It is fear, Mr. Holmes. It is terror. She raised
her veil as she spoke, and we could see that she was indeed in a pitiable state of
agitation, her face all drawn and gray, with restless, frightened eyes, like those of some
hunted animal. Her features and figure were those of a woman of thirty, but her hair was
shot with premature gray, and her expression was weary and haggard. Sherlock Holmes ran
her over with one of his quick, all-comprehensive glances.
You must not fear, said he soothingly, bending
forward and patting her forearm. We shall soon set matters right, I have no doubt.
You have come in by train this morning, I see.
You know me, then?
No, but I observe the second half of a return ticket in
the palm of your left  glove.
You must have started early, and yet you had a good drive in a dog-cart, along heavy
roads, before you reached the station.
The lady gave a violent start and stared in bewilderment at my
There is no mystery, my dear madam, said he,
smiling. The left arm of your jacket is spattered with mud in no less than seven
places. The marks are perfectly fresh. There is no vehicle save a dog-cart which throws up
mud in that way, and then only when you sit on the left-hand side of the driver.
Whatever your reasons may be, you are perfectly
correct, said she. I started from home before six, reached Leatherhead at
twenty past, and came in by the first train to Waterloo. Sir, I can stand this strain no
longer; I shall go mad if it continues. I have no one to turn tonone, save only one,
who cares for me, and he, poor fellow, can be of little aid. I have heard of you, Mr.
Holmes; I have heard of you from Mrs. Farintosh, whom you helped in the hour of her sore
need. It was from her that I had your address. Oh, sir, do you not think that you could
help me, too, and at least throw a little light through the dense darkness which surrounds
me? At present it is out of my power to reward you for your services, but in a month or
six weeks I shall be married, with the control of my own income, and then at least you
shall not find me ungrateful.
Holmes turned to his desk and, unlocking it, drew out a small
case-book, which he consulted.
Farintosh, said he. Ah yes, I recall the
case; it was concerned with an opal tiara. I think it was before your time, Watson. I can
only say, madam, that I shall be happy to devote the same care to your case as I did to
that of your friend. As to reward, my profession is its own reward; but you are at liberty
to defray whatever expenses I may be put to, at the time which suits you best. And now I
beg that you will lay before us everything that may help us in forming an opinion upon the
Alas! replied our visitor, the very horror
of my situation lies in the fact that my fears are so vague, and my suspicions depend so
entirely upon small points, which might seem trivial to another, that even he to whom of
all others I have a right to look for help and advice looks upon all that I tell him about
it as the fancies of a nervous woman. He does not say so, but I can read it from his
soothing answers and averted eyes. But I have heard, Mr. Holmes, that you can see deeply
into the manifold wickedness of the human heart. You may advise me how to walk amid the
dangers which encompass me.
I am all attention, madam.
My name is Helen Stoner, and I am living with my
stepfather, who is the last survivor of one of the oldest Saxon families in England, the
Roylotts of Stoke Moran, on the western border of Surrey.
Holmes nodded his head. The name is familiar to
me, said he.
The family was at one time among the richest in England,
and the estates extended over the borders into Berkshire in the north, and Hampshire in
the west. In the last century, however, four successive heirs were of a dissolute and
wasteful disposition, and the family ruin was eventually completed by a gambler in the
days of the Regency. Nothing was left save a few acres of ground, and the
two-hundred-year-old house, which is itself crushed under a heavy mortgage. The last
squire dragged out his existence there, living the horrible life of an aristocratic
pauper; but his only son, my stepfather, seeing that he must adapt himself to the new
conditions, obtained an advance from a relative, which enabled him to take a  medical degree and went out to
Calcutta, where, by his professional skill and his force of character, he established a
large practice. In a fit of anger, however, caused by some robberies which had been
perpetrated in the house, he beat his native butler to death and narrowly escaped a
capital sentence. As it was, he suffered a long term of imprisonment and afterwards
returned to England a morose and disappointed man.
When Dr. Roylott was in India he married my mother, Mrs.
Stoner, the young widow of Major-General Stoner, of the Bengal Artillery. My sister Julia
and I were twins, and we were only two years old at the time of my mothers
re-marriage. She had a considerable sum of moneynot less than £1000 a year
and this she bequeathed to Dr. Roylott entirely while we resided with him, with a
provision that a certain annual sum should be allowed to each of us in the event of our
marriage. Shortly after our return to England my mother died she was killed eight
years ago in a railway accident near Crewe. Dr. Roylott then abandoned his attempts to
establish himself in practice in London and took us to live with him in the old ancestral
house at Stoke Moran. The money which my mother had left was enough for all our wants, and
there seemed to be no obstacle to our happiness.
