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Winter Pastimes

It is in the depth of winter, when the intense cold
renders it desirable to stay at home, that the really
Pleasant Family is wont to serve invitations upon a few
friends to spend a Quiet Evening.

It is at these gatherings that that gay thing, the indoor
winter game, becomes rampant. It is there that the old
euchre deck and the staring domino become fair and
beautiful things; that the rattle of the Loto counter
rejoices the heart, that the old riddle feels the sap
stirring in its limbs again, and the amusing spilikin
completes the mental ruin of the jaded guest. Then does
the Jolly Maiden Aunt propound the query: What is the
difference between an elephant and a silk hat? Or declare
that her first is a vowel, her second a preposition, and
her third an archipelago. It is to crown such a quiet
evening, and to give the finishing stroke to those of
the visitors who have not escaped early, with a fierce
purpose of getting at the saloons before they have time
to close, that the indoor game or family reservoir of
fun is dragged from its long sleep. It is spread out upon
the table. Its paper of directions is unfolded. Its cards,
its counters, its pointers and its markers are distributed
around the table, and the visitor forces a look of reckless
pleasure upon his face. Then the "few simple directions"
are read aloud by the Jolly Aunt, instructing each
player to challenge the player holding the golden letter
corresponding to the digit next in order, to name a dead
author beginning with X, failing which the player must
declare himself in fault, and pay the forfeit of handing
over to the Jolly Aunt his gold watch and all his money,
or having a hot plate put down his neck.

With a view to bringing some relief to the guests at
entertainments of this kind, I have endeavoured to
construct one or two little winter pastimes of a novel
character. They are quite inexpensive, and as they need
no background of higher arithmetic or ancient history,
they are within reach of the humblest intellect. Here is
one of them. It is called Indoor Football, or Football
without a Ball.

In this game any number of players, from fifteen to
thirty, seat themselves in a heap on any one player,
usually the player next to the dealer. They then challenge
him to get up, while one player stands with a stop-watch
in his hand and counts forty seconds. Should the first
player fail to rise before forty seconds are counted,
the player with the watch declares him suffocated. This
is called a "Down" and counts one. The player who was
the Down is then leant against the wall; his wind is
supposed to be squeezed out. The player called the referee
then blows a whistle and the players select another player
and score a down off him. While the player is supposed
to be down, all the rest must remain seated as before,
and not rise from him until the referee by counting forty
and blowing his whistle announces that in his opinion
the other player is stifled. He is then leant against
the wall beside the first player. When the whistle again
blows the player nearest the referee strikes him behind
the right ear. This is a "Touch," and counts two.

It is impossible, of course, to give all the rules in
detail. I might add, however, that while it counts TWO
to strike the referee, to kick him counts THREE. To break
his arm or leg counts FOUR, and to kill him outright is
called GRAND SLAM and counts one game.

Here is another little thing that I have worked out,
which is superior to parlour games in that it combines
their intense excitement with sound out-of-door exercise.

It is easily comprehended, and can be played by any number
of players, old and young. It requires no other apparatus
than a trolley car of the ordinary type, a mile or two
of track, and a few thousand volts of electricity. It is
called:

The Suburban Trolley Car
A Holiday Game for Old and Young.

The chief part in the game is taken by two players who
station themselves one at each end of the car, and who
adopt some distinctive costumes to indicate that they
are "it." The other players occupy the body of the car,
or take up their position at intervals along the track.

The object of each player should be to enter the car as
stealthily as possible in such a way as to escape the
notice of the players in distinctive dress. Should he
fail to do this he must pay the philopena or forfeit. Of
these there are two: philopena No. 1, the payment of five
cents, and philopena No. 2, being thrown off the car by
the neck. Each player may elect which philopena he will
pay. Any player who escapes paying the philopena scores
one.

The players who are in the car may elect to adopt a
standing attitude, or to seat themselves, but no player
may seat himself in the lap of another without the second
player's consent. The object of those who elect to remain
standing is to place their feet upon the toes of those
who sit; when they do this they score. The object of
those who elect to sit is to elude the feet of the standing
players. Much merriment is thus occasioned.

The player in distinctive costume at the front of the
car controls a crank, by means of which he is enabled to
bring the car to a sudden stop, or to cause it to plunge
violently forward. His aim in so doing is to cause all
the standing players to fall over backward. Every time
he does this he scores. For this purpose he is generally
in collusion with the other player in distinctive costume,
whose business it is to let him know by a series of bells
and signals when the players are not looking, and can be
easily thrown down. A sharp fall of this sort gives rise
to no end of banter and good-natured drollery, directed
against the two players who are "it."

Should a player who is thus thrown backward save himself
from falling by sitting down in the lap of a female
player, he scores one. Any player who scores in this
manner is entitled to remain seated while he may count
six, after which he must remove himself or pay philopena
No. 2.

Should the player who controls the crank perceive a player
upon the street desirous of joining in the game by entering
the car, his object should be: primo, to run over him
and kill him; secundo, to kill him by any other means in
his power; tertio, to let him into the car, but to exact
the usual philopena.

Should a player, in thus attempting to get on the car
from without, become entangled in the machinery, the
player controlling the crank shouts "huff!" and the car
is supposed to pass over him. All within the car score
one.

A fine spice of the ludicrous may be added to the game
by each player pretending that he has a destination or
stopping-place, where he would wish to alight. It now
becomes the aim of the two players who are "it" to carry
him past his point. A player who is thus carried beyond
his imaginary stopping-place must feign a violent passion,
and imitate angry gesticulations. He may, in addition,
feign a great age or a painful infirmity, which will be
found to occasion the most convulsive fun for the other
players in the game.

These are the main outlines of this most amusing pastime.
Many other agreeable features may, of course, be readily
introduced by persons of humour and imagination.

Stephen Leacock