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Inspection Report VIII

The Naval Treaty

Richard Hartman

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    The Naval Treaty is one of several cases where important government secrets 
are involved. The Adventure of the Second Stain, The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans and His Last Bow also involve mysterious governmental intrigue. 

    The time line suggested by William S. Baring-Gould in the authoritative Annotated Sherlock Holmes derives from Percy Phelps's claim that the theft of the naval treaty occurred on May 23 and that he had been suffering from brain-fever for nine weeks since.  Therefore Mr. Holmes enters the case on Tuesday, July 30, with a visit to Woking, returns the following day and learns of the attempted break-in, and, after an adventurous night, re-joins Dr. Watson and Mr. Phelps on Thursday, August 1, where he serves up the naval treaty for breakfast. The year 1889 is deduced from the year of Dr. Watson's marriage to Miss Morstan, which Mr. Baring-Gould places as May 1, 1889. 

   In publication The Naval Treaty appeared in The Strand as a two part adventure in October and November 1893 followed by the December publication of The Final Problem, with the reported death of Sherlock Holmes. 

    All of this leads to the puzzle over Dr. Watson's mention of The Adventure of the Second Stain in the first paragraph of the story. While mulling over which story to recount for his readers Dr. Watson mentions three possible adventures to relate that occurred that July in 1889. The Adventure of the Second Stain, The Adventure of the Naval Treaty and The Adventure of the Tired Captain. The question lays before us as to whether the Adventure of the Second Stain mentioned here is the same story recounted by Dr. Watson, and published in The Strand in December, 1904. If you will recall that adventure involved the disappearance of an important governmental document from the dispatch box of the Right Honorable Trelawney Hope, Secretary for European Affairs. Discovering that the Secretary's wife had purloined the document in an attempt to stave off a scandal designed by Eduardo Lucas regarding her less than proper past, Sherlock Holmes retrieved the document and all was well. 

      What evidence, other the name of the case, supports the claim that the two stories are the same? First, who are these two new characters Dr. Watson mentions in the naval treaty case who are involved in the second stain case. He states a Monsieur Dubuque, of the Paris police and a Fritz von Waldbaum of Danzig were operating investigations on the side.  Neither of these two appear anywhere in the published version of The Adventure of the Second Stain, so how can these be the same case. Keep in mind that the Adventure of the Second Stain must have occurred prior to The Naval Treaty during July 1889 BUT was published eleven years after the publication of The Naval Treaty. Recall, also that in The Naval Treaty Dr. Watson remarks that the second stain case "deals with interests of such
importance, and implicates so many of the first families in the kingdom that for many years it will be impossible to make it public". He also gives us a possible date for its eventual publication by adding, "the new century will have come before the story can be safely told." Indeed it was 1904 before the tale made it to the pages of The Strand. 

   Still, what of the two missing characters of Monsieur Dubuque and von Waldbaum. Why are they missing from the published Adventure of the Second Stain but mentioned in The Naval Treaty? Dr. Watson states, they were " wasting their energies upon what proved to be side-issues." Always a brisk chronicler of the adventures Dr. Watson may have removed them from his final draft narrative solely because they were not directly involved in the solution to the case. What, however were these side-issues? Eduardo Lucas occupied himself with obtaining damaging documents with which to elicit hush money or other items of value from worthy gentlewomen. Most likely Monsieur Dubuque and von Waldbaum were serving some of these victims and were following leads through Mr. Lucas' activities and had no knowledge of the missing government documents. Such a line of inquiry, as Sherlock Holmes knew, would not lead to the recovery of the missing document but could involve "many of the first families in the Kingdom". Remember that the Prime Minister and Mr. Hope reported emphatically that they have not notified any police agency regarding the missing document fearing it would result in a public exposure. Therefore Monsieur Dubuque and von Waldbaum were not working on the missing document and had to be connected to the case only through the important families under the thumb of Lucas. Also,
Dr. Watson, in his introduction in The Adventure of the Second Stain, states that Sherlock Holmes had given his consent for him to present "a carefully guarded account of the incident". Watson added that he would "be somewhat vague in certain details" regarding the second stain case. The details removed would have probably involved those families Mr. Lucus threatened with scandal; "the first families in the kingdom" Dr.Watson mentions in The Naval Treaty. So, the missing characters are not missing but were edited out by Dr. Watson as unnecessary to the solution and to prevent an equally unnecessary intrusion on
the good name of the victims' families. 

   Second, we must determine the date of the second stain case in relation to the naval treaty case. The Annotated Sherlock Holmes dates The Adventure of the Second Stain in mid October, 1886, three years prior to The Naval Treaty. This does not explain why Dr. Watson stated the case occurred during the same July as the naval treaty case rather than three years prior. The date of The Adventure of the Second Stain deduced by Baring-Gould is incorrect. It is my firm believe that Dr. Watson continued Sherlock Holmes' desire for "a guarded account" and altered the evidence in his writing of the second stain account to imply a different date, forgetting he had already established the correct date of July, 1889 several
years before in his telling of The Naval Treaty. This may be the only instance where I can conclude Dr. Watson is right, though forgetful, and Barring-Gould is wrong. 

    Therefore, The Adventure of the Second Stain Dr. Watson mentions in The Naval Treaty and the story later published under that title are the same case. 

   As for The Naval Treaty it is a marginally good tale that contains one glaring error. The question remains unanswered as to why the thieving future brother-in-law, Joseph Harrison stopped by the foreign office the night of May 23rd. Percy reports that he knew Joseph was in town and would return on the 11:00 train to Woking but how did Joseph know Percy was going to work late at the office. There is no indication he was planning to work late. Quite the contrary, he was only informed of his need to "remain behind when the others go" by his
uncle, the Foreign Minister that day in the office. There is no report of Percy passing this news on to Joseph. The only reason Joseph would have stopped by the foreign office would be to see Percy, so how did he learn Percy was going to work late? The only opportunity could have occurred when Percy left the office to dine. It was then that Joseph must have seen him returning to the office and assumed he would still be working when he called upon him and discovered a criminal opportunity on his desk. The great error in Mr. Holmes' investigation was that he never inquired as to the movements of Joseph Harrison on the night in question, knowing he was in town. Why Sherlock Holmes failed to make such inquiries is a mystery I will leave for others to deduce. 

Presented by
Richard Hartman, "The Hound of the Baskervilles"
The Norwood Building Inspectors
The Sherlock Holmes Society of Charleston, West Virginia
September 12, 2001

(c) Copyright 2001, Richard Hartman, All Rights Reserved

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