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The Final Problem - Arthur Connan Doyle

                                                                            
                                      1893                                  
                                                                            
                                SHERLOCK HOLMES                             
                                                                            
                               THE FINAL PROBLEM                            
                                                                            
                           by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle                        
                                                                            
                                                                            
                                                                            
                                                                            
  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 endeavoured 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 dispatch in the English            
papers on May 7th, and finally the recent letters 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             
investigations, 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's 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?"                                                   
  "Quite."                                                                  
  "Then it makes it the easier for me to propose that you should            
come away with me for a week to the Continent."                             
  "Where?"                                                                  
  "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.           
  "Never."                                                                  
  "Ay, 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 rumours 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 endeavoured 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          
centre 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 threshold. 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 say.'                                                           
  "'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?'                                                        
  "'Absolutely.'                                                            
  "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 fourth of January,' said he. 'On the         
twenty-third 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.                                
  "This 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         
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 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 would fall. I have the best of          
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 midday 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           
daresay, 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             
neighbour. 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?"                                   
  "Yes."                                                                    
  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 precautions 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 endeavouring 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 travelling 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 hand-bag.       
  "Have you seen the morning paper, Watson?"                                
  "No."                                                                     
  "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 bludgeonman 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?"                                        
  "No."                                                                     
  "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-mattre 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 Strasbourg. 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!"                    
  "Moriarty?"                                                               
  "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."                                                           
  "Why?"                                                                    
  "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 Strasbourg               
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 still      
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 springtime 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 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 third 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           
fourth 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 halfway up the hills, without making a         
small detour to see them.                                                   
  It is, indeed, a fearful place. The torrent, swollen 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 clamour. 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 halfway round the fall to afford a complete         
view, but it ends abruptly, and the traveller 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 favour, 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 hills 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 explanation. 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           
brambles 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 that 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 boulder 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 notebook and addressed to me. It was characteristic of the         
man that the direction was as 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 cauldron 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 his 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 endeavoured 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.                                      
                                                                            
                                    THE END    

    

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