The Final Problem

It is with a heavy heart that I take up my pen to write these the last

words in which I shall ever record the singular gifts by which my friend

Mr. Sherlock Holmes was distinguished. In an incoherent and, as I deeply

feel, an entirely inadequate fashion, I have endeavored to give some

account of my strange experiences in his company from the chance which

first brought us together at the period of the "Study in Scarlet," up
/> to the time of his interference in the matter of the "Naval Treaty"--an

interference which had the unquestionable effect of preventing a serious

international complication. It was my intention to have stopped there,

and to have said nothing of that event which has created a void in my

life which the lapse of two years has done little to fill. My hand

has been forced, however, by the recent letters in which Colonel James

Moriarty defends the memory of his brother, and I have no choice but to

lay the facts before the public exactly as they occurred. I alone know

the absolute truth of the matter, and I am satisfied that the time has

come when no good purpose is to be served by its suppression. As far as

I know, there have been only three accounts in the public press: that

in the Journal de Geneve on May 6th, 1891, the Reuter's despatch in the

English papers on May 7th, and finally the recent letter to which I have

alluded. Of these the first and second were extremely condensed, while

the last is, as I shall now show, an absolute perversion of the facts.

It lies with me to tell for the first time what really took place

between Professor Moriarty and Mr. Sherlock Holmes.

It may be remembered that after my marriage, and my subsequent start in

private practice, the very intimate relations which had existed between

Holmes and myself became to some extent modified. He still came to me

from time to time when he desired a companion in his investigation, but

these occasions grew more and more seldom, until I find that in the year

1890 there were only three cases of which I retain any record. During

the winter of that year and the early spring of 1891, I saw in the

papers that he had been engaged by the French government upon a matter

of supreme importance, and I received two notes from Holmes, dated from

Narbonne and from Nimes, from which I gathered that his stay in France

was likely to be a long one. It was with some surprise, therefore, that

I saw him walk into my consulting-room upon the evening of April 24th.

It struck me that he was looking even paler and thinner than usual.

"Yes, I have been using myself up rather too freely," he remarked, in

answer to my look rather than to my words; "I have been a little pressed

of late. Have you any objection to my closing your shutters?"

The only light in the room came from the lamp upon the table at which I

had been reading. Holmes edged his way round the wall and flinging the

shutters together, he bolted them securely.

"You are afraid of something?" I asked.

"Well, I am."

"Of what?"

"Of air-guns."

"My dear Holmes, what do you mean?"

"I think that you know me well enough, Watson, to understand that I am

by no means a nervous man. At the same time, it is stupidity rather than

courage to refuse to recognize danger when it is close upon you. Might

I trouble you for a match?" He drew in the smoke of his cigarette as if

the soothing influence was grateful to him.

"I must apologize for calling so late," said he, "and I must further beg

you to be so unconventional as to allow me to leave your house presently

by scrambling over your back garden wall."

"But what does it all mean?" I asked.

He held out his hand, and I saw in the light of the lamp that two of his

knuckles were burst and bleeding.

"It is not an airy nothing, you see," said he, smiling. "On the

contrary, it is solid enough for a man to break his hand over. Is Mrs.

Watson in?"

"She is away upon a visit."

"Indeed! You are alone?"


"Then it makes it the easier for me to propose that you should come away

with me for a week to the Continent."


"Oh, anywhere. It's all the same to me."

There was something very strange in all this. It was not Holmes's nature

to take an aimless holiday, and something about his pale, worn face told

me that his nerves were at their highest tension. He saw the question in

my eyes, and, putting his finger-tips together and his elbows upon his

knees, he explained the situation.

"You have probably never heard of Professor Moriarty?" said he.


