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ERB’S BIBLE BLUES:
A Commentary By
Woodrow Edgar Nichols, Jr.
I know your jaw is sore from all that gnawing, but the truth of Lord Passmore’s safari is about to be revealed. It all goes back to that meeting between Tarzan and Kabriga in the first chapter, for the latter’s tribe was being raided and extorted by a band of slave raiders out of Abyssinia, led by a white man. But first we must return to the raiders’ camp where Jezebel and the “Gunner” are in the process of being killed or enslaved.
Chapter Twenty-Five: The Waziri
“There!” gasped the “Gunner.”
“I am free!” exclaimed Jezebel.
“And my jaws is worn out,” said Danny.
Quickly Jezebel turned and worked upon the thongs that confined the “Gunner’s” wrists before taking the time to loose her ankles. Her fingers were quite numb, for the cords had partially cut of the circulation from her hands; and she was slow and bungling at the work. It seemed to them both that she would never be done. Had they known that Ntale had already arisen from his breakfast fire with the announcement that he was going to kill the “Gunner,” they would have been frantic; but they did not know it, and perhaps that were better, since to Jezebel’s other handicaps was not added the nervous tension that surely would have accompanied a knowledge of the truth.
But at last the “Gunner’s” hands were free; and then both fell to work upon the cords that secured their ankles, which were less tightly fastened.
At last the “Gunner” arose. “The first thing I do,” he said, ‘is to find out what I was lyin’ on yesterday. It had a familiar feel to it; and, if I’m right – boy!”
He rummaged among the filthy rags at the end of the hut, and a moment later straightened up with a Thompson submachine gun in one hand and his revolver, belt and holster in the other – a grin on his face.
“This is the first break I’ve had in a long time,” he said. “Everything’s jake now, sister.”
“What are those things?” asked Jezebel.
“Them’s the other half of “Gunner” Patrick,” replied Danny. “Now, bring on the dirty rats!”
As he spoke, Ntale the chief drew aside the rug at the doorway and looked in. The interior of the hut was rather dark, and at first glance he could not make out the figures of the girl and the man standing at the far side; but, silhouetted as he was against the growing morning light beyond the doorway, he was plainly visible to his intended victim; and Danny saw that the man carried a pistol ready in his hand.
The “Gunner” had already buckled his belt about him. Now he transferred the machine gun to his left hand and drew his revolver from its holster. He did these things quickly and silently. So quickly that, as he fired, Ntale had not realized that his prisoners were free of their bonds – a thing he never knew, as, doubtless, he never heard the report of the shot that killed him.
R.I.P. Ntale, new chief of the shiftas, a cutthroat murderer and slaver, and a total piece of shit through and through.
At the same instant that the “Gunner” fired, the report of his revolver was drowned by yells and a shot from a sentry at the gate, to whom the coming day had revealed a hostile force creeping upon the village.
As Danny Patrick stepped over the dead body of the chief and looked out into the village he realized something of what had occurred. He saw men running hastily toward the village gates and scrambling to the banquette. He heard a fusilade of shots that spattered the palisade, splintering the wood and tearing through to fill the village with a screaming, terror stricken mob.
His knowledge of such things told him that only high powered rifles could send their projectiles through the heavy wood of the palisade. He saw the shiftas on the banquette, returning the fire with their antiquated muskets. He saw the slaves and prisoners cowering in a corner of the village that was freer from the fire of the attackers than other portions.
He wondered who the enemies of the shiftas might be, and past experience suggested only two possibilities – either a rival “gang” or the police.
“I never thought I’d come to it, Kid,” he said.
“Come to what, Danny?”
“I hate to tell you what I been hopin’,” he admitted.
“Tell me, Danny,” she said. “I won’t be angry.”
“I been hopin’ them guys out there was cops. Just think of that, Kid! Me, “Gunner” Patrick, a-hopin’ the cops would come!”
“What are cops, Danny?”
“Laws, harness bulls – Geeze, Kid, why do you ask so many questions? Cops is cops. And I’ll tell you why I hope its them. If it ain’t cops it’s a rival mob, and we’d get just as tough a break with them as with these guys.”
He stepped out into the village street. “Well,” he said, “here goes Danny Patrick smearin’ up with the police. You stay here, Kid, and lie down on your bread basket, so none of them slugs’ll find you, while I go out and push the smokes around.”
Before the gate was a great crowd of shiftas firing through openings at the enemy beyond. The “Gunner” knelt and raised the machine gun to his shoulder. There was the vicious b-r-r-r as of some titanic rattle snake; and a dozen of the massed shiftas collapsed, dead or screaming to the ground.
The others turned and, seeing the “Gunner,” realized that they were caught between two fires, for they remembered the recent occasion upon which they had witnessed the deadly effects of this terrifying weapon.
The “Gunner” spied Ogonyo among the prisoners and slaves huddled not far from where he stood, and the sight of him suggested an idea to the white man.
