pear-trees are fine. It is those which have
attracted white settlers (I suppose they are), whose thatched huts are
to be seen both upon the beach and in-land. By the huts on the beach
lie a number of pear-tree logs; but a raid of negroid savages from the
to the left is in the only settler is the man in a adjacent island
progress, and clearly visible rifleman's uniform running inland for
help. Beyond, peeping out among the trees, are the supports he seeks.

These same negroid savages are as bold as they are ferocious. They
cross arms of the sea upon their rude canoes, made simply of a strip of
cardboard. Their own island, the one to the south-left, is a rocky
wilderness containing caves. Their chief food is the wild-goat, but in
pursuit of these creatures you will also sometimes find the brown bear,
who sits--he is small but perceptible to the careful student--in the
mouth of his cave. Here, too, you will distinguish small guinea
pig-like creatures of wood, in happier days the inhabitants of that
Swiss farm. Sunken rocks off this island are indicated by a white foam
which takes the form of letters, and you will also note a whirlpool
between the two islands to the right.

Finally comes the island nearest to the reader on the left. This also
is wild and rocky, inhabited not by negroid blacks, but by Indians,
whose tents, made by F. R. W. out of ordinary brown paper and adorned
with chalk totems of a rude and characteristic kind, pour forth their
fierce and well-armed inhabitants at the intimation of an invader. The
rocks on this island, let me remark, have great mineral wealth. Among
them are to be found not only sheets and veins of silver paper, but
great nuggets of metal, obtained by the melting down of hopelessly
broken soldiers in an iron spoon. Note, too, the peculiar and romantic
shell beach of this country. It is an island of exceptional interest to
the geologist and scientific explorer. The Indians, you observe, have
domesticated one leaden and one wooden cow.

This is how the game would be set out. Then we build ships and explore
these islands, but in these pictures the ships are represented as
already arriving. The ships are built out of our wooden bricks on flat
keels made of two wooden pieces of 9 x 4-1/2; inches, which are very
convenient to push about over the floor. Captain G. P. W. is steaming
into the bay between the eastern and western islands. He carries heavy
guns, his ship bristles with an extremely aggressive soldiery, who
appear to be blazing away for the mere love of the thing. (I suspect
him of Imperialist intentions.) Captain F. R. W. is apparently at
anchor between his northern and southern islands. His ship is of a
slightly more pacific type. I note on his deck a lady and a gentleman
(of German origin) with a bag, two of our all too rare civilians. No
doubt the bag contains samples and a small conversation dictionary in
the negroid dialects. (I think F. R. W. may turn out to be a Liberal.)
Perhaps he will sail on and rescue the raided huts, perhaps he will
land and build a jetty, and begin mining among the rocks to fill his
hold with silver. Perhaps the natives will kill and eat the gentleman
with the bag. All that is for Captain F. R. W. to decide.

You see how the game goes on. We land and alter things, and build and
rearrange, and hoist paper flags on pins, and subjugate populations,
and confer all the blessings of civilization upon these lands. We keep
them going for days. And at last, as we begin to tire of them, comes
the scrubbing brush, and we must burn our trees and dismantle our
islands, and put our soldiers in the little nests of drawers, and stand
the island boards up against the wall, and put everything away. Then
perhaps, after a few days, we begin upon some other such game, just as
we feel disposed. But it is never quite the same game, never. Another
time it may be wildernesses for example, and the boards are hills, and
never a drop of water is to be found except for the lakes and rivers we
may mark out in chalk. But after one example others are easy, and next
I will tell you of our way of making towns.

Section III


WE always build twin cities, like London and Westminster, or
Buda-Pesth, because two of us always want, both of them, to be mayors
and municipal councils, and it makes for local freedom and happiness to
arrange it so; but when steam railways or street railways are involved
we have our rails in common, and we have an excellent law that rails
must be laid down and switches kept open in such a manner that anyone
feeling so disposed may send a through train from their own station
back to their own station again without needless negotiation or the
personal invasion of anybody else's administrative area. It is an
undesirable thing to have other people bulging over one's houses,
standing in one's open spaces, and, in extreme cases, knocking down and
even treading on one's citizens. It leads at times to explanations that
are afterwards regretted.

We always have twin cities, or at the utmost stage of coalescence a
city with two wards, Red End and Blue End; we mark the boundaries very
carefully, and our citizens have so much local patriotism (Mr.
Chesterton will learn with pleasure) that they stray but rarely over
that thin little streak of white that bounds their municipal
allegiance. Sometimes we have an election for mayor; it is like a
census but very abusive, and Red always wins. Only citizens with two
legs and at least one arm and capable of standing up may vote, and
voters may poll on horseback; boy scouts and women and children do not
vote, though there is a vigorous agitation to remove these
disabilities. Zulus and foreign-looking persons, such as East Indian
cavalry and American Indians, are also disfranchised. So are riderless
horses and camels; but the elephant has never attempted to vote on any
occasion, and does not seem to desire the privilege. It influences
public opinion quite sufficiently as it is by nodding its head.