"Aye, there's the genius and the wonder of the thing!" he cried. "The

man pervades London, and no one has heard of him. That's what puts

him on a pinnacle in the records of crime. I tell you, Watson, in all

seriousness, that if I could beat that man, if I could free society

of him, I should feel that my own career had reached its summit, and

I should be prepared to turn to some more placid line in life. Between

ourselves, the recent cases in which I have been of assistance to the

royal family of Scandinavia, and to the French republic, have left me in

such a position that I could continue to live in the quiet fashion

which is most congenial to me, and to concentrate my attention upon my

chemical researches. But I could not rest, Watson, I could not sit quiet

in my chair, if I thought that such a man as Professor Moriarty were

walking the streets of London unchallenged."

"What has he done, then?"

"His career has been an extraordinary one. He is a man of good birth and

excellent education, endowed by nature with a phenomenal mathematical

faculty. At the age of twenty-one he wrote a treatise upon the Binomial

Theorem, which has had a European vogue. On the strength of it he won

the Mathematical Chair at one of our smaller universities, and had, to

all appearances, a most brilliant career before him. But the man had

hereditary tendencies of the most diabolical kind. A criminal strain

ran in his blood, which, instead of being modified, was increased and

rendered infinitely more dangerous by his extraordinary mental powers.

Dark rumors gathered round him in the university town, and eventually he

was compelled to resign his chair and to come down to London, where he

set up as an army coach. So much is known to the world, but what I am

telling you now is what I have myself discovered.

"As you are aware, Watson, there is no one who knows the higher criminal

world of London so well as I do. For years past I have continually been

conscious of some power behind the malefactor, some deep organizing

power which forever stands in the way of the law, and throws its shield

over the wrong-doer. Again and again in cases of the most varying

sorts--forgery cases, robberies, murders--I have felt the presence of

this force, and I have deduced its action in many of those undiscovered

crimes in which I have not been personally consulted. For years I have

endeavored to break through the veil which shrouded it, and at last

the time came when I seized my thread and followed it, until it led

me, after a thousand cunning windings, to ex-Professor Moriarty of

mathematical celebrity.

"He is the Napoleon of crime, Watson. He is the organizer of half that

is evil and of nearly all that is undetected in this great city. He is a

genius, a philosopher, an abstract thinker. He has a brain of the first

order. He sits motionless, like a spider in the center of its web, but

that web has a thousand radiations, and he knows well every quiver of

each of them. He does little himself. He only plans. But his agents are

numerous and splendidly organized. Is there a crime to be done, a

paper to be abstracted, we will say, a house to be rifled, a man to be

removed--the word is passed to the Professor, the matter is organized

and carried out. The agent may be caught. In that case money is found

for his bail or his defence. But the central power which uses the agent

is never caught--never so much as suspected. This was the organization

which I deduced, Watson, and which I devoted my whole energy to exposing

and breaking up.

"But the Professor was fenced round with safeguards so cunningly devised

that, do what I would, it seemed impossible to get evidence which would

convict in a court of law. You know my powers, my dear Watson, and yet

at the end of three months I was forced to confess that I had at last

met an antagonist who was my intellectual equal. My horror at his crimes

was lost in my admiration at his skill. But at last he made a trip--only

a little, little trip--but it was more than he could afford when I was

so close upon him. I had my chance, and, starting from that point, I

have woven my net round him until now it is all ready to close. In three

days--that is to say, on Monday next--matters will be ripe, and the

Professor, with all the principal members of his gang, will be in the

hands of the police. Then will come the greatest criminal trial of the

century, the clearing up of over forty mysteries, and the rope for all

of them; but if we move at all prematurely, you understand, they may

slip out of our hands even at the last moment.

"Now, if I could have done this without the knowledge of Professor

Moriarty, all would have been well. But he was too wily for that. He saw

every step which I took to draw my toils round him. Again and again

he strove to break away, but I as often headed him off. I tell you,

my friend, that if a detailed account of that silent contest could

be written, it would take its place as the most brilliant bit of

thrust-and-parry work in the history of detection. Never have I risen to

such a height, and never have I been so hard pressed by an opponent. He

cut deep, and yet I just undercut him. This morning the last steps were

taken, and three days only were wanted to complete the business. I was

sitting in my room thinking the matter over, when the door opened and

Professor Moriarty stood before me.

