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A Crocodile Hunt
by [?]

A Crocodile Hunt at the foot of Mount Ophir.

The little pleasant-faced Malay captain of his Highness’s three-hundred ton yacht Pante called softly, close to my ear, “Tuan–Tuan Consul, Gunong Ladang!” I sprang to my feet, rubbed my eyes, and gazed in the direction indicated by the brown hand.

I saw not five miles off the low jungle-bound coast of the peninsula, and above it a great bank of vaporous clouds, pierced by the molten rays of the early morning sun. As I looked around inquiringly, the captain, bowing, said: “Tuan,” and I raised my eyes. Again I saw the lofty mountain peak surmounting the cushion of clouds, standing out bold and clear against the almost fierce azure of the Malayan sky.

“Mount Ophir!” burst from my lips. The captain smiled and went forward to listen to the linesman’s “two fathoms, sir, two and one half fathoms, sir, two fathoms, sir”; for we were crossing the shallow bar that protects the mouth of the great river Maur from the ocean.

The tide was running out like a mill-race. The Pante was backing from side to side, and then pushing carefully ahead, trying to get into the deep water beyond, before low tide.

Suddenly there was a soft, grating sound and the captain came to me and touched his hat.

“We are on the bar, sir. Will you send a despatch by the steam-cutter to Prince Suliman, asking for the launch? We cannot get off until the night tide.”

The Pante had so swung around that we could plainly see the big red istana, or palace, of Prince Suliman close to the sandy shore, surrounded by a grove of graceful palms. With the aid of our glasses the white and red blur farther up the river resolved itself into the streets and quays of the little city of Bander Maharani, the capital of the province of Maur in dominions of his Highness Abubaker, Sultan of Johore. Above and overshadowing all both in beauty and historical interest was the famous old mountain where King Solomon sent his diminutive ships for “gold, silver, peacocks, and apes.”

By the time the ladies were astir, the mists had vanished and Gunong Ladang, or as it is styled in Holy Writ Mount Ophir, presented to our admiring gaze its massive outlines, set in a frame of green and blue. The dense jungle crept halfway up its sides and at the point where the cloud stratum had rested but an hour before, it merged into a tangled network of vines and shrubs which in their turn gave place to the black, red rock that shone like burnished brass.

If our minds wandered away from visions of future crocodile-shooting to dreams of the past wealth that had been taken from the ancient mines that honeycombed the base of the mountain, it is hardly to be wondered at. If Dato or “Lord” Garlands told us queer stories of woods and masonry that antedated the written history of the country, stories of mines and workings that were overgrown with a jungle that looked as primeval as the mountain itself, he was to be excused on the plea that we, waiting on a sandy bar with the metallic glare of the sea in our eyes, were glad of any subject to distract our thoughts.

The Resident’s launch brought out Prince Mat and the Chief Justice, both of whom spoke English with an easy familiarity. Both had been in Europe and Prince Mat had dined with Queen Victoria. One night at table he related the incidents of that dinner with a delightful exactness that might have pleased her Britannic Majesty could she have listened.

I waited only long enough to see the ladies installed in a suite of rooms in the Residency, then donned a suit of white duck, stepped into a river launch in company with Inchi Mohamed, the Chief Justice, and steamed out into the broad waters of the Maur.