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The Road to Reichenbach - Sherlock Holmes vs Professor Moriarty
Article by Sloane Jensen
’The world turns and the world changes, but one thing does not change. In all of my years, one thing does not change - however you disguise it, this thing does not change: the perpetual struggle of Good and Evil.’ - T.S. Eliot 'Choruses from the Rock'
'There comes a time for a man when he must act, despite the danger, knowing he may die; there comes a time for a man when he must fight, knowing that he may loose.' - Space Pirate Captain Harlock 'Galaxy Express 999' (movie)
'There is nothing new under the sun. It has all been done before.' - Sherlock Holmes 'A Study in Scarlet'
The time has come for Mr. Sherlock Holmes to die. His creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, has had enough of him, and desires to turn his attention to other literary works, as well as to provide better care for his tuberculosis-stricken wife. The Great Detective (and his clamoring unsympathetic fans) stand in the way of this desire. A problem has arisen, but it is a problem that can be dealt with quite easily. The tricky part is, how should it be done? How to sweeten the bitter pill? How to blunt the brutal blow? How to make sure that one of England's most favored literary heroes meets his end fittingly, without his intelligence or his skills being compromised in any manner? There is only one best way to go about it: create a second genius that is Sherlock's equal: a criminal mastermind capable of vying with and defeating the criminal-hunter - in short, to create an anti-Holmes and loose them upon each-other, ensuring that the end of the master detective is as fitting and appropriate as it can possibly be, with the 'crowning' of Sherlock's career being achieved by his willingness to die for the sake of the safety of the public - thus sealing his status as a hero forever ('Greater love hath no man more than this...'). It was a good plan, a fitting arrangement, a worthy attempt to lay a beloved man to rest. But it did not work. Sherlock did not stay dead, as we all know. Yet even so, the events of 'The Final Problem' story remain important, because in them we reach the height of Sherlock's development as a character (since he was supposed to die - and indeed remained 'dead' for ten years) and also because of the emotional and moral aspects that are showcased as well. Let us then take the road to Reichenbach, and bare witness to the final showdown between the Great Detective Sherlock Holmes and his arch-nemesis, 'the Napoleon of Crime' Professor James Moriarty.
When one considers the fact that Professor Moriarty was created by Conan Doyle for the sole purpose of killing-off Sherlock, it is quite amazing how his character has taken on a life of its own, despite the fact that his only physical appearance is in 'The Final Problem'. Whether it is Doyle's characterization of him or the imaginations of Sherlock fans (likely both), Moriarty remains a prominent and well-respected villain in literary fiction. He is almost as mysterious and interesting as the man he was meant to destroy. Indeed, there are a great many similarities between him and Sherlock, both in personality and in appearance. Like Sherlock, Moriarty is tall, lean and pale, with long arms and gray eyes. Like Sherlock, he is unmarried, childless, and has only one close friend: Colonel Sebastian Moran. But above all, Moriarty is a man of great intellectual and mental prowess, which is THE vital trait required if he is to be styled as Sherlock's evil doppelganger. Sherlock does not hesitate in noting and even praising the Professor's talents and accomplishments, telling John Watson that: ''[Moriarty's] career has been an extraordinary one. He is a man of good birth and excellent education, endowed by nature with a phenomenal mathematical faculty...He is a genius, a philosopher, an abstract thinker. He has a brain of the first order...the controlling brain of the underworld, a brain which might have made or marred the destiny of nations—that’s the man! Is he not the celebrated author of a book 'The Dynamics of an Asteroid' which ascends to such rarefied heights of pure mathematics that it is said that there was no man in the scientific press capable of criticizing it?'' Yet these admirable qualities and accomplishments only serve to highlight how evil and deadly this man really is. Sherlock wastes no breath in making Watson fully informed of the true facts:
'But [Moriarty] 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...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 sits motionless, like a spider in the center of its web, but that web has a thousand radiations, and he knows well the quiver of each of them. He does little himself. He only plans. But his agents are numerous and splendidly organized. If there is a crime to be done, a paper to be extracted, a house to be rifled, a man to be removed - the word is passed to the Professor [and] the matter is organized and carried out. The agent might be caught...but the central power which uses the agent is never caught - never so much as suspected. This is the organization which I deduced, and which I devoted my whole energy to exposing and breaking up...You know my powers, my dear Watson, and yet at the end of three months I was forced to confess that I had last met an antagonist who was my intellectual equal. My horror at his crimes was lost in my admiration at his skill.'
