upon by the banker and the players. If they hit it, they receive as many marbles as they can knock out of the ring; but if they miss, they forfeit one to the banker for each shot. When all the marbles are shot out, another player becomes banker, and Uo on until all have had their turn.

In some places the banker sits on the ground, with his feet widely apart and the pyramid between them. The other players shoot at the pyramid at a stipulated distance, and pay the banker a marble for each shot. If they knock down the pyramid, they get all the four marbles, but do not have the marble which was paid for the shot. Therefore, a player who wishes to win at this game ought to be tolerably certain of hitting the pyramid every other '.ime.

Die-marble.—This game is not very unlike the last. Two marbles are used, one of which is rubbed on a stone until it becomes a perfect cube, like a die. The other is only slightly squared, so as to form a support for the die. One player takes charge of the die, and allows the others to shoot at it from a certain distance. He receives one marble for each shot. If the die be not overthrown, the player loses the paid marble; but if he can succeed in knocking it over, he receives one marble for each spot on the uppermost face of the die.

It is better to procure an ivory die than to make one out of a marble. It is very difficult to make a perfect cube, and if one side be a little smaller than the others, it is nearly sure to come uppermost.

We do not think very much of this game, because there is too much chance in it. An indifferent player, who only hits the die oncein six shots, may win six marbles, because it falls with the six or "size"-side uppermost; and a good player, who hits it five times out of six shots, may only win five marbles, because the " ace" or one-side of the die happens to come uppermost. Still, as the game is in use in some places, we have inserted it.

Bridge-board.—This is another game which is arranged on the same principle as the last, but which is a better game, because there is more skill and less chance. Instead of the pyramid or die-marble, the banker has a

[ocr errors]

little bridge, such as seen in the illustration. Nine little arches are cut through it, each being large enough to allow a marble to pass through easily. The arches are all numbered from l to 9, the lowest numbers being always in the middle, and the highest outside.

The players shoot at the bridge from a given distance, paying the banker one marble for each shot. If the taw pass through either of the holes (or arches), the player receives from the banker a number of marbles equal to the number which is written over the arch. If the taw should not pass through an arch the player receives nothing, and if he miss the bridge altogether, he pays another marble as a fine.

In order to win the prize, the taw must pass completely through the arch. The method of testing whether the taw has fairly passed, is by taking a knifeblade, or a straight piece of wood, and scraping it along the outside of the bridge. If it touch the taw in the least, the player is considered to have missed, and wins nothing.


The banker generally wins at this game.

Picking Plums.—This game is identical with bridge-board in principle, but can be played without any bridge. The banker draws a line on the ground, and lays nine marbles, or "plums," on it in a row, the space between them being just wide enough to allow two marbles to stand side by side. The players pay the banker three marbles for six shots, and shoot out the " plums" from a stated distance, keeping all those which they can knock off the line.

Sometimes there is no banker, and then the players put on the line one or two marbles each, as the case may be, and then go on shooting until they have picked all the plums. This is not at all a bad game, as it teaches accurate shooting, and the players are not afraid of being killed by their opponents. It used to be a favourite in our early days.

Tureic Holes.— This game used to be very popular at one time, and is not a bad one when the ground is level, and when thei c are no large stones or other obstructions.

The players make three little holes in a row, each hole being about two inches in diameter and one inch in depth, the distance between them being three or four feet, or even more, if the players are skilful. A line is drawn about a yard from the first hole, and answers the purpose of the offing or baulk-line in ring-taw. The players knuckle down fairly at the baulk-line, and

try to shoot their taws into the first hole. If a player succeed, he may try for the next hole; and the player w'-.o puts a taw into all three holes wins the game and takes all the remaining marbles.

After the players have secured the first hole, they may shoot cither at the next hole or at the taw of an antagonist; and if they hit him, he is put out of the game and has to forfeit all marbles which he has won.

The stakes are managed differently in different parts of England. In some places each player has to deposit a marble for each hole, and this we think to be the fairest mode. The marbles are put into another hole called the bank, and taken out when won. If a player be killed, he forfeits to his successful opponent all the marbles which he has won; and if he has not won at all, he pays one marble as a fine.

Although a player who has not gained the first hole cannot kill an antagonist, he is at liberty to shoot at any taw so as to drive it away from a hole near which its owner has placed it. A good player will therefore take care, not only to place his own taw in a good position, but will drive away those of his opponents which have been placed near either of the holes. It sometimes happens that a boy wins the game by taking all the three holes in succession, and sometimes by hitting all his adversaries in succession, only taking the first hole. Generally, however, the game is won by a judicious combination of taking holes and killing opponents.

