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Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Author Conan Doyle

Part 7 out of 7

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traveler has to return as he came. We had turned to
do so, when we saw a Swiss lad come running along it
with a letter in his hand. It bore the mark of the
hotel which we had just left, and was addressed to me
by the landlord. It appeared that within a very few
minutes of our leaving, an English lady had arrived
who was in the last stage of consumption. She had
wintered at Davos Platz, and was journeying now to
join her friends at Lucerne, when a sudden hemorrhage
had overtaken her. It was thought that she could
hardly live a few hours, but it would be a great
consolation to her to see an English doctor, and, if I
would only return, etc. The good Steiler assured me
in a postscript that he would himself look upon my
compliance as a very great favor, since the lady
absolutely refused to see a Swiss physician, and he
could not but feel that he was incurring a great

The appeal was one which could not be ignored. It was
impossible to refuse the request of a
fellow-countrywoman dying in a strange land. Yet I
had my scruples about leaving Holmes. It was finally
agreed, however, that he should retain the young Swiss
messenger with him as guide and companion while I
returned to Meiringen. My friend would stay some
little time at the fall, he said, and would then walk
slowly over the hill to Rosenlaui, where I was to
rejoin him in the evening. As I turned away I saw
Holmes, with his back against a rock and his arms
folded, gazing down at the rush of the waters. It was
the last that I was ever destined to see of him in
this world.

When I was near the bottom of the descent I looked
back. It was impossible, from that position, to see
the fall, but I could see the curving path which winds
over the shoulder of the hill and leads to it. Along
this a man was, I remember, walking very rapidly.

I could see his black figure clearly outlined against
the green behind him. I noted him, and the energy with
which he walked but he passed from my mind again as I
hurried on upon my errand.

It may have been a little over an hour before I
reached Meiringen. Old Steiler was standing at the
porch of his hotel.

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

A look of surprise passed over his face, and at the
first quiver of his eyebrows my heart turned to lead
in my breast.

"You did not write this?" I said, pulling the letter
from my pocket. "There is no sick Englishwoman in the

"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.

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