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    The Final Problem

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    Chapter 11
    Previous Chapter
    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"--and 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 on 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 sow, 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


    "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
    appearance, 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 it 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
    thresh-hold. 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 this 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 that I should have
    expected,' said he, at last. 'It is a dangerous habit
    to finger loaded firearms in the pocket of one's

    "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 revolved
    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 now 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 say.'

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

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

    "'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 patch 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. 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,
    abut 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 might 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 elsewhere.'

    "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

    "'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 despatch 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,
    handling 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

    "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 though 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 little 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 good-morning."

    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

    "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

    "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 plant 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

    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

    "There he goes," said Holmes, as we watched the
    carriage swing and rock over the point. "There are
    limits, you see, to our friend's intelligence. It
    would have been a coup-de-maître 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

    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


    "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,


    "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-à-manger arguing the
    question for half an hour, but the same night we had
    resumed our journey and were well on our way to

    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

    "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 Europe."

    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 a 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 cam 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, and 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

    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 wit
    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

    "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

    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 weighted 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.
    Chapter 11
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