I have written elsewhere
of the complicated sequence of events which led up to our sojourn on the
Continent and our eventual arrival at the little village of Meiringen on the 3rd
of May, and I do not intend to repeat myself here; the purpose of this account
is not to reiterate what has already been said, but to supplement it with what
I was forced, at the time, to leave unsaid.

I will
therefore state here very briefly that we sailed for the Continent not from
Dover as we had intended, but from Newhaven, having abandoned our scheduled
train, and our luggage with it, at Canterbury to put Moriarty off our
trail. Accordingly we arrived, not at
Paris as Moriarty anticipated, but at Dieppe, whence we made our way to
Brussels.

There I
despatched a telegram to Mary. I did not
impart anything concerning the alarming circumstances of my departure; I merely
stated ‘Have been whisked away to the Continent for a short holiday. Do prolong your visit if convenient. Will let you know how things progress. S H sends regards’. I deduced that knowing whom I was with, she
would be less likely to worry if my stay were prolonged or if there were any
unexpected developments.

After two days
in Brussels we moved on to Strasbourg.
There Holmes received a telegram informing him that Moriarty had slipped
the net. The police had secured the
whole gang with the exception of him.
Holmes was furious.

‘Of course,
when I left the country there was no one left to cope with him,’ he snapped,
hurling the telegram into the grate, much to the astonishment of our fellow
diners in the hotel salle-a-manger. ‘But
I did think I had put the game in their hands.’

I watched him
anxiously, crumbling a piece of bread roll between my finger and thumb. He had been as tense as a coiled spring for
the last three days, and I feared an extreme reaction.

‘Where do you
think he is?’ I asked.

‘On our
trail. It will only be a matter of time
before he catches up with me. And with
you. I think that you had better return
to England, Watson.’

‘Why? I thought you wanted me to stay here until
after the trial. I thought you said I
would be safer over here.’

‘And so you
would, if Moriarty were in police custody.
Then his only channel of revenge would be the attempted ruin of your reputation
from the witness box. As it is, however,
he is after bigger fish; he will devote his whole energies to revenging himself
on me. He said as much in our short
interview, and I fancy he meant it. I
think, my dear friend, that you would be safer away from my company.’

I stared at him
across the table. He avoided my gaze.

‘How could you
think that I would leave you in danger?’ I whispered.

Holmes looked
sideways at the approaching waiter.

‘Now Watson, be
logical, there’s a good fellow. Let us
discuss this seriously over dinner. It
looks as if they keep an excellent cellar here; what would you say to a bottle
of Chateau Lafite?’

We argued the
question over dinner for nearly two hours.
I was determined that nothing would persuade me to leave him. I cannot for the life of me recall what we
ate, but I vividly remember the mingled taste in my mouth of wine and
panic. The claret was very red; I
remember turning the thin stem of the glass in my hand. Holmes was logical and gentle; he did not try
to bully me. I think – I am sure – that
my devotion touched him, in spite of himself.
He said that he regretted ever having involved me in the business; he
said that he would have me on his conscience if I did not leave for England
immediately; that my presence would in any case hinder him from achieving the
only goal left to him. But I remained
adamant, and the same night we had resumed our journey and were well on the way
to Geneva. There was a fanatical look in
his eyes, however, and an edge to his voice when he spoke of ‘the only goal
left to him’, which disturbed me more than his danger, or mine.

I need hardly
say that I will never forget the week we spend wandering up the valley of the
Rhone, over the Gemmi Pass and on through Interlaken. ‘A charming week’, I think I called it in my
published account. The beauty of our
surroundings made an idyllic setting for a leisurely walking holiday; the
little hotels that we patronised were clean, friendly and discreet. How often had I dreamed of such a week with Holmes,
such leisure, such privacy, such scenery.
We wandered among vineyards and orchards, with the slopes of the
mountains rising almost sheer above us, the snow-capped heights dappled with
sunlight and shadow as the clouds moved over the sky. In the evenings we would dine quietly,
usually in a small hotel salle-a-manger overlooking the river. At night we would lie awake and talk into the
small hours; in the morning we would breakfast on coffee and hot croissants,
and then set off once more into the fresh delight of a spring day. I was of course painfully aware that the
circumstances were far from ideal; and Holmes’ constant references to the fact
that he would cheerfully bring his career to a conclusion if he could be
assured that society was free of Professor Moriarty both alarmed and puzzled
me. Behind his single-minded eagerness I
sensed an element of self-destruction.

