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< Chapter IV
Croquet, 1864, Captain Mayne Reid
Transcribed by Dr Ian Plummer

1864 Croquet Lawn Setting The arrangement – we may term it the mis en scène – having being accomplished, let us look over the programme of the play.

The game of croquet is open to any number of players, up to eight. Even ten or twelve might take part in it, by using extra balls. The rules of the game, in all cases, remain the same, but the interests of the play will vary according to the number of players, and in a kind of inverse ratio, diminishing as the latter is increased. A match of more than eight would prolong the play, beyond what might be termed a “reasonable time.”1

When eight players enter the lists, it is usual to play as friends, four and four to a side ; but the arrangement of four sets or sides, of two friends each, is equally admissible.

Seven players may go through the game, as if there were eight, by some one of either side taking the extra ball, and playing it in proper tour.2

When six enter, the play may be arranged either into two sides of three, or three of two ; each player, as in the game of eight, taking a single ball.

If there be only five players upon the ground, the odd one may be omitted, by the introduction of an extra ball, as above directed, thus constituting a set of six.3

The game of four may be played with eight balls, each player taking an extra ball and playing it in its proper tour. It is then simply the game of eight ; and, like the latter, may be arranged into two sides of four, or four of two.4

Three players may either play the game of four, by one of them taking the extra ball, or of six, by each taking two balls.

When there are only two players upon the ground, it becomes simply a game of four, - each taking two balls, and playing them alternately.5

Whatever be the number of players, the object of each is to make the grand round, and strike out against the starting stake, by the accomplishment of which feat, the “victory” is obtained.6

The course of the ball in making the grand round is, first, from the spot, through bridges 1 and 2 upwards ; then to the left flank in front of 3 ; thence through 3, 4, and 5 ; thence back to the line of the centre in front of 6 ; thence through 6 and 7, making the half-round.

The stake is next tolled ; after which the ball runs back through 7 and 6, downwards, or in a direction contrary to its previous course.

Having rerun 7 and 6, it crosses over to front of the right flank bridges, their front being reverse to that of those on the left. It then runs 8, 9, and 10, downwards ; crosses again to the centre line above 2 ; and reruns 2 and 1 towards the starting stake.

It has thus completed the grand round ; and, being once more placed upon the spot, has the option, either of striking out or continuing the play, with the privileges of the Rover.7

Before entering upon a game of croquet, there are certain preliminary points that deserve attention. Of these the most important is making the match.8

Out of the company intended to take part in the play, two chiefs should be chosen.9

Each chief takes a ball, - any ball, - places it between the piers of bridge No. 1, and, with a blow of the mallet, drives it in the direction of the starting stake ; the object being to lay it as near as possible to the foot of the stake.

The other chief "strikes" in like fashion, and, when the operation is over, the ball that lies nearest to the stake wins the right to first choice of friends, as also the option to lead off in the play.10

The chief, who has thus obtained first choice out of the company, names a friend ; but only one at a time. The adversary has second choice, and also selects a friend. The third choice belongs to the victorious chief ; the fourth to the adversary ; and so on, till the sides are selected, when the match is considered made.

The chief, who leads the play, will now take up that ball, whose color is represented by the ring standing highest on the stake, and one of the mallets, - any one.11

The adversary must take the ball whose color comes next ; the third falls to the friend first chosen ; the fourth to the friend chosen by the adversary ; and so on, in alternate succession of friends and enemies, till all the balls have been appropriated.12

Each player being provided with a ball and mallet, then game may begin ; the play proceeding in the order of the colored rings upon the stake, from the top downwards.13

1 A game of eight players is sufficiently tedious. With ten or twelve it would be intolerable.

2 Many prefer the game of eight on account of the “company ; ” but these are not zealous players. With them croquet is only a pastime not a passion.

3 The game of six is much prized by many players. It has the advantage over that of eight in being more speedily got through with. Besides, the recurrence of each individual’s tour of play is more rapid, and the interval of inaction less trying to the patience.

4 Four players, each in his own account, unless by taking two balls apiece, cannot play the game of croquet in the proper manner. One of the players, unwatched by the rest, may “steal” out, and bring the play to an unexpected ending ; or, one may be made the victim of a combination of the other three ; and so retarded in his course that the most indifferent player of the party becomes the winner.

When four enter, they should play two and two, each with a single ball ; or, if it be desired to try the individual skill of the players, two balls each may be taken.

