Friday, February 5, 2010

Old Mortality

With that he dropped his coarse grey horseman's coat from his shoulders, and, extending his strong brawny arms with a look of determined resolution, he offered himself to the contest.  The soldier was nothing abashed by the muscular frame, broad chest, square shoulders, and hardy look of his antagonist, but whistling with great composure, unbuckled his belt, and laid aside his military coat.  The company stood round them, anxious for the event.
In the first struggle the trooper seemed to have some advantage, and also in the second, though neither could be considered as decisive.  But it was plain he had put his whole strength too suddenly forth, against an antagonist possessed of great endurance, skill, vigour, and length of wind.  In the third close, the countryman lifted his opponent fairly from the floor, and hurled him to the ground with such violence, that he lay for an instant stunned and motionless.  His comrade Halliday immediately drew his sword; 'You have killed my sergeant,' he exclaimed to the victorious wrestler, 'and by all that is sacred you shall answer it!'
'Stand back!' cried Morton and his companions, 'it was all fair play; your comrade sought a fall, and he has got it.'
'That is true enough,' said Bothwell, as he slowly rose; 'put up your bilbo, Tom.  I did not think there was a crop-ear of them all could have laid the best cap and feather in the King's Life-Guards on the floor of a rascally change-house.--Hark ye, friend, give me your hand.'  The stranger held out his hand.  'I promise you,' said Bothwell, squeezing his hand very hard, 'that the time will come when we shall meet again, and try this game over in a more earnest manner.'
'And I'll promise you,' said the stranger, returning the grasp with equal firmness, 'that when we next meet, I will lay your head as low as it lay even now, when you shall lack the power to lift it up again.'
--The Tale of Old Mortality, by Sir Walter Scott (1816)

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