But a terrible change came over our stepfather about
this time. Instead of making friends and exchanging visits with our neighbours, who had at
first been overjoyed to see a Roylott of Stoke Moran back in the old family seat, he shut
himself up in his house and seldom came out save to indulge in ferocious quarrels with
whoever might cross his path. Violence of temper approaching to mania has been hereditary
in the men of the family, and in my stepfathers case it had, I believe, been
intensified by his long residence in the tropics. A series of disgraceful brawls took
place, two of which ended in the police-court, until at last he became the terror of the
village, and the folks would fly at his approach, for he is a man of immense strength, and
absolutely uncontrollable in his anger.
Last week he hurled the local blacksmith over a
parapet into a stream, and it was only by paying over all the money which I could gather
together that I was able to avert another public exposure. He had no friends at all save
the wandering gypsies, and he would give these vagabonds leave to encamp upon the few
acres of bramble-covered land which represent the family estate, and would accept in
return the hospitality of their tents, wandering away with them sometimes for weeks on
end. He has a passion also for Indian animals, which are sent over to him by a
correspondent, and he has at this moment a cheetah and a baboon, which wander freely over
his grounds and are feared by the villagers almost as much as their master.
You can imagine from what I say that my poor sister
Julia and I had no great pleasure in our lives. No servant would stay with us, and for a
long time we did all the work of the house. She was but thirty at the time of her death,
and yet her hair had already begun to whiten, even as mine has.
Your sister is dead, then?
She died just two years ago, and it is of her death that
I wish to speak to you. You can understand that, living the life which I have described,
we were little likely to see anyone of our own age and position. We had, however, an aunt,
my mothers maiden sister, Miss Honoria Westphail, who lives near Harrow, and we were
occasionally allowed to pay short visits at this ladys house. Julia went there at
Christmas two years ago, and met there a half-pay major of marines, to whom she became
engaged. My stepfather learned of the engagement when my sister  returned and offered no objection
to the marriage; but within a fortnight of the day which had been fixed for the wedding,
the terrible event occurred which has deprived me of my only companion.
Sherlock Holmes had been leaning back in his chair with his
eyes closed and his head sunk in a cushion, but he half opened his lids now and glanced
across at his visitor.
Pray be precise as to details, said he.
It is easy for me to be so, for every event of that
dreadful time is seared into my memory. The manor-house is, as I have already said, very
old, and only one wing is now inhabited. The bedrooms in this wing are on the ground
floor, the sitting-rooms being in the central block of the buildings. Of these bedrooms
the first is Dr. Roylotts, the second my sisters, and the third my own. There
is no communication between them, but they all open out into the same corridor. Do I make
The windows of the three rooms open out upon the lawn.
That fatal night Dr. Roylott had gone to his room early, though we knew that he had not
retired to rest, for my sister was troubled by the smell of the strong Indian cigars which
it was his custom to smoke. She left her room, therefore, and came into mine, where she
sat for some time, chatting about her approaching wedding. At eleven oclock she rose
to leave me, but she paused at the door and looked back.
Tell me, Helen, said she, have you
ever heard anyone whistle in the dead of the night?
Never, said I.
I suppose that you could not possibly whistle,
yourself, in your sleep?
Certainly not. But why?
Because during the last few nights I have always,
about three in the morning, heard a low, clear whistle. I am a light sleeper, and it has
awakened me. I cannot tell where it came fromperhaps from the next room, perhaps
from the lawn. I thought that I would just ask you whether you had heard it.
No, I have not. It must be those wretched gypsies
in the plantation.
Very likely. And yet if it were on the lawn, I
wonder that you did not hear it also.
Ah, but I sleep more heavily than you.
Well, it is of no great consequence, at any
rate. She smiled back at me, closed my door, and a few moments later I heard her key
turn in the lock.
Indeed, said Holmes. Was it your custom
always to lock yourselves in at night?
I think that I mentioned to you that the doctor kept a
cheetah and a baboon. We had no feeling of security unless our doors were locked.
Quite so. Pray proceed with your statement.
I could not sleep that night. A vague feeling of
impending misfortune impressed me. My sister and I, you will recollect, were twins, and
you know how subtle are the links which bind two souls which are so closely allied. It was
a wild night. The wind was howling outside, and the rain was beating and splashing against
the windows. Suddenly, amid all the hubbub of the gale, there burst forth the wild scream
of a terrified woman. I knew that it was my sisters voice. I sprang from my bed,
wrapped a shawl round me, and rushed into the corridor. As I  opened my door I seemed to hear a low whistle, such as
my sister described, and a few moments later a clanging sound, as if a mass of metal had
fallen. As I ran down the passage, my sisters door was unlocked, and revolved slowly
upon its hinges. I stared at it horror-stricken, not knowing what was about to issue from
it. By the light of the corridor-lamp I saw my sister appear at the opening, her face
blanched with terror, her hands groping for help, her whole figure swaying to and fro like
that of a drunkard. I ran to her and threw my arms round her, but at that moment her knees
seemed to give way and she fell to the ground. She writhed as one who is in terrible pain,
and her limbs were dreadfully convulsed. At first I thought that she had not recognized
me, but as I bent over her she suddenly shrieked out in a voice which I shall never
forget, Oh, my God! Helen! It was the band! The speckled band! There was
something else which she would fain have said, and she stabbed with her finger into the
air in the direction of the doctors room, but a fresh convulsion seized her and
choked her words. I rushed out, calling loudly for my stepfather, and I met him hastening
from his room in his dressing-gown. When he reached my sisters side she was
unconscious, and though he poured brandy down her throat and sent for medical aid from the
village, all efforts were in vain, for she slowly sank and died without having recovered
her consciousness. Such was the dreadful end of my beloved sister.
