بخش 03

مجموعه: شرلوک هولمز / کتاب: آخرین معما / فصل 3

بخش 03

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PART THREE

THE REICHENBACH FALLS

On the third day of our travels in Europe, Holmes sent a telegram to the police. Later that evening he received a reply.

‘I knew it!’ he cried.

‘Have they caught Moriarty?’ I asked.

He shook his head. ‘He has escaped. You should return to England, Watson. Moriarty will try to find me.’

‘No,’ I said. ‘I’m going to come with you.’ We discussed the matter for over an hour until Holmes became bored and agreed that I could stay.

Holmes decided it was best for us to walk from France into Switzerland with the help of a local guide.

One day, after days of walking, we sat down on a pretty area of grass to eat. I looked up and saw a huge rock falling from the top of the mountain towards us. I jumped out of the way and pushed Holmes to one side.

I was surprised the guide didn’t try to help. He told us coldly that rocks often fell from the mountain. It was wise to be careful.

‘Who’s there?’ I cried. I ran up the hill, but there was no sign of anyone.

Holmes decided to change our plans. We took a different route into Switzerland and we left our guide. Finally we crossed over the Alps. We arrived at a small village where we rested at the guest house. The owner spoke good English. He knew London well from his time there in one of the city’s finest hotels. He told us about the sights in the area.

‘You really must go and see the Reichenbach falls,’ he said. ‘They are a beautiful sight at this time of year. You should stay another night.’

We said we had no plans to stay longer; and that we would continue to the next village of Rosenlaui, but Holmes agreed that we should see the falls first as we weren’t far away.

After more than an hour along a steep, narrow path, we heard the falls. The water from the melted snow from the mountains fell into the depths below with a sound like thunder. The path ended at the waterfall. The only way back was along the same path we came. Smoke seemed to rise from the black rock at the bottom like a cauldron. I shouted to Holmes who was at the end of the path; I heard the echo of my voice from the bottom of the falls. We rested on a rock near the falls to admire the view.

Soon after a young Swiss boy came running towards us with a note in his hand.

‘Herr Doctor!’ He shouted to me. He handed me the note. It was written in English.

‘A young English woman is very ill. We think she is dying but she doesn’t speak any German. We need an English doctor to come quickly before it’s too late.’

Holmes agreed he would continue to Rosenlaui with the Swiss boy as a guide. I would find another guide and see him later. I went back down the hill as quickly as I could to see the poor woman.’

‘Where’s the patient?’ I asked. ‘I hope she’s not worse.’

‘What do you mean?’ the guest house owner asked.

I handed him the note written on hotel paper.

‘Didn’t you write this?’ I asked.

‘No,’ he said. ‘This is very strange.’

‘Can you remember anyone asking you for paper?’

‘Not long before you left a well-educated Englishman came here…’ I didn’t wait to hear any more because I knew the rest. When I was coming down the path to the hotel, I remembered seeing a man on the other side of the hill walking up towards the falls. He was tall and thin and… I ran back up the path, but it took longer to go up than to come down. When I arrived Holmes wasn’t there. My worst fear was true. There wasn’t a sick English lady. It was all a lie so that I would leave Holmes.

I tried to think what Holmes would do. It didn’t take long to find out what happened. The sight of Holmes’s walking stick against a rock nearby told me that his journey went no further than the end of the path by the waterfall. There were no footprints returning back towards the path. I could see the torn roots of plants, and finally the mark of a long fingernail in the ground at the edge of the falls. I looked over into the black water beneath and shouted as loudly as I could.

‘Holmes! Sherlock Holmes!’

‘Sherlock Holmes!’ came the echo of my own voice. I shouted again but it was no good. In that cauldron was one of the world’s most dangerous criminals, and in my stomach I knew my friend and one of the world’s greatest detectives was with him until the end.

Then, on the rock next to the walking stick, I saw a small silver case. I picked it up. There was a note inside. It read:

I am grateful to Professor Moriarty forgiving me this opportunity to write to you. Now I will finally defeat one of the world’s greatest criminals. Tell everyone the news. The police have all the information they need. I have left a file with my brother Mycroft.

I am sorry, Watson, because I know this will be particularly difficult for you, my dear friend, but my disappearance from this world is the price I must pay.

Yours truly,

Sherlock Holmes

Then I understood the guide was paid by Moriarty and Holmes was left alone for the final battle with Moriarty, which ended, so the local police say, with both men falling to their deaths in the falls. The information Holmes left with the police was enough to send most of Moriarty’s men to jail but little was ever said of their leader, which is why I feel it is my duty to speak of it now.

I cannot replace the emptiness that has been left in my life but maybe Holmes was right: his disappearance was the price only a brilliant detective could pay. Sherlock Holmes was, and always will be, the best and wisest man that I have ever known.

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