With these revelations and more, Doyle hammers home to the readers the fact here is a man who is both Sherlock's rival and equal. A powerful, dangerous man who must be taken seriously; a man who has the Great Detective on his toes and who has stretched his deductive skills to the utmost limit. ''I tell you, my friend,'' Sherlock continues, ''that if a detailed account of that silent contest [between Moriarty and I] could be written, it would take its place as the most brilliant bit of thrust-and-parry work in the history of deduction. Never have I risen to such a height, and never have I been so hard-pressed by an opponent. He cut deep, yet I just undercut him.'' Although Moriarty has been presented as a criminal mastermind, surrounded by a vast crime network, Sherlock has managed to 'pierce the vale' and off-stage has collected enough evidence to have the Professor and his gang imprisoned and executed. But timing is everything and Moriarty is 'not a man who lets the grass grow under his feet'. The Professor calls upon Sherlock himself at 221B, gives him quite a start, and lays the final ultimatum before him. Their conversation is laden with veiled insults and compliments, subtle sarcasm and cunningly crafted threats of death:
After Moriarty leaves, three separate attempts are made on Sherlock's life in the span of one day. After surviving them, and realizing that there is nothing more he can do about Moriarty in England, Sherlock and Watson flee to the Continent on an aimless 'holiday', and are pursued by the Professor. When Sherlock is informed that Moriarty has evaded the police (though the rest of his gang has been caught) and that he [Sherlock] has succeeded in ending Moriarty's criminal reign, the Great Detective advises Watson to return to London and his doctor-duties, warning him that he is now 'a dangerous companion', knowing that Moriarty can do nothing now, but 'devote his whole energies to revenging himself upon me.' Watson, naturally, refuses to leave Sherlock's side, and together they make their way slowly through the beautiful mountains and villages of France and Germany to Switzerland. During the course of this journey Sherlock remains watchful and alert, knowing somehow that Moriarty is following him. Watson records the following incident:
'Once, I remember, as we passed over the Gemmi, and walked along the border of the melancholy Daubensee [a beautiful lake in Switzerland], 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.'
On the 3rd of May Sherlock and Watson stop at the little village of Meiringen, Switzerland were they spend the night at an inn called the Englischer Hof (which is a real hotel, only its true name is the Park Hotel du Savage). The next day, on the 4th, they decide to cross over the hills and stay in the hamlet of Rosenlaui. Their landlord advises them that they should make a quick detour to see the Falls of Reichenbach - the upper part of which is the highest waterfall in the Alps. They make the detour. Watson gives a detailed description of the Falls in his poetic, fanciful way:
'[The Reichenbach Falls] 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 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 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 came booming up with the spray out of the abyss.'
As Sherlock and Watson are about to leave the Falls and continue on their journey, a young Swiss boy comes running up the path with a note from the landlord of the inn. It seems that just an hour after they left an English woman had arrived at the inn dying from the last stages of consumption (an archaic name for tuberculosis). She has only hours to live and desires to be treated by an English doctor. Watson's medical instincts and his honor are aroused, yet he is not quite sure if he should leave Holmes. Sherlock tells him that he will stay by the Falls for a while and then travel on to Rosenlaui with the Swiss lad as his guide; Watson could rejoin him later in the evening. Watson departs alone, yet he looks back and sees 'Holmes, with his back against a rock and his arms folded, gazing down at the rush of the waters.' It is the fateful turning point in the whole Canon. Watson writes that: 'It was the last that I was ever destined to see of him in this world.'
It takes Watson an hour (traveling downhill) to return to the village of Meiringen. He finds the landlord lounging outside his hotel. ''I trust she is not worse?'' he inquires. The landlord looks confused and Watson's heart 'turned to lead in [his] breast'. “You did not write this?'' he cries, pulling the letter from his pocket. “There is no sick Englishwoman in the hotel?” “Certainly not!” the landlord replies. “But [the letter] 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 Watson does not wait to hear the rest, he turns and dashes back towards the path he has just left; running to return to the side of his friend. It takes him two more hours going uphill to reach the Reichenbach Falls once more. A chill of horror stabs through him as he sees the path deserted and Sherlock's Alpine walking-stick leaning against the rock. He has not gone on to Rosenlaui then. Watson realizes that '[Sherlock] 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.' Using Holmes's methods of deduction, Watson pieces together what must have happened:
'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-stick 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 ears.'