There is, perhaps, no game which is played in so many ways as three holes. It is in use in almost every school in England, and in almost every school there are different ways of playing it. That which is already given is the most common, but we will mention one or two variations.


In some places, when a player has gained the first hole, he can make his opponents place their taws successively in front of the first hole, and then shoot at them from the offing. If he hit the first taw, its owner is killed, and the next in order has to put his taw in the same place. If he miss, the next player goes on from the offing as usual.

Another variation requires that the winner shall hole his own taw nine times. In this mode of playing the game, each player puts down two or three marbles, as the case may be, and then shoots from the offing-line. If he win the first hole, he may put his thumb into it, and stretch the little finger of the same hand as far as he can towards the second hole. This is called " taking a span." If he can thus gain all the three holes, he goes back again, and so on until his taw has been holed nine times. The player who first succeeds in doing this wins all the marbles.

In this variation of the game there is no killing of adversaries, but it is lawful, after gaining a hole, to shoot at any taw: if it be hit, the shooter goes on again from the place where his own taw stops. Thus the player gains a double advantage from hitting an adversary's taw : he drives it away from the hole, and places his own in a favourable situation.

Spanners.—This is a very simple game, and is only played by two opponents. The first shoots his marble to the distance of a few yards, and the other tries to strike it with his own. If he can succeed in doing so, he wins one marble. But there is another point in the game. If No. I can place his taw so close to that of No. 2 that he can span the distance between them with the fingers and thumb of one hand, he wins the marble just as if he had hit it. Attempting the span, however, is rather a dangerous plan to follow, as, if it fail, the antagonist is sure to be able to place his own taw so as to secure a span.

Sometimes this is played with the large marbles called "bounces," or "bonses," which are as large as tennis balls, and arc bowled instead of being thrown. We do not, however, recommend the bounces, and think that they have no right to be considered as marbles at all. They arc, in fact, nothing but small earthenware bowls, and are used in precisely the same manner.

Lags.—This is another game at marbles which bears some resemblance to the preceding, chiefly because the span is introduced.

In this game three or four players take their stations opposite a wall, and the first player shoots or throws his taw at the wall, so as to make it rebound. The next throws his taw in -y\~, a similar manner, and if it rest within a spar

/ I \ 17—' of the first taw, its owner wins a marble. They

/ i \ all play in the same manner, always throwing

/ i \ —ir1^ the taw from the spot on which it rests, and / \ \ making it rebound from the wall. If it should

I \ happen to hit another taw as it rebounds, the

C B 3* owner of the struck taw has to pay a marble.

In some places, however, when a taw is struck its owner is killed—is put out of the game—and has to pay to the owner of the victorious taw all the marbles which he may have won in that game. This pastime is called by various names in different parts of the countryand we have chosen that particular title under which we ourselves used to play it. We do not think very much of lags, but it has the advantage of teaching angles, and so of training the eye to observe. Of course the ground in front of the wall ought to be very smooth.


Conqueror.—We describe this game, because it is played in some places, but we cannot recommend it, as it calls forth very little skill, and depends upon the accidental qualities of the marble rather than on the skill of the player.

In this game a smooth and rather hard piece of ground is selected, care being taken that it is free from stones. The first player now lays his taw on the ground, and the second throws his own at it with all his force. If he succeed in hitting it and breaking it, the owner of the broken taw pays him a marble, and the winning taw is called a Conqueror of One, one of the halves of the broken taw being taken as a proof, and the other half smashed by its owner in order to prevent it from being used as a trophy.

Sometimes it happens that the marble which is thrown at the other is broken, and then great is the rejoicing of the winner.

Then comes a curious point. Any taw which breaks another is entitled to add to its own score all those which the vanquished taw had previously broken, together with the addition of one for the taw itself. Thus, supposing that your taw, which had conquered thirty, were to break mine, which had also conquered thirty, yours would take rank as a Conqueror of Sixty-one, i.e., my thirty added to your thirty, and one for my taw besides. I have also to hand over all the half-taws which my broken taw had previously won.

