His Highness Haji Mohamed Jamalulhiram, Sultan of Sulu, was temporarily sojourning in Sandakan when we were there, having come across from his capital of Jolo for the purpose of collecting the monthly subsidy of five hundred pesos paid him by the British North Borneo Company for certain territorial concessions. The company would have sent the money to Jolo, of course, but the Sultan preferred to come to Sandakan to collect it; there are better facilities for gambling there. Because I was curious to see the picturesque personage around whom George Ade wrote his famous opera, _The Sultan of Sulu_, and because the Lovely Lady and the Winsome Widow had read in a Sunday supplement that he made it a practise to present those American women whom he met with pearls of great price, upon our arrival at Sandakan I invited the Sultan to dinner aboard the _Negros_. When I called on him at his hotel to extend the invitation, I found him clad in a very soiled pink kimono, a pair of red velvet slippers, and a smile made somewhat gory by the betel-nut he had been chewing, but when he came aboard the _Negros_ that evening he wore a red fez and irreproachable dinner clothes of white linen. As the crew of the cutter was entirely composed of Tagalogs and Visayans, from the northern Philippines, who, being Christians, regard the Mohammedan Moro with contempt, not unmixed with fear, when I called for side-boys to line the starboard rail when his Highness came aboard, there were distinctly mutinous mutterings. Captain Galvez tactfully settled the matter, however, by explaining to the crew that the Sultan was, after all, an American subject, which seemed to mollify, even if it did not entirely satisfy them. The armament of the _Negros_ had been removed after the armistice, so that we were without anything in the nature of a saluting cannon, but, as we wished to observe all the formalities of naval etiquette, the Doctor and Hawkinson volunteered to fire a royal salute with their automatic pistols as the Sultan came over the side. That, in their enthusiasm, they lost count and gave him about double the number of "guns" prescribed for the President of the United States caused Haji Mohamed no embarrassment; on the contrary, it seemed to please him immensely. (Donald Thompson, who was my photographer in Belgium during the early days of the war, always made it a point to address every officer he met as "General." He explained that it never did any harm and that it always put the officer in good humor.) When the cocktails were served the Sultan gravely explained through the interpreter that, being a devout Mohammedan and a Haji, he never permitted alcohol to pass his lips, an assertion which he promptly proceeded to prove by taking four Martinis in rapid succession. Now the chef of the _Negros_ possessed the faculty of camouflaging his dishes so successfully that neither by taste, looks nor smell could one tell with certainty what one was eating. So, when the meat, smothered in thick brown gravy, was passed to the Sultan, his Highness, who, like all True Believers, abhors pork, regarded it dubiously. "Pig?" he demanded of the steward. "No, sare," was the frightened answer. "Cow." Over the coffee and cigarettes the Lovely Lady and the Winsome Widow tactfully led the conversation around to the subject of pearls, whereupon the Sultan thrust his hand into his pocket and produced a round pink box, evidently originally intended for pills. Removing the lid, he displayed, imbedded in cotton, half a dozen pearls of a size and quality such as one seldom sees outside the window of a Fifth Avenue jeweler. I could see that the Lovely Lady and the Winsome Widow were mentally debating as to whether they would have them set in brooches or rings. But when they had been passed from hand to hand, accompanied by the customary exclamations of envy and admiration, back they went into the royal pocket again. "And to think," one of the party remarked afterward, "that we wasted two bottles of perfectly good gin and a bottle of vermouth on him!" It was after midnight when our guest took his departure, the ship's orchestra playing him over the side with a selection from _The Sultan of Sulu_, which, in view of my ignorance as to whether Sulu possessed a national anthem, seemed highly appropriate to the occasion. As the launch bearing the Sultan shot shoreward Hawkinson set off a couple of magnesium flares, which he had brought along for the purpose of taking pictures at night, making the whole harbor of Sandakan as bright as day. I heard afterward that the Sultan remarked that we were the only visitors since the Taft party who really appreciated his importance.
Source: Where the Strange Trails Go Down Chapter II, Outposts of Empire, page 25 by E. Alexander Powell