Sultan of Sulu in Sandakan

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.

Where the Strange Trails Go Down
Chapter II, Outposts of Empire, page 25
by E. Alexander Powell