Sherlock Holmes is dead. With a roaring waterfall on one side, sheer cliffs on the other and only a three-foot wide path to stand upon, he and Moriarty have made good on their threats and promises. But Sherlock has not left his only friend - and, subsequently, his fans - alone without some word of explanation and consolation. A glint of something bright catches Watson's eye, and he finds Sherlock's silver cigarette-case on a rock, with a note underneath it. It shall be recounted here in full:
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
There is nothing Watson can do. There is nothing anyone can do. Any chance of recovering the bodies is absolutely hopeless. All that Watson can do - two years later - is write the 'true' account of what really took place in attempt to bring to light the 'real' facts of what actually happened. 'I alone know the absolute truth of the matter,' he writes at the beginning of The Final Problem. 'It lies with me to tell for the first time what really took place between Professor Moriarty and Mr. Sherlock Holmes.' He writes also to defend the Great Detective's reputation from attacks by Moriarty's brother and others who are slandering him. He ends by stating 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' and that under the Reichenbach Falls '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,' and concludes by declaring that Sherlock Holmes was 'the best and the wisest man whom I have ever known.'
Thus is ended - for a time - the illustrious and glorious career of the beloved Mr. Sherlock Holmes. The following observations I would like to make (from the view that Sherlock was a real person and not Doyle's fictional creation) is how Sherlock deals with Moriarty's threats, how he prepares himself for death, and above all, the way in which he 'dies'.
Owing to the length of this article and my own interests, I am not going to speculate about Sherlock's off-stage vying with Moriarty. However, the decisions the Professor makes after Sherlock lands his gang in prison are worth looking into. Through Sherlock's observations and revelations we know that Moriarty is many things: a professor, a mathematician, a published writer, a philosopher, a bachelor, a genius, and above all, a criminal mastermind. He is a spider in the center of a web, with London, England as his base of operation. There is no backstory of Moriarty's life to explain why he decided to became such a man; nor does he attempt to offer any form of defense or justification with regards to his chosen 'career'. What makes this so interesting is that many of the same things could said about Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock is also a spider in the center of a web. Watson observes that '[Holmes] loved to lie in the very center of five millions of people, with his filaments stretching out and running through them, responsive to every little rumor or suspicion of unsolved crime.' When Sherlock sets his sights on Moriarty, who is 'the Napoleon of Crime,' he encounters a man very much like himself, yet this familiarity does not stop him from persecuting the Professor and hampering his plans. When they finally meet face-to-face, Moriarty insults Sherlock's intelligence (by claiming he has 'less frontal development' then expected) and then they get down to the business of delivering and receiving subtle-worded death-threats. These two geniuses have no intention of becoming best-buddies, justifying their actions, or working out an alternative way to settle their problems. Moriarty sets his agents after Sherlock but when they fail to kill him and the master-detective brings destruction upon Moriarty's crime syndicate, Moriarty comes after Sherlock himself, as he promised to do.
Sherlock knows that Moriarty is seeking to kill him, evening fearing that he might make a violent attack on him in public (hence his excellent disguise at Victoria Station). So he takes the initiative and 'lures' - as it were - Moriarty out of England and on a long, leisurely ramble through the wilds and mountains of three different countries. It is as if he is taunting Moriarty, seeing if the criminal can make good on his promise since Sherlock has made good on his. After Sherlock wins the test of wits, he sees if Moriarty can win the test of perseverance - which he does. Because this story was to be the 'last' Holmes adventure and that Holmes is about to 'die' it is rather heartbreaking when one considers that Sherlock is well aware of this fact, yet he still has hope for the future and looks forward to living after the Moriarty-problem is concluded. Although the shadow of death is hanging over him, he is not filled with gloom-and-doom, nor is he suffering any mental or spiritual turmoil because of his position. Watson records that while Sherlock is watchful and alert, he is not afraid or depressed:
'And yet for all [Sherlock's] 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 crimina l in Europe.”
Far from being sad and gloomy, Sherlock is exuberant and happy (I'm sure all that fresh, non-smoggy mountain air also played a part). Far from viewing what is to come as a tragedy, he sees it as the crowning of his career; the pinnacle achievement of his life. The capture or extinction of Professor Moriarty is the highest service he can render to society. Before Moriarty came, Sherlock had amassed enough money from helping various royal families that he could live in any way he wanted to. Detective-work is no longer a means of making a living. He could have left Moriarty for others to deal with, yet he tells Watson that:
''...in all seriousness, if I could beat [Moriarty], 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.”
