E.H. Palmer

Timeless Travels Magazine - - CONTENTS -

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

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