The Naval Treaty

  The July which immediately succeeded my marriage was made
memorable by three cases of interest, in which I had the privi-
lege of being associated with Sherlock Holmes and of studying
his methods. I find them recorded in my notes under the head-
ings of "The Adventure of the Second Stain," "The Adventure
of the Naval Treaty," and "The Adventure of the Tired Cap-
tain." The first of these, however, 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. No case, however, in which Holmes was engaged has
ever illustrated the value of his analytical methods so clearly or
has impressed those who were associated with him so deeply. I
still retain an almost verbatim report of the interview in which he
demonstrated the true facts of the case to Monsieur Dubugue of
the Paris police, and Fritz von Waldbaum, the well-known spe-
cialist of Dantzig, both of whom had wasted their energies upon
what proved to be side-issues. The new century will have come,
however, before the story can be safely told. Meanwhile I pass
on to the second on my list, which promised also at one time to
be of national importance and was marked by several incidents
which give it a quite unique character.
  During my school-days I had been intimately associated with a
lad named Percy Phelps, who was of much the same age as
myself, though he was two classes ahead of me. He was a very
brilliant boy and carried away every prize which the school had
to offer, finishing his exploits by winning a scholarship which
sent him on to continue his triumphant career at Cambridge. He
was, I remember, extremely well connected, and even when we
were all little boys together we knew that his mother's brother
was Lord Holdhurst, the great conservative politician. This gaudy
relationship did him little good at school. On the contrary, it
seemed rather a piquant thing to us to chevy him about the
playground and hit him over the shins with a wicket. But it was
another thing when he came out into the world. I heard vaguely
that his abilities and the influences which he commanded had won
him a good position at the Foreign Office, and then he passed
completely out of my mind until the following letter recalled his

                                               Briarbrae, Woking.

        I have no doubt that you can remember "Tadpole" Phelps,
      who was in the fifth form when you were in the third. It is
      possible even that you may have heard that through my
      uncle's influence I obtained a good appointment at the
      Foreign Office, and that I was in a situation of trust and
      honour until a horrible misfortune came suddenly to blast
      my career.
        There is no use writing the details of that dreadful event.
      In the event of your acceding to my request it is probable
      that I shall have to narrate them to you. I have only just
      recovered from nine weeks of brain-fever and am still
      exceedingly weak. Do you think that you could bring your
      friend Mr. Holmes down to see me? I should like to have
      his opinion of the case, though the authorities assure me
      that nothing more can be done. Do try to bring him down,
      and as soon as possible. Every minute seems an hour while
      I live in this state of horrible suspense. Assure him that if I
      have not asked his advice sooner it was not because I did
      not appreciate his talents, but because I have been off my
      head ever since the blow fell. Now I am clear again, though
      I dare not think of it too much for fear of a relapse. I am
      still so weak that I have to write, as you see, by dictating.
      Do try to bring him.
                                            Your old school-fellow,
                                                      PERCY PHELPS.

