“The heat became more and more intense; loaded pistols and guns, and shells thrown in by the British batteries, but which had not been discharged, exploded with deafening reports . . . Three thousand houses and a million combustible things were burning. Not one house would have escaped destruction in the mighty ebb and flow of that deluge of fire.”
V. Two-day auction
The loot from Maqdala was then transported, on 15 elephants and almost 200 mules, to the nearby Dalanta Plain. There, on 20 and 21 April, the British military authorities held a two-day auction to raise “prize money” for the troops. “Bidders”, Stanley states, “were not scarce for every officer and civilian desired some souvenir”, among them “richly illuminated Bibles and manuscripts”. Holmes, acting on behalf of the British Museum, was one of the principal purchasers. Stanley describes him “in his full glory”, for, “armed with ample funds, he out-bid all in most things.” Colonel Frazer, buying for a regimental mess “ran him hard”, and “when anything belonging personally to Theodore was offered for sale, there were private gentlemen who outbid both”.
This officially organised sale raised a total of £5,000, which assured each enlisted man “a trifle over four dollars”.