One moment, said Holmes; are you sure
about this whistle and metallic sound? Could you swear to it?
That was what the county coroner asked me at the
inquiry. It is my strong impression that I heard it, and yet, among the crash of the gale
and the creaking of an old house, I may possibly have been deceived.
Was your sister dressed?
No, she was in her night-dress. In her right hand was
found the charred stump of a match, and in her left a match-box.
Showing that she had struck a light and looked about her
when the alarm took place. That is important. And what conclusions did the coroner come
He investigated the case with great care, for Dr.
Roylotts conduct had long been notorious in the county, but he was unable to find
any satisfactory cause of death. My evidence showed that the door had been fastened upon
the inner side, and the windows were blocked by old-fashioned shutters with broad iron
bars, which were secured every night. The walls were carefully sounded, and were shown to
be quite solid all round, and the flooring was also thoroughly examined, with the same
result. The chimney is wide, but is barred up by four large staples. It is certain,
therefore, that my sister was quite alone when she met her end. Besides, there were no
marks of any violence upon her.
How about poison?
The doctors examined her for it, but without
What do you think that this unfortunate lady died of,
It is my belief that she died of pure fear and nervous
shock, though what it was that frightened her I cannot imagine.
Were there gypsies in the plantation at the time?
Yes, there are nearly always some there.
Ah, and what did you gather from this allusion to a
banda speckled band?
Sometimes I have thought that it was merely the wild
talk of delirium, sometimes that it may have referred to some band of people, perhaps to
these very gypsies in the plantation. I do not know whether the spotted handkerchiefs
which  so many of them
wear over their heads might have suggested the strange adjective which she used.
Holmes shook his head like a man who is far from being
These are very deep waters, said he; pray go
on with your narrative.
Two years have passed since then, and my life has been
until lately lonelier than ever. A month ago, however, a dear friend, whom I have known
for many years, has done me the honour to ask my hand in marriage. His name is
ArmitagePercy Armitagethe second son of Mr. Armitage, of Crane Water, near
Reading. My stepfather has offered no opposition to the match, and we are to be married in
the course of the spring. Two days ago some repairs were started in the west wing of the
building, and my bedroom wall has been pierced, so that I have had to move into the
chamber in which my sister died, and to sleep in the very bed in which she slept. Imagine,
then, my thrill of terror when last night, as I lay awake, thinking over her terrible
fate, I suddenly heard in the silence of the night the low whistle which had been the
herald of her own death. I sprang up and lit the lamp, but nothing was to be seen in the
room. I was too shaken to go to bed again, however, so I dressed, and as soon as it was
daylight I slipped down, got a dog-cart at the Crown Inn, which is opposite, and drove to
Leatherhead, from whence I have come on this morning with the one object of seeing you and
asking your advice.
You have done wisely, said my friend. But
have you told me all?
Miss Roylott, you have not. You are screening your
Why, what do you mean?
For answer Holmes pushed back the frill of black lace which
fringed the hand that lay upon our visitors knee. Five little livid spots, the marks
of four fingers and a thumb, were printed upon the white wrist.
You have been cruelly used, said Holmes.
The lady coloured deeply and covered over her injured wrist.
He is a hard man, she said, and perhaps he hardly knows his own
There was a long silence, during which Holmes leaned his chin
upon his hands and stared into the crackling fire.
This is a very deep business, he said at last.
There are a thousand details which I should desire to know before I decide upon our
course of action. Yet we have not a moment to lose. If we were to come to Stoke Moran
to-day, would it be possible for us to see over these rooms without the knowledge of your
As it happens, he spoke of coming into town to-day upon
some most important business. It is probable that he will be away all day, and that there
would be nothing to disturb you. We have a housekeeper now, but she is old and foolish,
and I could easily get her out of the way.
Excellent. You are not averse to this trip,
By no means.
Then we shall both come. What are you going to do
I have one or two things which I would wish to do now
that I am in town. But I shall return by the twelve oclock train, so as to be there
in time for your coming.
And you may expect us early in the afternoon. I have
myself some small business matters to attend to. Will you not wait and breakfast?