"My nerves are fairly proof, Watson, but I must confess to a start when

I saw the very man who had been so much in my thoughts standing there on

my threshhold. His appearance was quite familiar to me. He is extremely

tall and thin, his forehead domes out in a white curve, and his two

eyes are deeply sunken in his head. He is clean-shaven, pale, and

ascetic-looking, retaining something of the professor in his features.

His shoulders are rounded from much study, and his face protrudes

forward, and is forever slowly oscillating from side to side in a

curiously reptilian fashion. He peered at me with great curiosity in his

puckered eyes.

"'You have less frontal development than I should have expected,' said

he, at last. 'It is a dangerous habit to finger loaded firearms in the

pocket of one's dressing-gown.'

"The fact is that upon his entrance I had instantly recognized the

extreme personal danger in which I lay. The only conceivable escape for

him lay in silencing my tongue. In an instant I had slipped the revolver

from the drawer into my pocket, and was covering him through the cloth.

At his remark I drew the weapon out and laid it cocked upon the table.

He still smiled and blinked, but there was something about his eyes

which made me feel very glad that I had it there.

"'You evidently don't know me,' said he.

"'On the contrary,' I answered, 'I think it is fairly evident that I do.

Pray take a chair. I can spare you five minutes if you have anything to


"'All that I have to say has already crossed your mind,' said he.

"'Then possibly my answer has crossed yours,' I replied.

"'You stand fast?'


"He clapped his hand into his pocket, and I raised the pistol from

the table. But he merely drew out a memorandum-book in which he had

scribbled some dates.

"'You crossed my path on the 4th of January,' said he. 'On the 23d you

incommoded me; by the middle of February I was seriously inconvenienced

by you; at the end of March I was absolutely hampered in my plans; and

now, at the close of April, I find myself placed in such a position

through your continual persecution that I am in positive danger of

losing my liberty. The situation is becoming an impossible one.'

"'Have you any suggestion to make?' I asked.

"'You must drop it, Mr. Holmes,' said he, swaying his face about. 'You

really must, you know.'

"'After Monday,' said I.

"'Tut, tut,' said he. 'I am quite sure that a man of your intelligence

will see that there can be but one outcome to this affair. It is

necessary that you should withdraw. You have worked things in such a

fashion that we have only one resource left. It has been an intellectual

treat to me to see the way in which you have grappled with this affair,

and I say, unaffectedly, that it would be a grief to me to be forced

to take any extreme measure. You smile, sir, but I assure you that it

really would.'

"'Danger is part of my trade,' I remarked.

"'That is not danger,' said he. 'It is inevitable destruction. You stand

in the way not merely of an individual, but of a mighty organization,

the full extent of which you, with all your cleverness, have been unable

to realize. You must stand clear, Mr. Holmes, or be trodden under foot.'

"'I am afraid,' said I, rising, 'that in the pleasure of this

conversation I am neglecting business of importance which awaits me


"He rose also and looked at me in silence, shaking his head sadly.

"'Well, well,' said he, at last. 'It seems a pity, but I have done

what I could. I know every move of your game. You can do nothing before

Monday. It has been a duel between you and me, Mr. Holmes. You hope to

place me in the dock. I tell you that I will never stand in the dock.

You hope to beat me. I tell you that you will never beat me. If you are

clever enough to bring destruction upon me, rest assured that I shall do

as much to you.'

"'You have paid me several compliments, Mr. Moriarty,' said I. 'Let me

pay you one in return when I say that if I were assured of the former

eventuality I would, in the interests of the public, cheerfully accept

the latter.'

"'I can promise you the one, but not the other,' he snarled, and so

turned his rounded back upon me, and went peering and blinking out of

the room.

"That was my singular interview with Professor Moriarty. I confess that

it left an unpleasant effect upon my mind. His soft, precise fashion

of speech leaves a conviction of sincerity which a mere bully could

not produce. Of course, you will say: 'Why not take police precautions

against him?' the reason is that I am well convinced that it is from his

agents the blow will fall. I have the best proofs that it would be so."