The game of four players, each with a single ball, and two and two to a side, is that relished by zealous croquet-players. It insures sufficient shortness, and furthermore provides against that irksome impatience, arising from too long interval between tours of play.

5 There is a croquet-player of still more zealous inclinings, who prefers this game to all others. To him a game with six players, or even four is a tedious trial – slow as the tread of the tortoise. Half-crazed about croquet, he is never easy in mind, with his mallet at rest, - perfectly happy when that implement is in action, cracking away at his own ball, or croque’ing that of his enemy. Enemies he rarely has. He does not want them. A single competitor is his choice ; the passion of his soul a good game of croquet. What to him is the company, players, or spectators? What to him are pretty feet, or provoking ankles? Nothing, or only a vexatious obstruction to his enjoyment of the play! A game of croquet, - a good game, - with two players, and four balls, is with him the ne plus ultra of sub-solitary enjoyment!

Perhaps this selfish fellow may be right. Perhaps the play of croquet, - like some other pastimes, - may be pleasantest as a jeu de deux!

6 As the victory is not declared, till all the friends of a side are stuck out, the act of striking out is usually delayed by each, until the last of that side has completed the grand round. The striking out of any individual ball – whilst ay of its friends are still far back in the game – is a serious loss, instead of a gain, to the side to which it belongs: more especially since the rover is endowed with certain privileges, which render him a valuable friend, or a formidable enemy.

7 Under certain circumstances at is not possible to make the grand round in a single tour of play ; but the individual, who can accomplish this feat, may be regarded as a “crack croquet player.” An ordinary player will take an dozen, perhaps a score, of tours to return to the starting-stake ; and even a good "hand" at croquet, will usually require a considerable number, to enable him to accomplish the desired end

A ball in going its rounds meets with two distinct classes of interruptions, one voluntary, the other unavoidable. Of the former kind, there is the diverging from its course to attack an enemy by roquet and croquet, and spoil the latter's position ; ; or, by the same means to help on a friend. A ball may also voluntarily diverge from its course to place itself near a friend, so that the latter, when its tour comes on, may, by roque’ing upon it, make position.

The involuntary obstructions to the course of a ball are of various kinds, ---attempting the bridges, and failing to attain them ; passing without running them ; crossing at the corners, without, the possibility of turning them ; being roque'ed or croque’ed out of position ; played out of its proper tour, and duly challenged ; attempting to make a croquet, and failing in the attempt ; or permitted to “flinch” from under the foot of its player while in the act of croquet ; any of these contingencies will obstruct a ball in its round.

8 This might seem an easy accomplishment. In reality it is no so. When eight persons enter the arena, some of them being accomplished croquet-players, while others are entirely unacquainted with the game, it is of importance that they should be marshalled in such manner, as to make the two sides equal, or as near it as may be. To accomplish this, something more than chance must be trusted to ; and it is believed that the plan here put forward will conveniently answer the purpose.

9 Where it is intended to have more than two sides in the game, there will be a chief for every side or set of partners. The choice of chiefs may be made by general consent, - usually falling upon the two most noted players ; though this is a point of no importance whatever. The rôle of the chiefs is simply to “strike” for the choice of partners ; and may be performed by any player, whether a lady or gentleman. After the first tour of play, the chief is no longer distinguished from his or her followers.

10 It is of little importance which chief "strikes" first. The first has the advantage of placing his bal1 in the other's way- while the second has the chance of striking -it out of the way, and so getting nearest, to the stake. If there be any dispute, as to who should strike first, it may be settled by using only one ball, and marking the :spot where the first player may have succeeded in placing it.

11 It is of no importance that the painting on the shank of the mallet should correspond to the color of the ball. As observed in the chapter "Croqueterie” this ingenious idea begets confusion.

In appropriating the mallets, each player will endeavor to get hold of the one that is lightest ; but in the "stock" of croqueterie to be met with on most lawns, a mallet of sufficient lightness will be sought for in vain.

12 If there be only four players, or four balls, it will not lie absolutely necessary to look to the rings upon the stake. They are merely intended as prompters ; when, with a, large number of players, it is difficult to tell “whose tour cones next.” Even with only four in the game, they may be occasionally glanced at with advantage: more especially when the heavy forfeit for misplay is taken into consideration.

12 It will still further simplify the process of entering upon the game, if players appropriate the balls falling to the lot of each, at the time when the choice of friends is being made.

< Chapter IV
Croquet, 1864, Captain Mayne Reid
Transcribed by Dr Ian Plummer
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Updated 28.i.16
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