I must go. My heart is lightened already since I have confided my trouble to you. I shall
look forward to seeing you again this afternoon. She dropped her thick black veil
over her face and glided from the room.
And what do you think of it all, Watson? asked
Sherlock Holmes, leaning back in his chair.
It seems to me to be a most dark and sinister
Dark enough and sinister enough.
Yet if the lady is correct in saying that the flooring
and walls are sound, and that the door, window, and chimney are impassable, then her
sister must have been undoubtedly alone when she met her mysterious end.
What becomes, then, of these nocturnal whistles, and
what of the very peculiar words of the dying woman?
I cannot think.
When you combine the ideas of whistles at night, the
presence of a band of gypsies who are on intimate terms with this old doctor, the fact
that we have every reason to believe that the doctor has an interest in preventing his
stepdaughters marriage, the dying allusion to a band, and, finally, the fact that
Miss Helen Stoner heard a metallic clang, which might have been caused by one of those
metal bars that secured the shutters falling back into its place, I think that there is
good ground to think that the mystery may be cleared along those lines.
But what, then, did the gypsies do?
I cannot imagine.
I see many objections to any such theory.
And so do I. It is precisely for that reason that we are
going to Stoke Moran this day. I want to see whether the objections are fatal, or if they
may be explained away. But what in the name of the devil!
The ejaculation had been drawn from my companion by the fact
that our door had been suddenly dashed open, and that a huge man had framed himself in the
aperture. His costume was a peculiar mixture of the professional and of the agricultural,
having a black top-hat, a long frock-coat, and a pair of high gaiters, with a hunting-crop
swinging in his hand. So tall was he that his hat actually brushed the cross bar of the
doorway, and his breadth seemed to span it across from side to side. A large face, seared
with a thousand wrinkles, burned yellow with the sun, and marked with every evil passion,
was turned from one to the other of us, while his deep-set, bile-shot eyes, and his high,
thin, fleshless nose, gave him somewhat the resemblance to a fierce old bird of prey.
Which of you is Holmes? asked this apparition.
My name, sir; but you have the advantage of me,
said my companion quietly.
I am Dr. Grimesby Roylott, of Stoke Moran.
Indeed, Doctor, said Holmes blandly. Pray
take a seat.
I will do nothing of the kind. My stepdaughter has been
here. I have traced her. What has she been saying to you?
It is a little cold for the time of the year, said
What has she been saying to you? screamed the old
But I have heard that the crocuses promise well,
continued my companion imperturbably.
Ha! You put me off, do you? said our new visitor,
taking a step forward and shaking his hunting-crop. I know you, you scoundrel! I
have heard of you before. You are Holmes, the meddler.
Holmes, the busybody!
His smile broadened.
Holmes, the Scotland Yard Jack-in-office!
Holmes chuckled heartily. Your conversation is most
entertaining, said he. When you go out close the door, for there is a decided
I will go when I have said my say. Dont you dare
to meddle with my affairs. I know that Miss Stoner has been here. I traced her! I am a
dangerous man to fall foul of! See here. He stepped swiftly forward, seized the
poker, and bent it into a curve with his huge brown hands.
See that you keep yourself out of my grip, he
snarled, and hurling the twisted poker into the fireplace he strode out of the room.
He seems a very amiable person, said Holmes,
laughing. I am not quite so bulky, but if he had remained I might have shown him
that my grip was not much more feeble than his own. As he spoke he picked up the
steel poker and, with a sudden effort, straightened it out again.
Fancy his having the insolence to confound me with the
official detective force! This incident gives zest to our investigation, however, and I
only trust that our little friend will not suffer from her imprudence in allowing this
brute to trace her. And now, Watson, we shall order breakfast, and afterwards I shall walk
down to Doctors Commons, where I hope to get some data which may help us in this
It was nearly one oclock when Sherlock Holmes
returned from his excursion. He held in his hand a sheet of blue paper, scrawled over with
notes and figures.
I have seen the will of the deceased wife, said
he. To determine its exact meaning I have been obliged to work out the present
prices of the investments with which it is concerned. The total income, which at the time
of the wifes death was little short of £1100, is now, through the fall in
agricultural prices, not more than £750. Each daughter can claim an income of £250, in
case of marriage. It is evident, therefore, that if both girls had married, this beauty
would have had a mere pittance, while even one of them would cripple him to a very serious
extent. My mornings work has not been wasted, since it has proved that he has the
very strongest motives for standing in the way of anything of the sort. And now, Watson,
this is too serious for dawdling, especially as the old man is aware that we are
interesting ourselves in his affairs; so if you are ready, we shall call a cab and drive
to Waterloo. I should be very much obliged if you would slip your revolver into your
pocket. An Eleys No. 2 is an excellent argument with gentlemen who can twist steel
pokers into knots. That and a tooth-brush are, I think, all that we need.