"You have already been assaulted?"

"My dear Watson, Professor Moriarty is not a man who lets the grass grow

under his feet. I went out about mid-day to transact some business in

Oxford Street. As I passed the corner which leads from Bentinck Street

on to the Welbeck Street crossing a two-horse van furiously driven

whizzed round and was on me like a flash. I sprang for the foot-path

and saved myself by the fraction of a second. The van dashed round by

Marylebone Lane and was gone in an instant. I kept to the pavement after

that, Watson, but as I walked down Vere Street a brick came down from

the roof of one of the houses, and was shattered to fragments at my

feet. I called the police and had the place examined. There were slates

and bricks piled up on the roof preparatory to some repairs, and they

would have me believe that the wind had toppled over one of these. Of

course I knew better, but I could prove nothing. I took a cab after that

and reached my brother's rooms in Pall Mall, where I spent the day. Now

I have come round to you, and on my way I was attacked by a rough with a

bludgeon. I knocked him down, and the police have him in custody; but

I can tell you with the most absolute confidence that no possible

connection will ever be traced between the gentleman upon whose front

teeth I have barked my knuckles and the retiring mathematical coach, who

is, I dare say, working out problems upon a black-board ten miles away.

You will not wonder, Watson, that my first act on entering your rooms

was to close your shutters, and that I have been compelled to ask your

permission to leave the house by some less conspicuous exit than the

front door."

I had often admired my friend's courage, but never more than now, as he

sat quietly checking off a series of incidents which must have combined

to make up a day of horror.

"You will spend the night here?" I said.

"No, my friend, you might find me a dangerous guest. I have my plans

laid, and all will be well. Matters have gone so far now that they can

move without my help as far as the arrest goes, though my presence is

necessary for a conviction. It is obvious, therefore, that I cannot do

better than get away for the few days which remain before the police are

at liberty to act. It would be a great pleasure to me, therefore, if you

could come on to the Continent with me."

"The practice is quiet," said I, "and I have an accommodating neighbor.

I should be glad to come."

"And to start to-morrow morning?"

"If necessary."

"Oh yes, it is most necessary. Then these are your instructions, and I

beg, my dear Watson, that you will obey them to the letter, for you are

now playing a double-handed game with me against the cleverest rogue and

the most powerful syndicate of criminals in Europe. Now listen! You

will dispatch whatever luggage you intend to take by a trusty messenger

unaddressed to Victoria to-night. In the morning you will send for a

hansom, desiring your man to take neither the first nor the second which

may present itself. Into this hansom you will jump, and you will drive

to the Strand end of the Lowther Arcade, handing the address to the

cabman upon a slip of paper, with a request that he will not throw it

away. Have your fare ready, and the instant that your cab stops,

dash through the Arcade, timing yourself to reach the other side at a

quarter-past nine. You will find a small brougham waiting close to the

curb, driven by a fellow with a heavy black cloak tipped at the collar

with red. Into this you will step, and you will reach Victoria in time

for the Continental express."

"Where shall I meet you?"

"At the station. The second first-class carriage from the front will be

reserved for us."

"The carriage is our rendezvous, then?"


It was in vain that I asked Holmes to remain for the evening. It was

evident to me that he thought he might bring trouble to the roof he was

under, and that that was the motive which impelled him to go. With a few

hurried words as to our plans for the morrow he rose and came out with

me into the garden, clambering over the wall which leads into Mortimer

Street, and immediately whistling for a hansom, in which I heard him

drive away.

In the morning I obeyed Holmes's injunctions to the letter. A hansom was

procured with such precaution as would prevent its being one which was

placed ready for us, and I drove immediately after breakfast to the

Lowther Arcade, through which I hurried at the top of my speed. A

brougham was waiting with a very massive driver wrapped in a dark cloak,

who, the instant that I had stepped in, whipped up the horse and rattled

off to Victoria Station. On my alighting there he turned the carriage,

and dashed away again without so much as a look in my direction.