Boys often play this game with different materials, among which the most popular are chestnuts and cobnuts. A hole is bored through the nut, and a string is passed through the hole and secured by a knot. A jacket is then folded up, and placed on a bench or on the ground, and each player successively lays his nut on the jacket, and allows the others to strike it. Perhaps some of rny readers may remember a humorous sketch of sailors just paid off indulging in this game, but using watches instead of nuts.

In the spring and summer conqueror is often played by means of the plantain-stalk, each player trying to cut off the head of the other's plantain with his own. There is some little amount of knack required in this game, as a properly-delivered stroke will often conquer a stronger stalk, just as a smart blow from a stick will sever a stout branch. In this game the chief point is to bring down the plantain with a smart whip like stroke, drawing it towards you as it descends. The thickest stalk is seldom the best, as it is mostly very green, well nurtured, and soft. Choose a long thin stalk that has grown in a dry place, and you will find it so tough, that after it has been fairly broken across, the fibres will not yield, but become twisted into a sort of rope, and will stand almost any amount of ill-treatment.

There are other games at marbles, such as tipshares, bounce, teetotum, &c, but we do not describe them, because we hold them to be utterly unworthy of attention. The first of these games consists in throwing a handful of marbles at random into a hole, and seeing whether the number is odd or even. The second consists in dropping a bounce on a heap of marbles, and keeping all that are knocked out of a small ring. The third is played by spinning a teetotum, and by taking as many marbles as accord with the number which happens to come uppermost. There is not the least skill in any of these socalled games, which are, indeed, only an introduction to gambling. So we advise our readers to have nothing to do with them.

We conclude with a few words of practical advice.

We have always held to the opinion that in no game ought marbles to be projected in any other way than by fair shooting. Shooting is not only the most correct, but by far the most certain method of projecting a taw. The skili that is needed does not take long of acquirement, and when once acquired, it never forsakes its owner. The knuckle of the forefinger resting on the ground gives a steadiness to the aim which can never be acquired as long as the hand is allowed to move in the slightest degree; and it is really beautiful to see a well-shot taw describing its arc of a circle, and descending plump upon the marble at which it is aimed.

When we began to write this treatise on marbles, we had not touched a taw for some fourteen or fifteen years; yet, our right hand had not forgotten her cunning, and after a few minutes' practice, we were able to clear a ring of its marbles with as much precision as when we were acknowledged one of the kin?s of the marble-ground.

Here are a few hints on taw-shooting. Do not aim directly at the marble, because you are always apt to use a little too much strength, and then the taw flies over the marble, and misses it altogether. Aim at the ground about a quarter of an inch in front of the marble, and then you will seldom miss. Even if you should strike the ground half an inch short, no harm will be done, the taw being sure to touch the top of the marble as it leaps from the ground; and, if you should shoot a little too low, your taw will alight plump on the marble, and drive it to a distance. If you can possibly avoid it, do not let your taw roll towards the marble which you mean to strike, because any impediment or obstacle will be sure to turn it aside.

If you are too far off to make tolerably sure of hitting the marble, do not try to do so, but merely place yourself in a position whence you will have a chance when your turn for shooting comes round. Moreover, if you let your taw roll, it may be turned aside and directed towards the taw of an adversary, who will kill you when his turn comes, and put you out of the game.

It is worth every boy's while to practise taw-shooting, if only for five or ten minutes a day. He will soon gain an amount of precision and confidence which will thoroughly repay him for the trouble which he has taken. It must be borne in mind, that the reputation of being a certain shot at marbles is most useful. Your adversaries will be afraid of you. They will not dare tJ take any liberties with the game. They will keep themselves at a respectful distance from your taw for fear of being killed; and so you may frighten them away from the ring, and pick out all the marbles at your pleasure.

One great advantage of the correct style of shooting is, that your own taw has a kind of spin imparted to it as it leaves the hand, and therefore it does not "stop dead " on hitting another marble, but is sure to go off at an angle. Those who " lob" their taws often get killed by remaining in the ring when they nave struck a marble in the middle.

As to the size and material of the taw, we recommend a moderately-sized alley. If too large, it is easily hit by the adversary; if too small, it cannot strike other marbles with sufficient force to drive them fairly out of the ring.

The surface of a good alley is exactly the very thing that is required for shooting. It has a sort of velvety feeling, which affords a capital grasp for the finger and thumb, and it is sufficiently polished to enable it to be shot without clinging to the finger or thumb. We had one favourite alley—milk-white, with pink veins and a pink circular line—and this we valued beyond price.

« ForrigeFortsett »