At Waterloo we were fortunate in catching a train for
Leatherhead, where we hired a trap at the station inn and drove for four or five miles
through the lovely Surrey lanes. It was a perfect day, with a bright sun and a few fleecy
clouds in the heavens. The trees and wayside hedges were just throwing out their first
green shoots, and the air was full of the pleasant smell of the moist earth. To me at
least there was a strange contrast between the sweet promise of the spring and this
sinister quest upon which we were engaged. My companion sat in the front of the trap, his
arms folded, his hat pulled down over his eyes, and his chin sunk  upon his breast, buried in the
deepest thought. Suddenly, however, he started, tapped me on the shoulder, and pointed
over the meadows.
Look there! said he.
A heavily timbered park stretched up in a gentle slope,
thickening into a grove at the highest point. From amid the branches there jutted out the
gray gables and high roof-tree of a very old mansion.
Stoke Moran? said he.
Yes, sir, that be the house of Dr. Grimesby
Roylott, remarked the driver.
There is some building going on there, said
Holmes; that is where we are going.
Theres the village, said the driver,
pointing to a cluster of roofs some distance to the left; but if you want to get to
the house, youll find it shorter to get over this stile, and so by the foot-path
over the fields. There it is, where the lady is walking.
And the lady, I fancy, is Miss Stoner, observed
Holmes, shading his eyes. Yes, I think we had better do as you suggest.
We got off, paid our fare, and the trap rattled back on its
way to Leatherhead.
I thought it as well, said Holmes as we climbed
the stile, that this fellow should think we had come here as architects, or on some
definite business. It may stop his gossip. Good-afternoon, Miss Stoner. You see that we
have been as good as our word.
Our client of the morning had hurried forward to meet us with
a face which spoke her joy. I have been waiting so eagerly for you, she cried,
shaking hands with us warmly. All has turned out splendidly. Dr. Roylott has gone to
town, and it is unlikely that he will be back before evening.
We have had the pleasure of making the doctors
acquaintance, said Holmes, and in a few words he sketched out what had occurred.
Miss Stoner turned white to the lips as she listened.
Good heavens! she cried, he has followed me,
So it appears.
He is so cunning that I never know when I am safe from
him. What will he say when he returns?
He must guard himself, for he may find that there is
someone more cunning than himself upon his track. You must lock yourself up from him
to-night. If he is violent, we shall take you away to your aunts at Harrow. Now, we
must make the best use of our time, so kindly take us at once to the rooms which we are to
The building was of gray, lichen-blotched stone, with a
high central portion and two curving wings, like the claws of a crab, thrown out on each
side. In one of these wings the windows were broken and blocked with wooden boards, while
the roof was partly caved in, a picture of ruin. The central portion was in little better
repair, but the right-hand block was comparatively modern, and the blinds in the windows,
with the blue smoke curling up from the chimneys, showed that this was where the family
resided. Some scaffolding had been erected against the end wall, and the stone-work had
been broken into, but there were no signs of any workmen at the moment of our visit.
Holmes walked slowly up and down the ill-trimmed lawn and examined with deep attention the
outsides of the windows.
This, I take it, belongs to the room in which you used
to sleep, the centre  one
to your sisters, and the one next to the main building to Dr. Roylotts
Exactly so. But I am now sleeping in the middle
Pending the alterations, as I understand. By the way,
there does not seem to be any very pressing need for repairs at that end wall.
There were none. I believe that it was an excuse to move
me from my room.
Ah! that is suggestive. Now, on the other side of this
narrow wing runs the corridor from which these three rooms open. There are windows in it,
Yes, but very small ones. Too narrow for anyone to pass
As you both locked your doors at night, your rooms were
unapproachable from that side. Now, would you have the kindness to go into your room and
bar your shutters?
Miss Stoner did so, and Holmes, after a careful examination
through the open window, endeavoured in every way to force the shutter open, but without
success. There was no slit through which a knife could be passed to raise the bar. Then
with his lens he tested the hinges, but they were of solid iron, built firmly into the
massive masonry. Hum! said he, scratching his chin in some perplexity,
my theory certainly presents some difficulties. No one could pass these shutters if
they were bolted. Well, we shall see if the inside throws any light upon the matter.
A small side door led into the whitewashed corridor from which
the three bedrooms opened. Holmes refused to examine the third chamber, so we passed at
once to the second, that in which Miss Stoner was now sleeping, and in which her sister
had met with her fate. It was a homely little room, with a low ceiling and a gaping
fireplace, after the fashion of old country-houses. A brown chest of drawers stood in one
corner, a narrow white-counterpaned bed in another, and a dressing-table on the left-hand
side of the window. These articles, with two small wicker-work chairs, made up all the
furniture in the room save for a square of Wilton carpet in the centre. The boards round
and the panelling of the walls were of brown, worm-eaten oak, so old and discoloured that
it may have dated from the original building of the house. Holmes drew one of the chairs
into a corner and sat silent, while his eyes travelled round and round and up and down,
taking in every detail of the apartment.