So far all had gone admirably. My luggage was waiting for me, and I had

no difficulty in finding the carriage which Holmes had indicated, the

less so as it was the only one in the train which was marked "Engaged."

My only source of anxiety now was the non-appearance of Holmes. The

station clock marked only seven minutes from the time when we were

due to start. In vain I searched among the groups of travellers and

leave-takers for the lithe figure of my friend. There was no sign of

him. I spent a few minutes in assisting a venerable Italian priest, who

was endeavoring to make a porter understand, in his broken English,

that his luggage was to be booked through to Paris. Then, having taken

another look round, I returned to my carriage, where I found that the

porter, in spite of the ticket, had given me my decrepit Italian friend

as a traveling companion. It was useless for me to explain to him that

his presence was an intrusion, for my Italian was even more limited than

his English, so I shrugged my shoulders resignedly, and continued to

look out anxiously for my friend. A chill of fear had come over me, as I

thought that his absence might mean that some blow had fallen during the

night. Already the doors had all been shut and the whistle blown, when--

"My dear Watson," said a voice, "you have not even condescended to say


I turned in uncontrollable astonishment. The aged ecclesiastic had

turned his face towards me. For an instant the wrinkles were smoothed

away, the nose drew away from the chin, the lower lip ceased to protrude

and the mouth to mumble, the dull eyes regained their fire, the drooping

figure expanded. The next the whole frame collapsed again, and Holmes

had gone as quickly as he had come.

"Good heavens!" I cried; "how you startled me!"

"Every precaution is still necessary," he whispered. "I have reason to

think that they are hot upon our trail. Ah, there is Moriarty himself."

The train had already begun to move as Holmes spoke. Glancing back, I

saw a tall man pushing his way furiously through the crowd, and waving

his hand as if he desired to have the train stopped. It was too late,

however, for we were rapidly gathering momentum, and an instant later

had shot clear of the station.

"With all our precautions, you see that we have cut it rather fine,"

said Holmes, laughing. He rose, and throwing off the black cassock and

hat which had formed his disguise, he packed them away in a hand-bag.

"Have you seen the morning paper, Watson?"


"You haven't' seen about Baker Street, then?"

"Baker Street?"

"They set fire to our rooms last night. No great harm was done."

"Good heavens, Holmes! this is intolerable."

"They must have lost my track completely after their bludgeon-man was

arrested. Otherwise they could not have imagined that I had returned

to my rooms. They have evidently taken the precaution of watching you,

however, and that is what has brought Moriarty to Victoria. You could

not have made any slip in coming?"

"I did exactly what you advised."

"Did you find your brougham?"

"Yes, it was waiting."

"Did you recognize your coachman?"


"It was my brother Mycroft. It is an advantage to get about in such a

case without taking a mercenary into your confidence. But we must plan

what we are to do about Moriarty now."

"As this is an express, and as the boat runs in connection with it, I

should think we have shaken him off very effectively."

"My dear Watson, you evidently did not realize my meaning when I said

that this man may be taken as being quite on the same intellectual plane

as myself. You do not imagine that if I were the pursuer I should allow

myself to be baffled by so slight an obstacle. Why, then, should you

think so meanly of him?"

"What will he do?"

"What I should do?"

"What would you do, then?"

"Engage a special."

"But it must be late."

"By no means. This train stops at Canterbury; and there is always at

least a quarter of an hour's delay at the boat. He will catch us there."

"One would think that we were the criminals. Let us have him arrested on

his arrival."

"It would be to ruin the work of three months. We should get the big

fish, but the smaller would dart right and left out of the net. On

Monday we should have them all. No, an arrest is inadmissible."

"What then?"

"We shall get out at Canterbury."

"And then?"

"Well, then we must make a cross-country journey to Newhaven, and so

over to Dieppe. Moriarty will again do what I should do. He will get on

to Paris, mark down our luggage, and wait for two days at the depot.