We have set out and I have photographed one of our cities to illustrate
more clearly the amusement of the game. Red End is to the reader's
right, and includes most of the hill on which the town stands, a shady
zoological garden, the town hall, a railway tunnel through the hill, a
museum (away in the extreme right-hand corner), a church, a rifle
range, and a shop. Blue End has the railway station, four or five
shops, several homes, a hotel, and a farm-house, close to the railway
station. The boundary drawn by me as overlord (who also made the hills
and tunnels and appointed the trees to grow) runs irregularly between
the two shops nearest the cathedral, over the shoulder in front of the
town hall, and between the farm and the rifle range.

The nature of the hills I have already explained, and this time we have
had no lakes or ornamental water. These are very easily made out of a
piece of glass--the glass lid of a box for example--laid upon silver
paper. Such water becomes very readily populated by those celluloid
seals and swans and ducks that are now so common. Paper fish appear
below the surface and may be peered at by the curious. But on this
occasion we have nothing of the kind, nor have we made use of a
green-colored tablecloth we sometimes use to drape our hills. Of
course, a large part of the fun of this game lies in the witty
incorporation of all sorts of extraneous objects. But the incorporation
must be witty, or you may soon convert the whole thing into an
incoherent muddle of half-good ideas.

I have taken two photographs, one to the right and one to the left of
this agreeable place. I may perhaps adopt a kind of guide-book style in
reviewing its principal features: I begin at the railway station. I
have made a rather nearer and larger photograph of the railway station,
which presents a diversified and entertaining scene to the incoming
visitor. Porters (out of a box of porters) career here and there with
the trucks and light baggage. Quite a number of our all-too-rare
civilians parade the platform: two gentlemen, a lady, and a small but
evil-looking child are particularly noticeable; and there is a wooden
sailor with jointed legs, in a state of intoxication as reprehensible
as it is nowadays happily rare. Two virtuous dogs regard his abandon
with quiet scorn. The seat on which he sprawls is a broken piece of
some toy whose nature I have long forgotten, the station clock is a
similar fragment, and so is the metallic pillar which bears the name of
the station. So many toys, we find, only become serviceable with a
little smashing. There is an allegory in this--as Hawthorne used to
write in his diary.

("What is he doing, the great god Pan, Down in the reeds by the river?")

The fences at the ends of the platforms are pieces of wood belonging to
the game of Matador--that splendid and very educational construction
game, hailing, I believe, from Hungary. There is also, I regret to say,
a blatant advertisement of Jab's "Hair Color," showing the hair. (In
the photograph the hair does not come out very plainly.) This is by G.
P. W., who seems marked out by destiny to be the advertisement-writer
of the next generation. He spends much of his scanty leisure inventing
and drawing advertisements of imaginary commodities. Oblivious to many
happy, beautiful, and noble things in life, he goes about studying and
imitating the literature of the billboards. He and his brother write
newspapers almost entirely devoted to these annoying appeals. You will
note, too, the placard at the mouth of the railway tunnel urging the
existence of Jinks' Soap upon the passing traveller. The oblong object
on the placard  represents, no doubt, a cake of this offensive and
aggressive commodity. The zoological garden flaunts a placard, "Zoo,
two cents pay," and the grocer's picture of a cabbage with "Get Them"
is not to be ignored. F. R. W. is more like the London County Council
in this respect, and prefers bare walls.

"Returning from the station," as the guide-books say, and "giving one
more glance" at the passengers who are waiting for the privilege of
going round the circle in open cars and returning in a prostrated
condition to the station again, and "observing" what admirable
platforms are made by our 9 x 4-1/2 pieces, we pass out to the left
into the village street. A motor omnibus (a one-horse hospital cart in
less progressive days) stands waiting for passengers; and, on our way
to the Cherry Tree Inn, we remark two nurses, one in charge of a child
with a plasticine head. The landlord of the inn is a small grotesque
figure of plaster; his sign is fastened on by a pin. No doubt the
refreshment 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 thick,
stiff paper at twopence a sheet and cut it to the sizes we need.  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


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.

The marble tower, again, is a great building, on which we devise
devious slanting ways down which marbles run. I do not know why it is
amusing to make a marble run down a long intricate path, and dollop
down steps, and come almost but not quite to a stop, and rush out of
dark places and across little bridges of card: it is, and we often do

Castles are done with bricks and cardboard turrets and a portcullis of
card, and drawbridge and moats; they are a mere special sort of
city-building, done because we have a box of men in armor. We could
reconstruct all sorts of historical periods if the toy soldier makers
would provide us with people. But at present, as I have already
complained, they make scarcely anything but contemporary fighting men.
And of the war game I must either write volumes or nothing. For the
present let it be nothing. Some day, perhaps, I will write a great book
about the war game and tell of battles and campaigns and strategy and
tactics. But this time I set out merely to tell of the ordinary joys of
playing with the floor, and to gird improvingly and usefully at
toymakers. So much, I think, I have done. If one parent or one uncle
buys the wiselier for me, I shall not altogether have lived in vain.

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