  There was something that touched me as I read this-letter,
something pitiable in the reiterated appeals to bring Holmes. So
moved was I that even had it been a difficult matter I should
have tried it, but of course I knew well that Holmes loved his
art, so that he was ever as ready to bring his aid as his client
could be to receive it. My wife agreed with me that not a
moment should be lost in laying the matter before him, and so
within an hour of breakfast-time I found myself back once more
in the old rooms in Baker Street.
  Holmes was seated at his side-table clad in his dressing-gown
and working hard over a chemical investigation. A large curved
retort was boiling furiously in the bluish flame of a Bunsen
burner, and the distilled drops were condensing into a two-litre
measure. My friend hardly glanced up as I entered, and I, seeing
that his investigation must be of importance, seated myself in an
armchair and waited. He dipped into this bottle or that, drawing
out a few drops of each with his glass pipette, and finally
brought a test-tube containing a solution over to the table. In his
right hand he held a slip of litmus-paper.
  "You come at a crisis, Watson," said he. "If this paper
remains blue, all is well. If it turns red, it means a man's life."
He dipped it into the test-tube and it flushed at once into a dull,
dirty crimson. "Hum! I thought as much!" he cried. "I will be
at your service in an instant, Watson. You will find tobacco in
the Persian slipper." He turned to his desk and scribbled off
several telegrams, which were handed over to the page-boy.
Then he threw himself down into the chair opposite and drew up
his knees until his fingers clasped round his long, thin shins.
  "A very commonplace little murder," said he. "You've got
something better, I fancy. You are the stormy petrel of crime,
Watson. What is it?"
  I handed him the letter, which he read with the most concen-
trated attention.
  "It does not tell us very much, does it?" he remarked as he
handed it back to me.
  "Hardly anything."
  "And yet the writing is of interest."
  "But the writing is not his own."
  "Precisely. It is a woman's."
  "A man's surely," I cried.
  "No, a woman's, and a woman of rare character. You see, at
the commencement of an investigation it is something to know
that your client is in close contact with someone who, for good
or evil, has an exceptional nature. My interest is already awak-
ened in the case. If you are ready we will start at once for
Woking and see this diplomatist who is in such evil case and the
lady to whom he dictates his letters."
  We were fortunate enough to catch an early train at Waterloo,
and in a little under an hour we found ourselves among the
fir-woods and the heather of Woking. Briarbrae proved to be a
large detached house standing in extensive grounds within a few
minutes' walk of the station. On sending in our cards we were
shown into an elegantly appointed drawing-room, where we
were joined in a few minutes by a rather stout man who received
us with much hospitality.l His age may have been nearer forty
than thirty. but his cheeks were so ruddy and his eyes so merry
that he still conveyed the impression of a plump and mischievous
  "I am so glad that yau have come," said he, shaking our
hands with effusion. "Percy has been inquiring for you all
morning. Ah, poor old chap, he clings to any straw! His father
and his mother asked me to see you, for the mere mention of the
subject is very painful to them."
  "We have had no details yet," observed Holmes. "I perceive
that you are not yourself a member of the family."
  Our acquaintance looked surprised, and then, glancing down,
he began to laugh.
  "Of course you saw the J H monogram on my locket," said
he. "For a moment I thought you had done something clever.
Joseph Harrison is my name, and as Percy is to marry my sister
Annie I shall at least be a relation by marriage. You will find my
sister in his room, for she has nursed him hand and foot this two
months back. Perhaps we'd better go in at once, for I know how
impatient he is."
  The chamber into which we were shown was on the same
floor as the drawing-room It was furnished partly as a sitting and
partly as a bedroom, with flowers arranged daintily in every
nook and corner. A young man, very pale and worn, was lying
upon a sofa near the open window, through which came the rich
scent of the garden and the balmy summer air. A woman was
sitting beside him, who rase as we entered.
  "Shall I leave, Percy?" she asked.
  He clutched her hand to detain her. "How are you, Watson?"
said he cordially. "I should never have known you under that
moustache, and I daresay you would not be prepared to swear to
me. This I presume is your celebrated friend, Mr. Sherlock
  I introduced him in a few words, and we both sat down. The
stout young man had left us, but his sister still remained with her
hand in that of the invalid. She was a striking-looking woman, a
little short and thick for symmetry, but with a beautiful olive
complexion, large, dark, Italian eyes, and a wealth of deep black
hair. Her rich tints made the white face of her companion the
more worn and haggard by the contrast.
  "I won't waste your time," said he, raising himself upon the
sofa. "I'll plunge into the matter without further preamble. I was
a happy and successful man, Mr. Holmes, and on the eve of
being married, when a sudden and dreadful misfortune wrecked
all my prospects in life.
  "I was, as Watson may have told you, in the Foreign Office,
and through the influence of my uncle, Lord Holdhurst, I rose
rapidly to a responsible position. When my uncle became foreign
minister in this administration he gave me several missions of
trust, and as I always brought them to a successful conclusion,
he came at last to have the utmost confidence in my ability and
  "Nearly ten weeks ago -- to be more accurate, on the twenty-
third of May -- he called me into his private room, and, after
complimenting me on the good work which I had done, he
informed me that he had a new commission of trust for me to
  " 'This,' said he, taking a gray roll of paper from his bureau,
'is the original of that secret treaty between England and Italy of
which, I regret to say, some rumours have already got into the
public press. It is of enormous importance that nothing further
should leak out. The French or the Russian embassy would pay
an immense sum to learn the contents of these papers. They
should not leave my bureau were it not that it is absolutely
necessary to have them copied. You have a desk in your office?'
  " 'Yes, sir.'
  " 'Then take the treaty and lock it up there. I shall give
directions that you may remain behind when the others go, so
that you may copy it at your leisure without fear of being
overlooked. When you have finished, relock both the original
and the draft in the desk, and hand them over to me personally
to-morrow morning.'
  "I took the papers and --"
  "Excuse me an instant," said Holmes. "Were you alone
during this conversation?"
  "In a large room?"
  "Thirty feet each way."
  "In the centre?"
  "Yes, about it."
  "And speaking low?"
  "My uncle's voice is always remarkably low. I hardly spoke
at all."
  "Thank you," said Holmes, shutting his eyes; "pray go on."
  "I did exactly what he indicated and waited until the other
clerks had departed. One of them in my room, Charles Gorot,
had some arrears of work to make up, so I left him there and
went out to dine. When I returned he was gone. I was anxious to
hurry my work, for I knew that Joseph -- the Mr. Harrison whom
you saw just now -- was in town, and that he would travel down
to Woking by the eleven-o'clock train, and I wanted if possible
to catch it.
  "When I came to examine the treaty I saw at once that it was
of such importance that my uncle had been guilty of no exagger-
ation in what he said. Without going into details, I may say that
it defined the position of Great Britain towards the Triple Alli-
ance, and foreshadowed the policy which this country would
pursue in the event of the French fleet gaining a complete
ascendency over that of Italy in the Mediterranean. The ques-
tions treated in it were purely naval. At the end were the
signatures of the high dignitaries who had signed it. I glanced
my eyes over it, and then settled down to my task of copying.
  "It was a long document, written in the French language, and
containing twenty-six separate articles. I copied as quickly as I
could. but at nine o'clock I had only done nine articles, and it
seemed hopeless for me to attempt to catch my train. I was
feeling drowsy and stupid, partly from my dinner and also from
the effects of a long day's work. A cup of coffee would clear my
brain. A commissionaire remains all night in a little lodge at the
foot of the stairs and is in the habit of making coffee at his
spirit-lamp for any of the officials who may be working over-
time. I rang the bell, therefore, to summon him.
  "To my surprise, it was a woman who answered the sum-
mons, a large, coarse-faced, elderly woman, in an apron. She
explained that she was the commissionaire's wife, who did the
charing, and I gave her the order for the coffee.
  "I wrote two more articles. and then, feeling more drowsy
than ever, I rose and walke