In the meantime we shall treat ourselves to a couple of carpet-bags,

encourage the manufactures of the countries through which we travel, and

make our way at our leisure into Switzerland, via Luxembourg and Basle."

At Canterbury, therefore, we alighted, only to find that we should have

to wait an hour before we could get a train to Newhaven.

I was still looking rather ruefully after the rapidly disappearing

luggage-van which contained my wardrobe, when Holmes pulled my sleeve

and pointed up the line.

"Already, you see," said he.

Far away, from among the Kentish woods there rose a thin spray of smoke.

A minute later a carriage and engine could be seen flying along the open

curve which leads to the station. We had hardly time to take our place

behind a pile of luggage when it passed with a rattle and a roar,

beating a blast of hot air into our faces.

"There he goes," said Holmes, as we watched the carriage swing and

rock over the points. "There are limits, you see, to our friend's

intelligence. It would have been a coup-de-maitre had he deduced what I

would deduce and acted accordingly."

"And what would he have done had he overtaken us?"

"There cannot be the least doubt that he would have made a murderous

attack upon me. It is, however, a game at which two may play. The

question now is whether we should take a premature lunch here, or run

our chance of starving before we reach the buffet at Newhaven."

We made our way to Brussels that night and spent two days there, moving

on upon the third day as far as Strasburg. On the Monday morning Holmes

had telegraphed to the London police, and in the evening we found a

reply waiting for us at our hotel. Holmes tore it open, and then with a

bitter curse hurled it into the grate.

"I might have known it!" he groaned. "He has escaped!"


"They have secured the whole gang with the exception of him. He has

given them the slip. Of course, when I had left the country there was no

one to cope with him. But I did think that I had put the game in their

hands. I think that you had better return to England, Watson."


"Because you will find me a dangerous companion now. This man's

occupation is gone. He is lost if he returns to London. If I read his

character right he will devote his whole energies to revenging himself

upon me. He said as much in our short interview, and I fancy that he

meant it. I should certainly recommend you to return to your practice."

It was hardly an appeal to be successful with one who was an

old campaigner as well as an old friend. We sat in the Strasburg

salle-a-manger arguing the question for half an hour, but the same night

we had resumed our journey and were well on our way to Geneva.

For a charming week we wandered up the Valley of the Rhone, and then,

branching off at Leuk, we made our way over the Gemmi Pass, still deep

in snow, and so, by way of Interlaken, to Meiringen. It was a lovely

trip, the dainty green of the spring below, the virgin white of the

winter above; but it was clear to me that never for one instant did

Holmes forget the shadow which lay across him. In the homely Alpine

villages or in the lonely mountain passes, I could tell by his quick

glancing eyes and his sharp scrutiny of every face that passed us,

that he was well convinced that, walk where we would, we could not walk

ourselves clear of the danger which was dogging our footsteps.

Once, I remember, as we passed over the Gemmi, and walked along

the border of the melancholy Daubensee, a large rock which had been

dislodged from the ridge upon our right clattered down and roared into

the lake behind us. In an instant Holmes had raced up on to the ridge,

and, standing upon a lofty pinnacle, craned his neck in every direction.

It was in vain that our guide assured him that a fall of stones was a

common chance in the spring-time at that spot. He said nothing, but

he smiled at me with the air of a man who sees the fulfillment of that

which he had expected.

And yet for all his watchfulness he was never depressed. On the

contrary, I can never recollect having seen him in such exuberant

spirits. Again and again he recurred to the fact that if he could

be assured that society was freed from Professor Moriarty he would

cheerfully bring his own career to a conclusion.

"I think that I may go so far as to say, Watson, that I have not lived

wholly in vain," he remarked. "If my record were closed to-night I could

still survey it with equanimity. The air of London is the sweeter for my

presence. In over a thousand cases I am not aware that I have ever used

my powers upon the wrong side. Of late I have been tempted to look into

the problems furnished by nature rather than those more superficial ones

for which our artificial state of society is responsible. Your memoirs

will draw to an end, Watson, upon the day that I crown my career by

the capture or extinction of the most dangerous and capable criminal in


I shall be brief, and yet exact, in the little which remains for me to

tell. It is not a subject on which I would willingly dwell, and yet I am

conscious that a duty devolves upon me to omit no detail.

