The Adventure of the Speckled Band: A Summary

Early one morning, Miss Helen Stoner arrives at Sherlock Holmes’ homes to discuss with him the mysterious case of her twin sister Julia’s death.  At the age of two, the girls’ mother was re-married to Dr. Roylott to whom she bequeathed her considerable riches, instructing him to allot to each of her two daughters an annual sum of money at the time of their respective marriages.  After their mother’s death, Helen and Julia and Dr. Roylott moved back into Dr. Roylott’s family’s old home at Stroke Moron, where they, till Julia’s sudden death, have been living together.  However, since his resettling in Stroke Moron, Dr. Roylott has taken to shutting himself away in his room only to emerge in phases of violent outbursts.

Two years earlier, Julia met her fiance at a Christmas visit to her late mother’s sister.  One night just days before the wedding was to take place, Julia came into Helen’s bedroom saying that during the last couple of nights she had woken to the sound of a whistle.  Helen replied that she had not heard anything of the sort.  Julia returned to her bedroom, locking the door to her room behind her.  That same night, Helen woke to her sister’s scream.  Running to her sister’s side, Helen heard a low whistle following by a clanging of metal, and there, at the opening of bedroom, she found Julia writhing in pain.  Just before falling dead, the girl pointed to the doctor’s room and said, “Oh, my God!  Helen!  It was the band!  The speckled band!”

Recently, just after her engagement, due to construction, Helen was moved into her sister’s bedroom which sits adjacent to her step-father’s.  Last  night she too was woken by the same whistling her sister had complained of that night just hours before her death.

Together with Watson, Holmes travel to Stroke Moron to study the scene of Julia’s death.  He finds that there is no entrance into her bedroom (now Helen’s), neither through the chimney nor the window shutters.  He examine the walls and determines them solid and impassable.  Too, he notes that the repairs to the home which caused Helen’s move into her sister’s bedroom seem unnecessary.  Upon further assessment of the bedroom, Holmes notices a couple of peculiarities:  a vent connects not to the outside air, but to the next bedroom, the doctor’s room, and the bell-rope which hangs from the ceiling and falls beside the bed, which sits bolted to the floor, is a fake and does not ring.

Next, Holmes on to the doctor’s room where he questions the contents of a large iron safe upon which a small saucer filled with milk rests.  He notes that the family does not have a cat, and that the cheetah and baboon which the doctor does keep would prove far too large for such a slight dish of milk.

When he was done evaluating, Holmes instructs Helen to wait that night till her father goes to bed and then shine a light in the window of the room before leaving it to rest in her original bedroom.  Upon the signal, Holmes and Watson will make their way into the bedroom through the open window.

That night, the three follow the plan accordingly.  Holmes and Watson sit silently in the dark room until, suddenly, they see a momentary gleam of light through the ventilator soon followed by a low whistle.   At that moment, Holmes struck a match and with his cane, lashed at the bell-rope.  Then, a horrible cry came shrieking from the doctor’s room.  There, with the door of the safe ajar, sitting beside on a wooden chair, sat Dr. Roylott with a swamp adder, “the deadliest snake in India,” closely resembling a speckled band, bound tightly around his head.   Holmes quickly replaced the snake into the safe.

On their way back home, Holmes explains to Watson the sequence of events:  the doctor would send the snake through the vent, and from there it would crawl down the bell-rope to the bed, which bolted to the floor could not be moved from the bell-rope, where the girl slept.  Trained by use of the milk saucer, the doctor would then whistle to summon the snake back through the vent.  Though it may or not bite the girl on any given night, eventually it would.  When Holmes lit the match and hit the bell-rope with his cane, he scared the snake back through the vent, back into Dr. Roylott’s bedroom where it turned on his master and bit him leaving just the faintest marks.  It is then just a matter of seconds till the poison takes effect.


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