Sherlock cannot resist going up against the Professor, even though no-one has asked him to and even though Sherlock does not need any money or publicity to further his career. Again, it is the game for the game's own sake - and what a game! But now that Moriaty's gang has been dealt with, Moriarty himself still remains: an evil doppelganger of the Great Detective. He was - and in a way still is - Sherlock's 'final problem.'
Then there is the issue of John Watson, Sherlock's only true friend. Although it is very subtle, it is here that Sherlock's affection for Watson is really shown. After triumphing over Moriarty's fellow criminals, and being threatened by him at 221B, Sherlock goes to Watson and asks him if he would like to come away with him for a week to the Continent. He tells him all about Moriarty and about what has happened - he does not hide anything. The board has been set and the pieces are moving. Sherlock does not need Watson's help in solving the case or to protect him or to help guide him through the Swiss Alps - he merely desires Watson's companionship for its own sake. Watson's presence or non-presence will not alter anything. Indeed, from a logical standpoint, Watson is only putting himself in unnecessary danger by travelling with Sherlock. There is no point to it. Yet Watson agrees, and when Sherlock advises him to return to London when the threat of death becomes unquestionable, he refuses. Thus Sherlock spends the last days of his life in the company of his best friend on what could almost be called a 'vacation' as they travel through some of the most beautiful lands in all of Europe. But this is what Sherlock wants; it is part of his plan. He is waiting for Moriarty to make his move, to fulfill his promise. And, at the Falls of Reichenbach, he does so.
How Moriarty evaded the English police and tracked Holmes and Watson through the wilds is something the reader never learns (although he does tell Sherlock). But it is of little importance - other then it reinforces Sherlock's admirable opinion of him. What matters in the end is that on May 4th, 1891, Sherlock and Moriarty face off against each other on a three-foot wide path with high cliffs on one side and a raging waterfall on the other. The good Watson has been lured away and cannot offer Holmes any kind of assistance which has so distinguished him in the past. Sherlock is alone; Moriarty is alone. It is the desired outcome. Moriarty has no intention of being captured and imprisoned. With his base in London ruined, he does not try to flee elsewhere and set up shop in another country. Sherlock has ruined him, now he only seeks to respond in kind. A promise is indeed a promise.
For me, the battle at the Reichenbach Falls is so compelling because of how it ends. This is not how two distinguished gentlemen of intellect and genius are expected to behave towards each-other. And it is certainly not how one expects them to die. It is quite unsettling that the final moments of Sherlock Holmes, a man of the mind, should be so physically violent and brutal. And the location! Where is London and all its familiar haunts? Where is the comforting 221B? Where is the steadfast Doctor? Where are all the exterior trappings associated with Sherlock? They are gone. Sherlock has been stripped, as it were, of all outside garnishments. He is completely out of his element (environmentally speaking). So is Moriarty. They are no longer in their own country anymore; they are in a foreign land, in the wilderness, miles from human habitation, far from their social-circles, their friends and associates, their places of safety and comfort. They have chased each-other out of their routine existences and disrupted the flow of each-other's lives. But the duel has ended. Sherlock has emerged as the intellectual victor. His death will not change this fact. When Watson leaves the master-detective at the Falls, he looks back and sees Sherlock standing with arms folded and at rest, watching the flow of the waters. Sherlock is waiting for Moriarty. He is calm, relaxed and untroubled. He suspects what is going to happen and makes no effort to escape or alter the situation. It is very telling to me that both he and Moriarty do not have weapons. Considering that Sherlock has often armed himself with various weapons throughout the Canon - revolver, riding crop, cane, etc - when on dangerous cases, why is he not armed now? Why is he not waiting with a drawn revolver to surprise Moriarty when he comes? And why is Moriarty not armed? He is trying to kill Sherlock after all. Why does he not approach the Falls with a gun of his own in hand, hoping to ambush Sherlock? One might easily dismiss this problem as lazy writing on Doyle's part, but if one wants to look at the scenario more deeply, as if Sherlock and Moriarty really lived, then it becomes very intriguing: Sherlock and Moriarty are not armed because they have both CHOSEN not to be armed. This tells us something important about Moriarty: he is planning to commit murder-suicide. He no longer desires to live. He is in despair. Surprising Sherlock and shooting him at close range and then leaving the country to start anew is not what he plans to do. Even though he still lives, Sherlock has beaten him. He might as well be dead. Now he only desires that he and Sherlock die together, alone. And what about Sherlock? His outlook on things is not nearly as bleak. He still desires to live, yet he is also without weapons. He has placed himself in a very perilous situation. He cannot know for certain if Moriarty has a revolver or not. So why has he not taken better precautions? Why does he allow Moriarty to come upon him without having a weapon to protect or defend himself with?
