Hope, Gregson, Lestrade, Holmes, and Watson had all been told to appear before the magistrates on Thursday, but by that time, Hope has died from a burst aneurysm. Watson, who saw Hopes body, notes that Hope seemed at peace, with “a placid smile upon his face, as though he had been able in his dying moments to look back upon a useful life, and on work well done.” The next night, Holmes wonders where Gregson’s and Lestrade’s “grand advertisement” will be. Though Watson notes that they had little to do with Hope’s capture, Holmes bitterly retorts that perceptions of others’ actions matter more than their actual actions. Nevertheless, Holmes is glad to have taken the case, as he was able to solve the case in three days by reasoning backwards.
Hope’s death from his aneurysm, which was indirectly caused by his pursuit of revenge, illustrates the dangerous and destructive effects of revenge not only on its targets but also on its agents. As Holmes predicted, Lestrade and Gregson are unjustly awarded credit for solving the case, despite the fact that it was Holmes’ superior deductive reasoning skills that led to Hope’s capture.
Responding to Watson’s astonishment that Holmes found the case “simple,” Holmes explains his lines of reasoning about the case from the very beginning. When they first approached the house on Brixton, he deduced the type of cab by examining the road and the murderer’s approximate height from the distance between his footprints on the garden path. He came to the conclusion that Drebber had foreseen his death by poisoning by the expression on his face and the smell on his breath. As he had previously revealed, the writing on the wall was clearly a blind. The woman’s wedding ring convinced Holmes that the murderer was taking revenge for a private wrong over a woman. He also deduced that Hope was red-faced because of the way the blood splatters matched his footprints. Afterward, Holmes inquired into Drebber’s background, which Gregson had failed to do, and learned that Drebber had applied for protection against a man called Jefferson Hope, “an old rival in love.”
Holmes walks Watson through his thought process for the entire case, reiterating some of his previous explanations and revealing to Watson information he had previously withheld, such as why he suspected Hope had a “florid” face and the information he thought Gregson should have been seeking. As Holmes had said at the end of Part 1, now that he has solved the case, he is now willing to tell all about his investigations — perhaps in order to clarify certain matters for Watson but perhaps also to show off his detective skills.
Holmes had already deduced that the man who walked Drebber into the house was both the murderer and the cab driver, and now he had enough information to enlist his “street Arab detective corp” to find Jefferson Hope’s cab. Holmes concludes his explanation by describing his solution as “a chain of logical sequences without a break or flaw.” Watson commends his roommate and decides to publish an account of the case so that the public will recognize his talents. Leaving it up to Watson, Holmes expresses neither his objection nor his approval of this, and instead laughingly shows Watson an article in the paper in which Lestrade and Gregson claim credit for solving the case. The story ends with Watson promising to set the public straight with the account of the case from his journal, and urging Holmes to content himself with wisdom from a Horace quote: though he may not be well-regarded by the public, he must be happy in the knowledge of his own talents.
Upon Holmes’ completion of his explanation, Watson is (again) astounded at Holmes’ skill and greatly admires his roommate, who appears simultaneously annoyed and amused that Gregson and Lestrade have once again bested him in terms of public credit. Indignant, Watson takes it upon himself to correct this injustice by publishing his own account of the investigation, which would reveal Holmes’ superiority to Lestrade and Gregson as a detective (and, of course, provide all the material for Doyle’s story of mystery and murder).