ELLICOTT AND THE TRIPLE PEEL
short fiction by D.K. Holland
Denis Holland plays at the Chatsworth Croquet Club in New South Wales. This
story has appeared in THE CROQUET GAZETTE as well as the new anthology "The
Lighter Side of Serious Croquet," by David Appleton.
"I have long contended," said my friend Ellicott, "that the triple peel, in
all its forms, is the most gross manifestation of arrogance seen in croquet
Ellicott pursed his lips, glared at me, and bit savagely into another of the
cream eclairs which invariably accompanied his otherwise nondescript
"But you will allow," I responded tentatively, "that the triple peel,
performed well, is a most difficult manoeuver?"
Ellicott's brows shot together. The eclair was dropped to the plate.
"Allow?" he thundered, "I will allow no such thing. And as for being
difficult, so is standing on your head. To quote the great Dr Johnson: for a
dog to walk on its hind legs is difficult, but one should not consider
whether it is done well, but more to the point of whether it should be done
at all. The triple peel, my dear DK, is simply a circus trick, and has no
more place on a croquet lawn than heckling spectators in hob-nailed boots."
I should perhaps here explain a little about the general character of
Ellicott. A fairly competent player of croquet, he was inclined to a
relentless intimidation of his opponents via a long study of the Potter
concept of One-upmanship. The Ellicott maxim was that if you were not
One-up, you were, without question,. One-down; and he pursued this philosophy
come what may.
Ellicott's take-offs, for example, were notorious in that the ball from which
he took croquet seldom shook, let alone moved; and his response to a
questioning opponent was to swing his mallet menacingly and at the same time
advance to within six inches of his questioner's nose. He would then tap his
mallet a couple of times on the innocent turf and declare in a loud voice:
"Moved!? You question whether it moved. Are you blind, sir? Or are you so
desparate to win that you would resort to chicanery to put me off this
splendid game I am playing?"
To be fair to Ellicott, there is no doubt that he really believed his ball
had moved, and for all his bluster and gamesmanship, he had an untiring love
for croquet and played it in a positive and spirited fashion. Not for
Ellicott the game of Hide and Seek, and so-called 'percentage' croquet was
anathema to him
I bit into my Huntley & Palmer biscuit and attempted to pursue the matter of
the triple peel. I knew I had to be quick, and countered while Ellicott was
sampling another sticky eclair: "Tell me, Ellicott, if the triple peel is
such a bad thing or, as you say, an arrogant circus trick, why is it that so
many of our up-and-coming players think it necessary to attain the skills
required to perform it?"
"I will tell you why," Ellicott retored. "It's because of the examples set
by those who should know better. The few at the top set the standards,
unfortunately, and they take delight in their childish high-wire act of
proceeding to 4-back, wiring you, and then sucking their thumbs while you
miss the lift. They then take their second ball around, perform their
wretched triple peels, and believe in their naivety that that is how croquet
should be played."
Ellicott drew in his breath, stifled the question hovering on my lips with an
impatient wave of his hand, and continued with shoulders hunched forward
confidentailly. "And in any case, if they must show off, why not continue to
rover with their first ball? Four balls placed accurately, one in each
corner, is an admirable leave. But they either lack courage or are too
besotted with their precious triple peel."
"You will agree that a triple peel can finish a game in a remarkably
disciplined fashion," I ventured cautiously.
Not for Ellicott the game of Hide and Seek, and so-called "percentage'
croquet was anathema to him.
Ellicott's eyes bulged at this, and his reply was typically intense: "I can
see, DK, that you are yet another unwitting accomplice to the lunacy that is
rapidly sounding the death-knell of any universal embracing of our game.
And as for the triple peel finishing the game with discipline, a thump on
the offending player's head with a heavy mallet would do just as well - and
create a lot more spectator interest into the bargain."
"Would you ban the triple peel?"
"The triple peel," Ellicott responded flatly, "must not be allowed to
continue without the introduction of imaginative curbs on the player who
attempts one. And there must also be revisions of the rules to allow
compensating strategies to the other player."
Ellicott had finished his luncheon and now stared reflectively at his empty
plate. "Croquet is, after all," he continued quietly, "a contest between two
people. In singles anyway. And you will concede that a contest requires
I nodded vigorously while stuffing myself with the last of the Huntley &
Palmers. I knew that croquet was a game between two people. I had lost
enough of them to know I wasn't playing by myself.
"But where is the interaction," Ellicott continued, poking a spoon
aggressively into a cup of Gold Blend. "The circus clown wins the toss,
elects to go in, stops at 4-back, sneers when you miss the lift, and goes out
on a triple peel. Boring high-wire stuff. Utterly boring."
"I used to like seeing the odd circus or two," I responded excitedly. "And I
tell you what, Ellicott, I never thought the high-wire acts were boring.
Some of those buxom wenches in skimpy costumes don't half make a chap..."
"As for the triple peel finishing the game with discipline, a thump on the
offending player's head with a heavey mallet would do just as well..."
"Ellicott's glare and admonishing wave of his hand cut me off in
mid-sentence. "Take the American game," he continued soberly. "Lots of
interaction there. They have their priorities right. They play to the
spectators. They see croquet as a contest, not a one-sided exhibition by a
computerised ghost in white."
Ellicott had now risen to his feet and was busily swinging his mallet in
preparation for the next round of what he saw to be the Game of Life.
I had never yet got the better of Ellicott in any dialectic. I now thought I
saw a chance. "Ellicott!" I yelled after him as he was half way through the
door. "Have you ever done a triple peel?"
Ellicott was stopped in his tracks. But I was mistaken if I thought that the
calorie-filled eclairs had in any way diminished the quality of his repartee.
"No, I have not," he responded affably. "I have always been too busy playing
"Take the American game," he continued soberly. "Lots of interaction there.
They have their priorities right....They see croquet as a contest, not a
one-sided exhibition by a computerised ghost in white."