With that concluding word, the whole assembly, exalting their pilgrim’s staves, rushed round me in a body; and I, having no weapon to raise in self-defence, commenced grappling with Joseph, my nearest and most ferocious assailant, for his.
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fought off my assailant
The wise man always throws himself on the side of his assailants. It is more his interest than it is theirs to find his weak point.