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."
"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
"You have probably never heard of Professor Moriarty?"
"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
"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
"'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
"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?"
"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?"
"They set fire to our rooms last night. No great harm
"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."
"We shall get out at Canterbury."
"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
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,
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.