Where does that bell communicate with? he asked at
last, pointing to a thick bell-rope which hung down beside the bed, the tassel actually
lying upon the pillow.
It goes to the housekeepers room.
It looks newer than the other things?
Yes, it was only put there a couple of years ago.
Your sister asked for it, I suppose?
No, I never heard of her using it. We used always to get
what we wanted for ourselves.
Indeed, it seemed unnecessary to put so nice a bell-pull
there. You will excuse me for a few minutes while I satisfy myself as to this floor.
He threw himself down upon his face with his lens in his hand and crawled swiftly backward
and forward, examining minutely the cracks between the boards. Then he did the same with
the wood-work with which the chamber was panelled. Finally he walked over to the bed and
spent some time in staring at it and in running his eye up and down the wall. Finally he
took the bell-rope in his hand and gave it a brisk tug.
Why, its a dummy, said he.
No, it is not even attached to a wire. This is very
interesting. You can see now that it is fastened to a hook just above where the little
opening for the ventilator is.
How very absurd! I never noticed that before.
Very strange! muttered Holmes, pulling at the
rope. There are one or two very singular points about this room. For example, what a
fool a builder must be to open a ventilator into another room, when, with the same
trouble, he might have communicated with the outside air!
That is also quite modern, said the lady.
Done about the same time as the bell-rope?
Yes, there were several little changes carried out about
They seem to have been of a most interesting
characterdummy bell-ropes, and ventilators which do not ventilate. With your
permission, Miss Stoner, we shall now carry our researches into the inner apartment.
Dr. Grimesby Roylotts chamber was larger than that of
his stepdaughter, but was as plainly furnished. A camp-bed, a small wooden shelf full of
books, mostly of a technical character, an armchair beside the bed, a plain wooden chair
against the wall, a round table, and a large iron safe were the principal things which met
the eye. Holmes walked slowly round and examined each and all of them with the keenest
Whats in here? he asked, tapping the safe.
My stepfathers business papers.
Oh! you have seen inside, then?
Only once, some years ago. I remember that it was full
There isnt a cat in it, for example?
No. What a strange idea!
Well, look at this! He took up a small saucer of
milk which stood on the top of it.
No; we dont keep a cat. But there is a cheetah
and a baboon.
Ah, yes, of course! Well, a cheetah is just a big cat,
and yet a saucer of milk does not go very far in satisfying its wants, I daresay. There is
one point which I should wish to determine. He squatted down in front of the wooden
chair and examined the seat of it with the greatest attention.
Thank you. That is quite settled, said he, rising
and putting his lens in his pocket. Hello! Here is something interesting!
The object which had caught his eye was a small dog lash hung
on one corner of the bed. The lash, however, was curled upon itself and tied so as to make
a loop of whipcord.
What do you make of that, Watson?
Its a common enough lash. But I dont know
why it should be tied.
That is not quite so common, is it? Ah, me! its a
wicked world, and when a clever man turns his brains to crime it is the worst of all. I
think that I have seen enough now, Miss Stoner, and with your permission we shall walk out
upon the lawn.
I had never seen my friends face so grim or his brow so
dark as it was when we turned from the scene of this investigation. We had walked several
times up and down the lawn, neither Miss Stoner nor myself liking to break in upon his
thoughts before he roused himself from his reverie.
is very essential, Miss Stoner, said he, that you should absolutely follow my
advice in every respect.
I shall most certainly do so.
The matter is too serious for any hesitation. Your life
may depend upon your compliance.
I assure you that I am in your hands.
In the first place, both my friend and I must spend the
night in your room.
Both Miss Stoner and I gazed at him in astonishment.
Yes, it must be so. Let me explain. I believe that that
is the village inn over there?
Yes, that is the Crown.
Very good. Your windows would be visible from
You must confine yourself to your room, on pretence of a
headache, when your stepfather comes back. Then when you hear him retire for the night,
you must open the shutters of your window, undo the hasp, put your lamp there as a signal
to us, and then withdraw quietly with everything which you are likely to want into the
room which you used to occupy. I have no doubt that, in spite of the repairs, you could
manage there for one night.
Oh, yes, easily.
The rest you will leave in our hands.
But what will you do?
We shall spend the night in your room, and we shall
investigate the cause of this noise which has disturbed you.
I believe, Mr. Holmes, that you have already made up
your mind, said Miss Stoner, laying her hand upon my companions sleeve.
Perhaps I have.
Then, for pitys sake, tell me what was the cause
of my sisters death.
I should prefer to have clearer proofs before I
You can at least tell me whether my own thought is
correct, and if she died from some sudden fright.
