THE LAST WORD:
The Last Word: Prof. E.H. Palmer
Leaving Burton and Mosalli with the Bedouin to look after the ropes at the top, Colonel Warren and I were next lowered to the bottom of the gully, which was here forty-seven feet deep, and from ten to twenty feet wide, with precipitous sides.
Below, we found the remains of our unfortunate countrymen - a skull, jaw-bone, numerous ribs and broken bones, much gnawed by wild beasts; a truss of a very small man, supposed to be Professor Palmer; two socks marked W.G. (W. Gill), with the feet still in them; and parts of socks and draws marked H.C. and H. Charrinton; also a pair of duck-trousers, with buttons marked with the name of a Bombay tailor; these latter were in such a condition that we burnt them.
The bones were much scattered over the bed of the gully, where there were pools of water and clumps of reeds; and on the ledge, and on the side of the gully, there were traces of blood, showing that one or more of the party must have been killed or wounded above. Never could a better place have been chosen for the concealment of the tragedy: after the first rain all trace of it would have been washed away from the gully beneath, and even on the sides, and above on the ledge, where the marks of the blood were, the rocks would have been washed clean, for there was here the bed of a little torrent that, after rain, courses down the side of the ravine and traverses the ledge from the above-mentioned cave to the gully.
The remains of the bodies were carefully collected and placed in a case, provided for the purpose, for removal to England; and after sketching the gully we were drawn up again and started off on the return-journey to camp, where we arrived at sunset and found all correct. Little had we thought a week before to arrive at so rapid a solution of the mystery of Palmer’s disappearance; and now with our sad burden before us, journeying on that last journey, which was finally to deposit it in the crypt of St. Paul’s Cathedral - from the ‘Desert of the Wanderings’ to the heart of Great Babylon - we could not but feel that our task was in part accomplished, and the question - ‘What now?’ - recurred with force.
Retribution was not the only end at which our efforts could aim. The circumstances of the crime must be unravelled, the assassins brought to book, and innocent blood be avenged. The Bedouin themselves, now that fanaticism was quenched by the triumph of our armies and the restoration of the Khedive’s Government, hated and bemoaned the detestable action of their tribesmen; and, recognising the equity of the law - life for life - looked on with dread, but in a spirit of fatalistic expectancy, at the successive steps of an inquiry that was to close only with the action of the death -penalty.
Colonel Warren determined to march next day for the Nackl, as it was inadvisable to remain long camped where we were. Once in the fort of Nackl, with Hassan Effendi installed as Governor, we should be in a secure position for prosecuting further research. During the night we were somewhat apprehensive of attack...Each night we gathered our trunks and cases of stores around our sleeping-place, converting it in to a little fort; and with the token of the results of surrender hard by, in the shape of the remains of Palmer and his companions, we might have made that little enclosure an unpleasant place to come near with any hostile intention. Every night a belt of ground round our sleeping place was cleared of obstacles, and we lay down side by side, with our rifles under our blankets, and revolvers, loaded in the last three chambers, fastened to our wrists.
Excerpt from Manhunting in the Desert: being a narrative of the Palmer search expedition (1882
1883) by Captain A.E. Haynes (London, 1894). Reproduced with kind permission of the Palestine Exploration Fund