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9:07 p.m. - 2020-09-14
Returning to Phelps's home, Holmes makes arrangements for the invalid to accompany him and Watson to London. Before leaving he urges Annie Harrison to remain in the sick room at all costs. When her brother Joseph invites her on a walk outdoors, she demurs, telling him, "I have a slight headache, and this room is deliciously cool and soothing." Why would she not simply tell her brother the truth, that Holmes wants her to remain in the sick room, formerly Joseph's bedroom? Does she suspect Joseph? If so, on what basis? She and Holmes had only a short conversation, all of which was witnessed by Watson. Like Holmes's "independent inquiries," we again have a suggestion of some back story of which Watson and the readers remain unaware.

Holmes's method of revealing the recovered treaty seems unnecessarily dramatic and potentially cruel, given Phelps's compromised health and nervous constitution. He has Mrs. Hudson serve breakfast in three covered dishes, the third one containing the eponymous treaty rather than food. Phelps becomes extremely excited, and Watson has to resort to brandy, his favorite restorative, to keep his old school mate from fainting. Given that Phelps has been seriously ill for several weeks and that he has a history of being the butt of juvenile humor during his school days with Watson, Holmes's predilection for theatricality raises questions about his capacity for empathy for a weak and despairing client.

Holmes's account of his struggle with Harrison also raises some questions. "I had to grass him twice," he states, using a slang expression for knocking down one's opponent. Given Holmes's skill at boxing, baritsu, and single stick fighting, and the lack of training suggested by Harrison's corpulence, one wonders if the second "grassing" was really necessary. Perhaps Holmes was reflecting back to his initial meeting with Harrison, whose first words were, "Percy has been enquiring for you all morning. Ah, poor chap, he clings to any straw." By the time of "The Naval Treaty," Holmes had a considerable reputation. Watson reassures a doubtful Phelps that his associate has aided several royal houses, and Lord Holdhurst admits Holmes to his Downing Street residence immediately upon receiving his card, remarking, "Your name is very familiar to me, Mr. Holmes." Harrison's blunt remark about "clinging to any straw" could be construed as an insult to the detective's formidable reputation, and it is possible that he paid for his impudence with a second "grassing."

The Sherlock Holmes we see in "The Naval Treaty" is a man of great talent and intellect, but he also shows tendencies toward pontification, insensitivity, extreme secrecy, quickness to take insult, pettiness, superiority, lack of empathy, and vengefulness.


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