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King Solomon’s Mines
by [?]

Being an Account of an Ascent of Mount Ophir
in Malaya, by His Excellency, the Tuan Hakim
of Maur, and the Writer.

“And they came to Ophir, and fetched
from thence gold, four hundred and
twenty talents, and brought it to
King Solomon.”–1 Kings IX. 28.

“For the King’s ships went to Tarshish
with the servants of Huram; every
three years once came the ships of
Tarshish, bringing gold and silver,
ivory, and apes, and peacocks.”
–2 Chronicles VIII. 21.

The rose tints of a tropical sunrise had broken through the heavy bamboo chicks that jealously guarded the rapidly fleeting half-lights of my room: there came three deferential taps at the door, and the smiling, olive-tinted face of Ah Minga appeared at the opening. “Tabek, Tuan,” he saluted, as he raised the mosquito curtains, and placed a tray of tea and mangosteens on a table by my side.

I sprang to the floor and across the heavily rugged room, and pulled up the offending chick.

Across the palace grounds, fresh from their morning bath, across the broad river Maur, for the nonce black in the shadow of the jungle, across the gilded tops of the jungle, forty miles away as the crow flies, rested the serrated peak of Mount Ophir.

Directly below me, a soldier in a uniform of duck and a rimless cap with a gold band was pacing up and down the gravelled walk. A little farther on a bevy of women and children were bathing in the tepid waters of the river, while a man in an unpainted prau was keeping watch for a possible crocodile.

The sun was rising directly behind the peak, a ball of liquid fire. I drew in a long draught of the warm morning air.

A Malay in a soft silken sarong, which fell about his legs like a woman’s skirt, stood in the door.

“The Prince is awaiting the Tuan Consul,” he said, with a graceful salaam.

I hurriedly donned my suit of white, drank my tea, and followed him along the grand salon, down a broad flight of steps, through a marble court, and into the dining room.

A great white punkah was lazily vibrating over the heavy rosewood table.

Unko Sulliman, the Prince Governor of Maur, came forward and gave me his hand.

“It will be a hard climb and a hard day’s work?” he said, pleasantly, in good English.

“I have done worse,” I answered.

“But not under a Malayan sky. However, it is your wish, and his Highness the Sultan has granted it. The Chief Justice will accompany you, and now you had better start before the sun is high.”

I turned to the Tuan Hakim, or Chief Justice, with a gesture of unconcealed pleasure. We had shot crocodiles the day previous along the banks of the Maur, and I had found him a good shot and an agreeable companion. While not as handsome a man or as striking a representative of his race as the Unko, or Prince, he was a scholar, and could aid me more than any one else in my exploration of the ancient gold workings about the base of the famous mountain.

The launch was awaiting us at the pier in front of the Residency, and we took our places in the bow, and arranged our guns as our half-naked crew worked her slowly into mid-stream. We hoped to get some snap shots at the crocodiles that lined the banks as we steamed swiftly up the river.

“I am inclined to agree with Josephus, that yonder mountain is the Mount Ophir of Solomon, when I look at this river. It is equal to our Hudson, and could easily carry ships twice the size of any he or Huram ever floated.”

The Tuan Hakim nodded, and kept his eyes fastened on the nearest shore.

The course of the great river seemed to stretch out before us in an endless line of majestic circles. From shore to shore, at high tide, it was a mile in breadth, and so deep that his Highness’s yacht, the Pante, of three hundred tons’ burden, could run up full fifty miles.