In country wrestling there are the side-hold, and square-hold, and back-hold, and rough-and-tumble, the last the catch-as-catch-can of stage struggles. In early boyhood Harlson had learned the tricks of these, and in the college gymnasium he had supplemented this wisdom by persistent training in every device of the professional gladiators. He was there considered something better than the common. And this, though a life depended on it, was but a wrestling-match. It was but a struggle to see which should get the other in his power, and blows count but little in a death-grapple.
They swayed and swung together, but so evenly braced and firm that minutes passed, while, from a little distance, they would have seemed but motionless. All who have watched two well-matched wrestlers will recognize this situation.
In each man’s mind was a different immediate aim. Woodell wanted Harlson on the ground and underneath him; he wanted his hand upon his throat, and to clutch that throat so savagely and so long that the man’s face would blacken and his tongue protrude, and his limbs finally relax, and the work attempted on the hay-mow be done completely! Harlson had but one thought: to overmaster in some way his assailant.
There was a sudden change, a mighty movement on the part of Woodell, and in an instant the struggle was over.
Glorious are your possibilities, O pretty grip and heave, O half-Nelson, beloved of wrestlers! What a leverage, what a perfection of result is with you! What a friend you are in time of peril! Woodell, too bloodthirsty to feint or dally, released his hold and stooped and shot forward, his arms low down, to get the country hold, which rarely failed when once secured. And, even as he did so, in that very half-second of time, there was a half-turn of the other’s body, an arm about his neck, a wrench forward to a hip, and, big man though he was, nothing could save him!
His feet left the earth; he whirled on a pivot, high and clear, and came to the ground with a force to match his weight, his body, like a whip-lash, cracking its whole length as he struck.
Stunned by the awful shock, he did not move. His adversary stood glaring at the still form for a moment, dazed himself by the sudden outcome, then dashed into the barn, came out with a harness throat-latch and a pitchfork, strapped Woodell’s hands together, pulled them over his knees, and between the knees and wrists passed the long ash fork-handle. The man, slowly recovering his senses, was “bucked” in a manner known to any schoolboy; as securely bound as if with handcuffs and with shackles; as helpless as a babe!
Inclination against conscience.
The shock had affected Woodell very much as what is known as a “knock-out” in sparring affects a man. Absolutely unconscious at first, he recovered intelligence slowly, though practically uninjured. Harlson stood beside the grotesquely trussed figure and watched the return to consciousness with curiosity. The cool night air assisted the restoration.