It was on the 3d of May that we reached the little village of Meiringen,

where we put up at the Englischer Hof, then kept by Peter Steiler the

elder. Our landlord was an intelligent man, and spoke excellent English,

having served for three years as waiter at the Grosvenor Hotel in

London. At his advice, on the afternoon of the 4th we set off together,

with the intention of crossing the hills and spending the night at the

hamlet of Rosenlaui. We had strict injunctions, however, on no account

to pass the falls of Reichenbach, which are about half-way up the hill,

without making a small detour to see them.

It is indeed, a fearful place. The torrent, swollen by the melting snow,

plunges into a tremendous abyss, from which the spray rolls up like the

smoke from a burning house. The shaft into which the river hurls itself

is an immense chasm, lined by glistening coal-black rock, and narrowing

into a creaming, boiling pit of incalculable depth, which brims over and

shoots the stream onward over its jagged lip. The long sweep of green

water roaring forever down, and the thick flickering curtain of spray

hissing forever upward, turn a man giddy with their constant whirl and

clamor. We stood near the edge peering down at the gleam of the breaking

water far below us against the black rocks, and listening to the

half-human shout which came booming up with the spray out of the abyss.

The path has been cut half-way round the fall to afford a complete view,

but it ends abruptly, and the traveler has to return as he came. We had

turned to do so, when we saw a Swiss lad come running along it with

a letter in his hand. It bore the mark of the hotel which we had just

left, and was addressed to me by the landlord. It appeared that within a

very few minutes of our leaving, an English lady had arrived who was in

the last stage of consumption. She had wintered at Davos Platz, and was

journeying now to join her friends at Lucerne, when a sudden hemorrhage

had overtaken her. It was thought that she could hardly live a few

hours, but it would be a great consolation to her to see an English

doctor, and, if I would only return, etc. The good Steiler assured me

in a postscript that he would himself look upon my compliance as a very

great favor, since the lady absolutely refused to see a Swiss physician,

and he could not but feel that he was incurring a great responsibility.

The appeal was one which could not be ignored. It was impossible to

refuse the request of a fellow-countrywoman dying in a strange land. Yet

I had my scruples about leaving Holmes. It was finally agreed, however,

that he should retain the young Swiss messenger with him as guide and

companion while I returned to Meiringen. My friend would stay some

little time at the fall, he said, and would then walk slowly over the

hill to Rosenlaui, where I was to rejoin him in the evening. As I turned

away I saw Holmes, with his back against a rock and his arms folded,

gazing down at the rush of the waters. It was the last that I was ever

destined to see of him in this world.

When I was near the bottom of the descent I looked back. It was

impossible, from that position, to see the fall, but I could see the

curving path which winds over the shoulder of the hill and leads to it.

Along this a man was, I remember, walking very rapidly.

I could see his black figure clearly outlined against the green behind

him. I noted him, and the energy with which he walked but he passed from

my mind again as I hurried on upon my errand.

It may have been a little over an hour before I reached Meiringen. Old

Steiler was standing at the porch of his hotel.

"Well," said I, as I came hurrying up, "I trust that she is no worse?"

A look of surprise passed over his face, and at the first quiver of his

eyebrows my heart turned to lead in my breast.

"You did not write this?" I said, pulling the letter from my pocket.

"There is no sick Englishwoman in the hotel?"

"Certainly not!" he cried. "But it has the hotel mark upon it! Ha, it

must have been written by that tall Englishman who came in after you had

gone. He said--"

But I waited for none of the landlord's explanations. In a tingle of

fear I was already running down the village street, and making for the

path which I had so lately descended. It had taken me an hour to come

down. For all my efforts two more had passed before I found myself at

the fall of Reichenbach once more. There was Holmes's Alpine-stock still

leaning against the rock by which I had left him. But there was no sign

of him, and it was in vain that I shouted. My only answer was my own

voice reverberating in a rolling echo from the cliffs around me.

