It was while he was still far back in the Gorge of the Grasping Fist passes leading from China into Tibet--that Captain Trouble first heard of the Spider Tong. The man who told him about it was a Chinese gentleman named Mr. Wang. An ...
It was while he was still far back in the Gorge of the Grasping Fist
passes leading from China into Tibet--that Captain Trouble first heard
of the Spider Tong. The man who told him about it was a Chinese
gentleman named Mr. Wang. An elderly gentleman dressed in a long coat
of gray silk, with purple-black silk trousers neatly tied at the
ankles over spotless white socks. Then the long hair, one of the old queue,
and a mandarin cap. "A tsung-ping," the captain remarked to himself--
meaning a "red button." It took nerve on the part of a Chinaman
nowadays to wear the regalia of the old empire, no matter where he
And Mr. Wang not only wore the mandarin cap with the red button on it;
there was a ceremonial fan sticking from the back of his neck.
He himself, Captain Trouble, in such a presence, felt like a tramp. He
was just returning from the wild Hou-Shan--"the Country Back of the
Mountains," meaning this end of Tibet, where, as successor to Kubla
Khan, he was establishing another capital. It had been rough going--
and fighting--more or less all the way. He was dressed in nondescript
Except to bathe and shave, which he did every morning, hot or cold,
safe or not safe, he'd hardly been out of his boots for a month.
Captain Trouble, Shadak Khan, the Fighting Fool; otherwise, Pelham
Rutledge Shattuck, of the U. S. A., the rising war lord of China and
perhaps the world.
Except for the long clean sword across his knees, there was no sign of
royalty about him at all. Mr. Wang kept looking at the sword--first at
Shattuck, then at the sword.
Kubla's sword! Scepter of the Grand Mogul! All Asia was beginning to
whisper and sing about it.
"You risk your life to save mine," said Shattuck. "Why?"
"The Spider Tong has already bereft me of family and fortune," Mr.
They were speaking the Mandarin dialect, rich in various compliments
unnecessary to report.
"There was a Spider Tong I knew of as a boy," said Shattuck. "The
members of it put up bamboo scaffolding when my father was building
his warehouses at Shanghai."
Mr. Wang's face gave the hint of a smile. It was like a face carved
from old ivory; and some of its tone, Shattuck guessed, had been given
it by opium.
"These Spiders," said Mr. Wang, "are different. They also build. But a
web. In which they catch all who are not spiders. And drain their
victims to an empty husk."
The interview was taking place near the entrance of the Fur Girl Cave,
a vast grotto containing, among other wonders, a boiling spring. The
place, largely on account of that flow of hot water, was becoming more
and more like home to Shattuck. A home that was huge; and still,
remote from the filth and blood of battle; and also with secret roads
in the Seven Directions--East and West, North and South, Down and Up,
and Nowhere, the direction you take when you die.
Shattuck was sitting crosslegged on a pile of saddle-blankets.
From where he sat he could look out of the opening of the cave--as
high and wide as a triumphal arch--to a filmy waterfall beyond the
gorge, less than a quarter of a mile away. Only when he listened could
he hear the murmur of the falling water. It was like the hum of a
great wheel. Long before the water reached the bottom of the gorge it
had turned to mist.