The answer(s) to this question fascinate me most of all: Sherlock is weaponless because, while he may not necessarily desire death, he is nonetheless READY for death. He has reached to climax of his career. His deductive powers have been tested to the utmost and he has emerged victorious. He has 'pierced the vale' and triumphed over the greatest crime organization in London. Moriarty might be still alive and standing before him, yet Sherlock has soundly defeated him. Even though there are no witnesses to give praise and honor to Sherlock for his accomplishments, the self-sustaining detective knows that the day is his. Death does not matter. His finest hour has come and gone. Everything else, including what is about to happen, is a foot-note. Perhaps Sherlock sees himself as a ripe pear in need of picking; if not soon picked, he will fall to the ground and rot. Death - in whatever form and by whosever hand - could not come to him at a more better time then this. When Moriarty does finally come to the Falls, he graciously allows Sherlock to write a farewell note to Watson. A sentence of this letter reads: '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.' The word 'congenial' also means 'suitable', 'appropriate', 'pleasing' and 'agreeable.' What is about to transpire in Watson's absence is what Sherlock wants to happen. He and Moriarty are in agreement, though for different reasons.
And now we come to it at last: the final move of the game. The war of wits has been won by Sherlock, and Moriarty has only one option left: to attempt Sherlock's complete destruction. Whatever last words that may have passed between them are not recorded. The imaginations of the fans will have to fill this gap; though I suspect that whatever they had to say had already been said. Sherlock turns his back on Moriarty and walks to the end of the narrow path, which dead-ends so close to the Reichenbach that he could have reached out his hand and touched its waters if he had wanted to. Moriarty follows him. Each man leaves two distinct tracks of footprints on the undisturbed spray-moistened soil. The end has come. Sherlock turns at bay and Moriarty rushes upon him and throws his long arms about him. There is no chess-game, no elegant boxing match, no angsting about boredom, no outsiders to cause distraction or interfere in the affair. They grapple. It is fiercely physical and brutally intimate - and only death can be the outcome. The Reichenbach awaits. How long they fight on that narrow path is up to the reader, but they clash just long enough to leave some damning evidence on the soft soil and fragile vegetation that the poor John Watson can only draw one conclusion from. Suddenly Sherlock slips from Moriarty's grasp and the master-criminal overbalances. He falls. Judgment has been rendered; Moriarty plunges into the Falls and into the watery clutches of death, from which none can escape. Sherlock's victory is complete. Both his mind and his body have proven themselves to be superior then that of the Napoleon of Crime. It is finished. Sherlock was ready to die, yet he lives still; his time has not yet come. Even as he watches Moriarty's body vanish into the the water, Sherlock comes to the realization that he could get much done if the rest of the world - including, alas, John Watson - think that he is really dead. Moriarty was not Sherlock's only enemy. The detective acts quickly; the emotional and personal impacts of his new plan are not taken into account (or are else ignored). Not wanting to mar the environmental evidence that he and Moriarty have plunged to their mutual deaths into the Falls, Sherlock instead makes a long and torturous climb up the side of the cliff, where he hides himself in a cleft while Watson far below draws his erroneous yet inevitable conclusions regarding the fate of his friend. The news that Sherlock is dead soon becomes public knowledge; both Watson in the story and the fans outside of it are filled with grief. Three years will pass before the good Doctor sees his dear friend again, and ten years will pass for the fans before they learn the true fate of their beloved literary hero.
