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Head and Tail

Head and Tail is a pastime well known among the lowest and most vulgar classes of the community, and to whom it is now confined; formerly, however, it held a higher rank and was introduced at Court. Edward II. was partial to this and other frivolous diversions, and spent much of his time in the pursuit of them. In one of his wardrobe 'rolls,' or accounts, we find the following entries --Item, paid to Henry, the king's barber, for money which he lent to the king to play at Cross and Pile, five shillings. Item, paid to Pires Bernard, usher of the king's chamber, money which he lent the king, and which he lost at Cross and Pile; to Monsieur Robert Wartewille, eight- pence.

A half-penny is now generally used in playing this game; but any other coin with a head impressed will answer the purpose. One person tosses the half-penny up and the other cries at pleasure HEAD or TAIL, and loses according to the result.

Cross and Pile is evidently derived from the Greek pastime called Ostra Kinda, played by the boys of ancient Greece. Having procured a shell, they smeared it over with pitch on one side and left the other side white. A boy tossed up this shell, and his antagonist called white or black [In the Greek, nux kai hmera, that is, 'night and day'] as he thought proper, and his success was determined by the white or black part of the shell being uppermost.



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