Versus Excerpt

She raised the mallet high and sent the red ball racing across the lawn, passing the halfway mark before it rolled to a stop. Elizabeth glanced out of the side of her vision to see Darcy’s reaction, but he had his hands behind his back as he watched Caroline perform some practice swings. The sound of the mallet on the ball was sharper this time, but the blue ball still didn’t travel far, only reaching to where Louisa’s currently brooded. She thumped her elbows against her sides.
Louisa’s hit was good, and Darcy’s aligned with Elizabeth’s. The red and yellow balls were again in similar places.
“My turn again.”
Elizabeth’s third hit flew down the middle of the lawn as though blessed with knowing exactly where all of the newly scythed grass was located and as if a heavenly hand pushed it, bringing it within yards of the target hoop.
“Magnificent,” cried Louisa.
Whether motivated by jealousy or frustration, Caroline’s swing was harder and she made up territory, and caught up with the others.
“Did you see?” she cried happily.
Louisa’s hit was lucky; the ball landed quite near Elizabeth. She turned shining eyes on her sister whose happiness wasn’t dimmed.
“Mr. Darcy, do make certain that you do well and redeem our team,” Caroline cried. He strode up to the ball, pulled his shoulders back, swung the mallet high, and hit the ball with the loudest crack they had heard yet. It went flying over the grass in that newly shorn area.
“Oh! We’re going to win,” she exclaimed. However, it continued past the hoop and landed about five feet on the other side.
“We’ve won!” Caroline cried.
“No, we haven’t!” Darcy retorted. “It needs to go through the hoop.”
But it is just a short distance away. You can easily make it in one shot.”
“No,” her sister pointed out. “It needs to go through from this side, not the other. He has to bring it around first.”
“Oh, crackers!”
“My turn,” said Elizabeth. This time she didn’t raise her mallet high as if taking a ferocious swing; she stood sideways and only raised it to her waist, lining the red ball up with the hoop. Then she brought the mallet down and sent the ball zipping gently and precisely towards the hoop only to have it stop just in front.
“A-ha! Caught up by the grass!” Darcy exclaimed.
“Yes,” Elizabeth agreed, snorting gently.
Rather than swinging wildly again, Caroline mimicked Elizabeth’s actions and got her blue ball closer, but still far short of the hoop.
“My turn,” said Louisa. She took a long time positioning and doing practice swings, suddenly the ball was rolling towards the hoop.
“Wait! It will hit Elizabeth’s!” Caroline cried.
“That’s allowed,” said Darcy.
And it did, knocking Elizabeth’s through the hoop, but Louisa’s stopped short, taking the red ball’s place.
“That’s four strokes, for me,” said Elizabeth coming over with a grin.
“What happens now?” Caroline asked.
“We continue playing,” said Darcy, “until there is an assured victor.” He too sent his ball rolling with a gentler swing, backward through the hoop, and knocked Louisa’s out of the way.
“Ohhh…” Caroline exclaimed, realizing that perhaps they had not yet lost.
Louisa’s ball was now yards away from the hoop, while Mr. Darcy’s was a mere two feet away.
“We never discussed if I can continue to play,” said Elizabeth. Darcy stood with the head of his mallet on the ground while he ran his thumb over the end of the handle staring at her.
“In my rule book, a person may always continue, so long as she adds each stroke to her team’s total.”
“So too in my rule book,” she agreed, staring back.
“What does that mean?” asked Caroline, who was full of questions that morning.
“It means that once a person has hit their ball through a hoop, they can continue to play, so long as they add each hit to their team’s total.”
“But why would they want to?”
“Because they can use their ball to interfere with other player’s balls.”
“That’s not fair!” Caroline hooted.
“It’s all about winning,” said Elizabeth, who methodically strolled to her red ball two feet past the metal hoop. She eyed Darcy’s yellow ball an equal distance on the other side, in prime position to be hit through. Standing sideways, as before, she yanked the mallet up to her waist, whack the ball, and sent it hurtling towards Darcy’s. They kissed, then his yellow ball flew for yards back across that neatly scythed grass.
“I can still make that shot,” he asserted.
“It’s not yet your turn,” she teased.
“Mine,” said Caroline, eagerly raising her mallet high and swinging. The blue ball traveled close enough to be in contention for the hoop now.
Louisa didn’t say anything but spent a long time eying the distance from her ball to the hoop. Finally, with a loud thwack, she sent it flying through the end hoop. “That’s it, we’ve won.”
“Not so fast,” said Darcy. He stared at Elizabeth who came to stand on the reverse side of the wire hoop next to Louisa. Darcy appeared nonchalant as he examined his playing field, though he took as long as Louisa in lining up his shot. His ball had a spin on it and curved to hit Caroline’s, knocking hers forward and through the hoop. She shouted in triumph. The yellow ball followed; it would tie the game.
However, the short grass helped too much, and the ball rolled ferociously toward the hoop, but arched to the side, hit the left post, and bounced back onto the playing field.
“Tied in hits, but we are both through the hoop, so we win,” Elizabeth declared. “Excellent shot, Mr. Darcy!”
“I thought for sure your ball would go through! It is most unfair!” cried Caroline, coming to take Darcy’s arm. “Take me back inside, I’m exhausted. I didn’t realize how much exercise this game would require.”
Louisa Hurst followed the two after thanking Elizabeth for an excellent game.
Lizzy waited until the trio was out of sight before she packed away the hoops, balls, and mallets. While it had been a close game, the challenge was minimal. Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst provided unknown elements.
Elizabeth imagined a long course, a thousand yards long, just the two of them, playing and talking as they conversed between swings.