No, I do not think so. I think that there was probably
some more tangible cause. And now, Miss Stoner, we must leave you, for if Dr. Roylott
returned and saw us our journey would be in vain. Good-bye, and be brave, for if you will
do what I have told you you may rest assured that we shall soon drive away the dangers
that threaten you.
Sherlock Holmes and I had no difficulty in engaging a
bedroom and sitting-room at the Crown Inn. They were on the upper floor, and from our
window we could command a view of the avenue gate, and of the inhabited wing of Stoke
Moran Manor House. At dusk we saw Dr. Grimesby Roylott drive past, his huge form looming
up beside the little figure of the lad who drove him. The boy had some slight difficulty
in undoing the heavy iron gates, and we heard the hoarse roar of the doctors voice
and saw the fury with which he shook his clinched fists at him. The trap drove on, and a
few minutes later we saw a sudden light spring up among the trees as the lamp was lit in
one of the sitting-rooms.
Do you know, Watson, said Holmes as we sat
together in the gathering darkness, I have really some scruples as to taking you
to-night. There is a distinct element of danger.
Can I be of assistance?
presence might be invaluable.
Then I shall certainly come.
It is very kind of you.
You speak of danger. You have evidently seen more in
these rooms than was visible to me.
No, but I fancy that I may have deduced a little more. I
imagine that you saw all that I did.
I saw nothing remarkable save the bell-rope, and what
purpose that could answer I confess is more than I can imagine.
You saw the ventilator, too?
Yes, but I do not think that it is such a very unusual
thing to have a small opening between two rooms. It was so small that a rat could hardly
I knew that we should find a ventilator before ever we
came to Stoke Moran.
My dear Holmes!
Oh, yes, I did. You remember in her statement she said
that her sister could smell Dr. Roylotts cigar. Now, of course that suggested at
once that there must be a communication between the two rooms. It could only be a small
one, or it would have been remarked upon at the coroners inquiry. I deduced a
But what harm can there be in that?
Well, there is at least a curious coincidence of dates.
A ventilator is made, a cord is hung, and a lady who sleeps in the bed dies. Does not that
I cannot as yet see any connection.
Did you observe anything very peculiar about that
It was clamped to the floor. Did you ever see a bed
fastened like that before?
I cannot say that I have.
The lady could not move her bed. It must always be in
the same relative position to the ventilator and to the ropeor so we may call it,
since it was clearly never meant for a bell-pull.
Holmes, I cried, I seem to see dimly what
you are hinting at. We are only just in time to prevent some subtle and horrible
Subtle enough and horrible enough. When a doctor does go
wrong he is the first of criminals. He has nerve and he has knowledge. Palmer and
Pritchard were among the heads of their profession. This man strikes even deeper, but I
think, Watson, that we shall be able to strike deeper still. But we shall have horrors
enough before the night is over; for goodness sake let us have a quiet pipe and turn
our minds for a few hours to something more cheerful.
About nine oclock the light among the trees was
extinguished, and all was dark in the direction of the Manor House. Two hours passed
slowly away, and then, suddenly, just at the stroke of eleven, a single bright light shone
out right in front of us.
That is our signal, said Holmes, springing to his
feet; it comes from the middle window.
As we passed out he exchanged a few words with the landlord,
explaining that we were going on a late visit to an acquaintance, and that it was possible
that we might spend the night there. A moment later we were out on the dark road, a chill
wind blowing in our faces, and one yellow light twinkling in front of us through the gloom
to guide us on our sombre errand.
There was little difficulty in entering the grounds, for
unrepaired breaches  gaped
in the old park wall. Making our way among the trees, we reached the lawn, crossed it, and
were about to enter through the window when out from a clump of laurel bushes there darted
what seemed to be a hideous and distorted child, who threw itself upon the grass with
writhing limbs and then ran swiftly across the lawn into the darkness.
My God! I whispered; did you see
Holmes was for the moment as startled as I. His hand closed
like a vise upon my wrist in his agitation. Then he broke into a low laugh and put his
lips to my ear.
It is a nice household, he murmured. That is
I had forgotten the strange pets which the doctor affected.
There was a cheetah, too; perhaps we might find it upon our shoulders at any moment. I
confess that I felt easier in my mind when, after following Holmess example and
slipping off my shoes, I found myself inside the bedroom. My companion noiselessly closed
the shutters, moved the lamp onto the table, and cast his eyes round the room. All was as
we had seen it in the daytime. Then creeping up to me and making a trumpet of his hand, he
whispered into my ear again so gently that it was all that I could do to distinguish the
The least sound would be fatal to our plans.
I nodded to show that I had heard.
We must sit without light. He would see it through the
I nodded again.
Do not go asleep; your very life may depend upon it.
Have your pistol ready in case we should need it. I will sit on the side of the bed, and
you in that chair.
I took out my revolver and laid it on the corner of the table.
Holmes had brought up a long thin cane, and this he placed
upon the bed beside him. By it he laid the box of matches and the stump of a candle. Then
he turned down the lamp, and we were left in darkness.