It was the sight of that Alpine-stock which turned me cold and sick.

He had not gone to Rosenlaui, then. He had remained on that three-foot

path, with sheer wall on one side and sheer drop on the other, until his

enemy had overtaken him. The young Swiss had gone too. He had probably

been in the pay of Moriarty, and had left the two men together. And then

what had happened? Who was to tell us what had happened then?

I stood for a minute or two to collect myself, for I was dazed with the

horror of the thing. Then I began to think of Holmes's own methods and

to try to practise them in reading this tragedy. It was, alas, only too

easy to do. During our conversation we had not gone to the end of the

path, and the Alpine-stock marked the place where we had stood. The

blackish soil is kept forever soft by the incessant drift of spray,

and a bird would leave its tread upon it. Two lines of footmarks were

clearly marked along the farther end of the path, both leading away from

me. There were none returning. A few yards from the end the soil was

all ploughed up into a patch of mud, and the branches and ferns which

fringed the chasm were torn and bedraggled. I lay upon my face and

peered over with the spray spouting up all around me. It had darkened

since I left, and now I could only see here and there the glistening of

moisture upon the black walls, and far away down at the end of the shaft

the gleam of the broken water. I shouted; but only the same half-human

cry of the fall was borne back to my ears.

But it was destined that I should after all have a last word of greeting

from my friend and comrade. I have said that his Alpine-stock had been

left leaning against a rock which jutted on to the path. From the top of

this bowlder the gleam of something bright caught my eye, and, raising

my hand, I found that it came from the silver cigarette-case which he

used to carry. As I took it up a small square of paper upon which it

had lain fluttered down on to the ground. Unfolding it, I found that it

consisted of three pages torn from his note-book and addressed to me. It

was characteristic of the man that the direction was a precise, and the

writing as firm and clear, as though it had been written in his study.

My dear Watson [it said], I write these few lines through the courtesy

of Mr. Moriarty, who awaits my convenience for the final discussion of

those questions which lie between us. He has been giving me a sketch

of the methods by which he avoided the English police and kept himself

informed of our movements. They certainly confirm the very high opinion

which I had formed of his abilities. I am pleased to think that I shall

be able to free society from any further effects of his presence, though

I fear that it is at a cost which will give pain to my friends, and

especially, my dear Watson, to you. I have already explained to you,

however, that my career had in any case reached its crisis, and that

no possible conclusion to it could be more congenial to me than this.

Indeed, if I may make a full confession to you, I was quite convinced

that the letter from Meiringen was a hoax, and I allowed you to depart

on that errand under the persuasion that some development of this sort

would follow. Tell Inspector Patterson that the papers which he needs

to convict the gang are in pigeonhole M., done up in a blue envelope

and inscribed "Moriarty." I made every disposition of my property before

leaving England, and handed it to my brother Mycroft. Pray give my

greetings to Mrs. Watson, and believe me to be, my dear fellow,

Very sincerely yours,

Sherlock Holmes

A few words may suffice to tell the little that remains. An examination

by experts leaves little doubt that a personal contest between the two

men ended, as it could hardly fail to end in such a situation, in their

reeling over, locked in each other's arms. Any attempt at recovering the

bodies was absolutely hopeless, and there, deep down in that dreadful

caldron of swirling water and seething foam, will lie for all time the

most dangerous criminal and the foremost champion of the law of their

generation. The Swiss youth was never found again, and there can be no

doubt that he was one of the numerous agents whom Moriarty kept in this

employ. As to the gang, it will be within the memory of the public

how completely the evidence which Holmes had accumulated exposed their

organization, and how heavily the hand of the dead man weighed

upon them. Of their terrible chief few details came out during the

proceedings, and if I have now been compelled to make a clear statement

of his career it is due to those injudicious champions who have

endeavored to clear his memory by attacks upon him whom I shall ever

regard as the best and the wisest man whom I have ever known.