I tried to make
light of his obsession and to encourage him to do the same. ‘You are so vain, Holmes,’ I remarked one
night, when he had concluded a little speech to the effect that the air of
London was the sweeter for his presence, and that if his record were closed
that night he would be able to survey it with equanimity. ‘I think you have a tendency to view yourself
in an almost Messianic light. You just
want to go out in a blaze of glory. What
good will that do for us ordinary mortals?
You seem to think that Moriarty is unique, but I would be willing to
wager that his chair would not remain vacant for so very long; and then, shy
and self-effacing as you are, I think you would be coaxed out of retirement
with very little persuasion.’

I spoke into he
darkness, gazing up at the faint pallor of the ceiling. I heard the creak of his bedsprings as he
made a quick, annoyed movement, and turning my head could dimly see his
outline, propped upon one elbow, looking across at me.

‘You refuse to
grasp the reality of the situation, Watson,’ he said, ‘Moriarty is unique, because of his genus.’

‘Ah yes, a
genius that is matched only by your own.
You are vain, Holmes.’

‘I am not
vain,’ he snapped. ‘I am merely stating
the facts. There is no virtue in false
modesty, Watson. I know that I am the
only man alive who can match him. I am
being quite truthful when I say that to overcome him would be the pinnacle of
my career; and that I would count not only my career, but my life well spent in
the process.’

I felt my
throat constrict.

‘Don’t be
ridiculous, Holmes. Supposing you were
to lose your life and he to keep his?
You said he was your equal. There
is no need to take senseless risks.’

‘But for the
good of society, Watson. And there are
always risks.’

‘Society can go
to hell!’ I said with a ferocity that surprised us both. ‘This is a personal contest between you and
him, and you couldn’t care less what happens to society or to – anyone
else. You are just obsessed with the
need to best him. It’s transparent.’

‘Absolute
rubbish, Watson,’ he snapped, and turned away from me, pulling the sheets up
over his ears. I stared, as I often
stared, across the space between our two beds, at the outline of the hump he
made under the blankets and the shock of black hair upon the pillow; and took
several deep breaths to calm myself.

‘Holmes, can’t
you grasp the simple fact that I fear for your safety?’ I said as steadily as I
could into the darkness.

‘I am quite
capable of looking after myself,’ came the muffled, dignified reply.

‘No, you are
not. You are under too much mental
strain. You are not well, Holmes. I can see it.
You are just in the state to throw yourself into unnecessary danger.’

‘Don’t try to
nursemaid me, Doctor. I can assure you
that I neither need nor want it.’

The words hung
between us in the silence that followed.
I spoke again as soon as I could.

‘I need you,
though. Don’t you ever think about me,
Holmes? Or has Moriarty eclipsed
everything?’

I heard him
turn over. I remained staring at the
ceiling.

‘You don’t need
me, Watson. You are doing perfectly well
without me.’

After the
briefest of pauses, I said quietly, ‘What makes you think that?’

‘I deduce it,’
he said, ‘from your style of living.’

‘What do you
mean?’

He did not
reply. His silence made me angry.

‘You know
perfectly well,’ I said bitterly, ‘that I married for convenience, and to
protect your reputation as well as mine.’

‘My reputation
can speak for itself, thank you.’

I sat up
angrily in bed and turned towards him. I
spoke clearly and painfully into the space between us.

‘All right
then,’ I said, ‘I married to protect you from me. Is that satisfactory? I married because I could not go on as we
were. And you act as if I deserted you
unreasonably. You talk as if I were
wallowing in domestic bliss. You are
surely aware that Mary and I enjoy a purely friendly relationship. Is that the way of life that you so much object
to? Do you deduce from this that I have
no need for your friendship?’

I waited,
counting the seconds. Not since before
my marriage had I spoken so frankly. His
reply, when it came, took me completely by surprise.

‘I was not
referring,’ he said, ‘to your marriage.’

I let myself
fall back onto the pillow, and lay quite still.
I felt the room spin in the darkness.
It was a long time before I could think of anything to say.

‘You are mad,’
I said at last.

‘On the
contrary, it is a perfectoy logical deduction.’

‘You think that
I keep other company because I prefer it to yours?’

‘I think that
you have chosen according to your priorities.’

I gasped, and
turned to look at him once more. He was
still staring at the ceiling.

‘And what
incentive can you offer me to change this way of living that you despise so
much? Do you think that your own is any
more healthy?’ Cocaine, ambition,
obsession?’

He was silent
for a moment, and then said quietly, ‘You ask the impossible.’

‘And so do
you!’

I turned my
face away from him. My cheek was wet
against the pillow. His selfishness, his
childishness, overwhelmed me. His
twisting of the facts convinced me that he was in an unbalanced and paranoid
state of mind. I heard him settle down
to sleep. There was nothing more to say,
it seemed. All the same, I had to have
the last word.

‘I don’t know
why we continue to torture each other,’ I said.
‘I sometimes think that it would be better if we never saw each other
again.’

There was no
reply, only the steady sound of his breathing.
It was too late to bite out my tongue.