back to the wall

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back to the wall

Also, back against the wall. In a hard-pressed situation; also, without any way of escape. For example, In the closing few minutes, our team had its back to the wall but continued to fight gallantly , or The bank has him with his back to the wall; he'll have to pay up now. This term was used originally for a military force that is making a last stand. [First half of 1500s]
See also: back, wall
References in classic literature ?
The question of his fate, then, rested upon whether, with his start he could elude Numa for a few seconds; and, if so, if the lion would then have sufficient stamina remaining to pursue him at a reduced gait for the balance of the distance to the wall.
As Turan had passed through the gateway into the city and taken his unhindered way along the avenue, twenty warriors had entered the city and closed the gate behind them, and then one had taken to the wall and followed along its summit in the rear of Turan, and another had followed him along the avenue, while a third had crossed the street and entered one of the buildings upon the opposite side.
Since your eminence has come so far, come a few steps further; conduct us, my lord, to the wall.
Be it so," replied the cardinal; and walking in a straight line he went to the wall, at the foot of which they all four arrived at the same instant.
I jumped down and gave another ten minutes to the back-breaking work of carrying more boulders from the water to the wall.
I had a keen eye apiece for them as I cowered closer to the wall, revolver in hand.
For a week since he had resolved to die, and during the four days that he had been carrying out his purpose, Edmond had not spoken to the attendant, had not answered him when he inquired what was the matter with him, and turned his face to the wall when he looked too curiously at him; but now the jailer might hear the noise and put an end to it, and so destroy a ray of something like hope that soothed his last moments.
I tore a part of the hem from the robe and placed the fragment at full length, and at right angles to the wall.
A great chamber, well lighted, in which were several men and women chained to the wall, and in front of them, evidently directing and operating the movement of the secret doorway, a wicked-faced man, neither red as are the red men of Mars, nor green as are the green men, but white, like myself, with a great mass of flowing yellow hair.
Placing three of them with their faces to the wall and arms locked, I commanded two more to mount to their shoulders, and a sixth I ordered to climb upon the shoulders of the upper two.
Why have you changed the place of the bed," she asked, "from the wall there, to the wall here?
I put out my hand and felt the meat chopper hanging to the wall.
In many palaces, however, such suites form a long and straight vista, while the folding doors slide back nearly to the walls on either hand, so that the view of the whole extent is scarcely impeded.
But from a certain nameless awe with which the mad assumptions of the mummer had inspired the whole party, there were found none who put forth hand to seize him; so that, unimpeded, he passed within a yard of the prince's person; and, while the vast assembly, as if with one impulse, shrank from the centres of the rooms to the walls, he made his way uninterruptedly, but with the same solemn and measured step which had distinguished him from the first, through the blue chamber to the purple--through the purple to the green--through the green to the orange--through this again to the white--and even thence to the violet, ere a decided movement had been made to arrest him.
LET us hurry to the walls," said Abel-Phittim to Buzi-Ben-Levi and Simeon the Pharisee, on the tenth day of the month Thammuz, in the year of the world three thousand nine hundred and fortyone--let us hasten to the ramparts adjoining the gate of Benjamin, which is in the city of David, and overlooking the camp of the uncircumcised; for it is the last hour of the fourth watch, being sunrise; and the idolaters, in fulfilment of the promise of Pompey, should be awaiting us with the lambs for the sacrifices.