Thus ends the rivalry of Mr. Sherlock Holmes and Professor James Moriarty. It is a brief story of two men of genius who where unable to exist together in the same world as long as each stuck to their respective career; a tale of deductive-dueling and wit-warring that ended in a surprising burst of violent physical combat that broke the hearts of thousands. On one hand we have the great detective who employs his powers and skills to help others and to further better society, and on the other we have the master-criminal who prostitutes his gifts to those who seek the exploitation and ruin of people and societies. Such two men could not exist side-by-side for long under one sun. The world still turns and the world still changes, but the perpetual struggle of good and evil that dwells in the hears of all men will never end in this world. Conan Doyle did not want to discredit Sherlock's abilities by concluding the stories with Holmes forever pursuing Moriarty with no ending in sight; he chose instead to grant Holmes an honorable, sacrificial death in the grip of an evil man who was as smart as he was. When one considers how tired of Sherlock Doyle had become, and how needy his fans were being, it is quite a testament to his character as to how he handled this 'final problem'. Yet because Doyle did not present the detective's dead body for viewing, he was able to resurrect Holmes when the time was right, to the delight of thousands. Thus while Moriarty descends alone into death in the Falls, Sherlock ascends to a new life thanks to the loyalty and perseverance of his many fans. Sherlock's 'love' - such as it is - enabled him to be prepared to give his life for the sake of the safety of the public. The love of his fans for him ensured that he would always be there to help protect the public (or at least keep them entertained by his adventures). So the game's still afoot and the hunt is still on and the long-suffering John Watson is not deprived forever of his best friend.
Professor Moriarty has served his purpose. Other villains and other dangers await the Great Detective, but none will be as formidable or as memorable as that tall, lean, gray-eyed mathematics teacher who 'killed' Sherlock Holmes for ten long years at the final battle of the Reichenbach Falls. Doubtless there are many who wish that Moriarty could also return from death so that the war can begin afresh (hopefully Season Four of the BBC 'Sherlock' series will not disappoint us in that regard), but we must content ourselves that we at least have Sherlock back. He has won the war, and to the victorious hero goes the supreme pleasure of being able to finally return home. It's now back to 221B, where there is a lot of dusting to do and a very hysterical Mr. Hudson in need of some comforting. Sherlock should consider himself fortunate that he will still receive un-poisoned tea every morning at breakfast until his retirement and that John Watson will not try to strangle him in his sleep for not writing. All has turned out well, and the Canon will be sufficiently enlarged. The designs of Conan Doyle and Professor Moriarty against Sherlock Holmes did not go as planned, and so Sherlock is again free to putter about his sitting-room in his dressing-gown and dedicate himself to examining (or to complaining about the lack of) 'those interesting little problems which the complex life of London so plentifully presents.'
Sherlock can now get back into his old routine of crime-solving, violin-playing, opera-connoisseuring and pointing out all the flaws in Watson's attempts at deduction. Happy days have come again for all his fans (not to mention the editors of 'The Strand'), who can now rest easy and have something to look forward to reading. Both then and now, Sherlock is like a drug we cannot wean ourselves off of. The adventures of Holmes and Watson will continue (and are still continuing); Sherlock has returned from death and who now can stand against him? Instead of a premature watery grave he will finally retire to a little house in Sussex to study and keep bees with a long and illustrious career immortalized via the printed word behind him. Instead of our last word of Sherlock being a belated report of his sacrificial death from the pen of a grieving Watson, we are treated instead to an image of Sherlock and John standing near the sea on a moonlit night on the eve of the first Great War conversing quietly to each other about their past days of glory, with an older Sherlock talking about God, an East Wind and the fate of his country England. While not as dramatic and heart-rendering as Doyle's first ending, it is a pleasant and elegant conclusion to the story of the great friendship of the Great Detective and the Good Doctor. It is quite a happy ending (though Sherlock knows that tribulations are coming), and for the final time Sherlock is used to convey humor, comfort and reliability in a world that so desperately needs it. Moriarty, a man who inspired fear, dread and organized crime is dead and gone. Yet his rival still stands and will continue to stand: Mr. Sherlock Holmes the master detective - the man who never died; the man who will forever live.
[all information about Professor Moriarty is taken from 'The Final Problem', 'The Empty House' and 'The Valley of Fear.']
- About the author: Sloane Jensen is a 25 year-old Sherlock Holmes fan who lives in the USA in the State of Colorado. She enjoys reading, writing, hiking, biking, fishing, horseback riding and hanging about the house in pajamas and a bath robe when not at work. She is grateful for more serious, Canon-respecting Sherlock sites like this one and is pleased to be able to submit her writings to the 'Sherlock-Sherlockian' English-site. Her favorite Sherlock actors are Jeremy Brett, Benedict Cumberbatch and Basil Rathbone in that order. Her favorite Sherlock short-story is 'The Dying Detective'