“Hey! Big feller, you!” He waved his hand to Ogonyo. “Come here! Bring all them guys with you. Tell ‘em to grab anything they can fight with if they want to make their getaway.”
Whether or not Ogonyo understood even a small part of what the “Gunner” said, he seemed at least to grasp the main idea; and presently the whole mob of prisoners and slaves, except the women, had placed themselves behind Danny.
The firing from the attacking force had subsided somewhat since Danny’s typewriter had spoken, as though the leader of that other party had recognized its voice and guessed that white prisoners within the village might be menaced by his rifle fire. Only an occasional shot, aimed at some specific target, was coming into the village.
The shiftas had regained their composure to some extent and were preparing their horses and mounting, with the evident intention of executing a sortie. They were leaderless and confused, half a dozen shouting advice and instructions at the same time.
It was at this moment that Danny advanced upon them with his motley horde armed with sticks and stones, an occasional knife and a few swords hastily stolen from the huts of their captors.
As the shiftas realized that they were menaced thus seriously from the rear, the “Gunner” opened fire upon them for the second time, and the confusion that followed in the village compound gave the attackers both within and without a new advantage.
The shiftas fought among themselves for the loose horses that were now stampeding in terror about the village; and as a number of them succeeded in mounting they rode for the village gates, overthrowing those who had remained to defend them. Some among them forced the portals open; and as the horsemen dashed out they were met by a band of black warriors, above whose heads waved white plumes, and in whose hands were modern high powered rifles.
The attacking force had been lying partially concealed behind a low ridge, and as it rose to meet the escaping shiftas the savage war cry of the Waziri rang above the tumult of the battle.
First to the gates was Tarzan, war chief of the Waziri, and while Muviro and a small detachment accounted for all but a few of the horsemen who had succeeded in leaving the village, the ape-man, with the remaining Waziri, charged the demoralized remnants of Capietro’s band that remained within the palisade.
Surrounded by enemies, the shiftas threw down their rifles and begged for mercy, and soon they were herded into a corner of the village under guard of a detachment of the Waziri.
As Tarzan greeted the “Gunner” and Jezebel he expressed his relief at finding them unharmed.
“You sure come at the right time,” Danny told him. “This old typewriter certainly chews up the ammunition, and that last burst just about emptied the drum; but say, who are your friends? Where did you raise this mob?”
“They are my people,” replied Tarzan.
“Some gang!” ejaculated the “Gunner,” admiringly; “but say, have you seen anything of old Smithy?”
“He is safe at my camp.”
“And Barbara,” asked Jezebel; “where is she?”
“She is with Smith,” replied Tarzan. “You will see them both in a few hours. We start back as soon as I arrange for the disposal of these people.” He turned away and commenced to make inquiries among the prisoners of the shiftas.
“Is he not beautiful!” exclaimed Jezebel.
“Hey, sister, can that ‘beautiful’ stuff,” warned the “Gunner”, “and from now on remember that I’m the only ‘beautiful’ guy you know, no matter what my pan looks like.”
Quickly Tarzan separated the prisoners according to their tribes and villages, appointed headmen to lead them back to their homes and issued instructions to them as he explained his plans.
The weapons, ammunition, loot and belongings of the shiftas, were divided among the prisoners, after the Waziri had been allowed to select such trifles as they desired. The captured shiftas were placed in charge of a large band of Gallas with orders to return them to Abyssinia and turn them over to the nearest ras.
“Why not hang them here?” asked the Galla headman. “We shall then save all the food they would eat on the long march back to our country, besides saving us much trouble and worry in guarding them – for the ras will certainly hang them.”
“Take them back, as I tell you,” replied Tarzan. “But if they give you trouble do with them as you see fit.”
I’m sure this headman is savvy enough to make sure the shiftas cause them trouble before the end of the first day’s march. Just think of all the food they will save!
It took a little more than an hour to evacuate the village. All of Smith’s loads were recovered, including Danny’s precious ammunition and extra drums for his beloved Thompson; and these were assigned to Smith’s porters, who were once again assembled under Ogonyo.
When the village was emptied it was fired in a dozen places; and, as the black smoke curled up toward the blue heavens, the various parties took their respective ways from the scene of their captivity, but not before the several headmen and come and knelt before the Lord of the Jungle and thanked him for the deliverance of their people.
Well, that just about wraps up the story except for one last short chapter to come. It’s time to start reflecting on the warp and woof of world history as ERB ties up the last knot. Some critics have dismissed ERB because of his use of coincidence, but the hand of Providence can be seen in the coincidences of real life just as much as in ERB’s fiction, so that criticism is just a reflection of their jealousy over ERB’s success as the King of Pulp Fiction! See you at the end.
ALL THE WOODROW NICHOLS FEATURES IN ERBzine
COMMENTARY by WOODROW NICHOLS
ERB'S BIBLE BLUES :: TARZAN TRIUMPHANT
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