How shall I ever forget that dreadful vigil? I could not hear
a sound, not even the drawing of a breath, and yet I knew that my companion sat open-eyed,
within a few feet of me, in the same state of nervous tension in which I was myself. The
shutters cut off the least ray of light, and we waited in absolute darkness. From outside
came the occasional cry of a night-bird, and once at our very window a long drawn catlike
whine, which told us that the cheetah was indeed at liberty. Far away we could hear the
deep tones of the parish clock, which boomed out every quarter of an hour. How long they
seemed, those quarters! Twelve struck, and one and two and three, and still we sat waiting
silently for whatever might befall.
Suddenly there was the momentary gleam of a light up in the
direction of the ventilator, which vanished immediately, but was succeeded by a strong
smell of burning oil and heated metal. Someone in the next room had lit a dark-lantern. I
heard a gentle sound of movement, and then all was silent once more, though the smell grew
stronger. For half an hour I sat with straining ears. Then suddenly another sound became
audiblea very gentle, soothing sound, like that of a small jet of steam escaping
continually from a kettle. The instant that we heard it, Holmes sprang from the bed,
struck a match, and lashed furiously with his cane at the bell-pull.
You see it, Watson? he yelled. You see
But I saw nothing. At the moment when Holmes struck the light
I heard a low, clear whistle, but the sudden glare flashing into my weary eyes made it
impossible  for me to
tell what it was at which my friend lashed so savagely. I could, however, see that his
face was deadly pale and filled with horror and loathing.
He had ceased to strike and was gazing up at the ventilator
when suddenly there broke from the silence of the night the most horrible cry to which I
have ever listened. It swelled up louder and louder, a hoarse yell of pain and fear and
anger all mingled in the one dreadful shriek. They say that away down in the village, and
even in the distant parsonage, that cry raised the sleepers from their beds. It struck
cold to our hearts, and I stood gazing at Holmes, and he at me, until the last echoes of
it had died away into the silence from which it rose.
What can it mean? I gasped.
It means that it is all over, Holmes answered.
And perhaps, after all, it is for the best. Take your pistol, and we will enter Dr.
With a grave face he lit the lamp and led the way down the
corridor. Twice he struck at the chamber door without any reply from within. Then he
turned the handle and entered, I at his heels, with the cocked pistol in my hand.
It was a singular sight which met our eyes. On the table stood
a dark-lantern with the shutter half open, throwing a brilliant beam of light upon the
iron safe, the door of which was ajar. Beside this table, on the wooden chair, sat Dr.
Grimesby Roylott, clad in a long gray dressing-gown, his bare ankles protruding beneath,
and his feet thrust into red heelless Turkish slippers. Across his lap lay the short stock
with the long lash which we had noticed during the day. His chin was cocked upward and his
eyes were fixed in a dreadful, rigid stare at the corner of the ceiling. Round his brow he
had a peculiar yellow band, with brownish speckles, which seemed to be bound tightly round
his head. As we entered he made neither sound nor motion.
The band! the speckled band! whispered Holmes.
I took a step forward. In an instant his strange headgear
began to move, and there reared itself from among his hair the squat diamond-shaped head
and puffed neck of a loathsome serpent.
It is a swamp adder! cried Holmes; the
deadliest snake in India. He has died within ten seconds of being bitten. Violence does,
in truth, recoil upon the violent, and the schemer falls into the pit which he digs for
another. Let us thrust this creature back into its den, and we can then remove Miss Stoner
to some place of shelter and let the county police know what has happened.
As he spoke he drew the dog-whip swiftly from the dead
mans lap, and throwing the noose round the reptiles neck he drew it from its
horrid perch and, carrying it at arms length, threw it into the iron safe, which he
closed upon it.
Such are the true facts of the death of Dr. Grimesby
Roylott, of Stoke Moran. It is not necessary that I should prolong a narrative which has
already run to too great a length by telling how we broke the sad news to the terrified
girl, how we conveyed her by the morning train to the care of her good aunt at Harrow, of
how the slow process of official inquiry came to the conclusion that the doctor met his
fate while indiscreetly playing with a dangerous pet. The little which I had yet to learn
of the case was told me by Sherlock Holmes as we travelled back next day.
I had, said he, come to an entirely
erroneous conclusion which shows, my dear Watson, how dangerous it always is to reason
from insufficient data. The presence of the gypsies, and the use of the word
band, which was used by the poor girl, no  doubt to explain the appearance which she had caught a
hurried glimpse of by the light of her match, were sufficient to put me upon an entirely
wrong scent. I can only claim the merit that I instantly reconsidered my position when,
however, it became clear to me that whatever danger threatened an occupant of the room
could not come either from the window or the door. My attention was speedily drawn, as I
have already remarked to you, to this ventilator, and to the bell-rope which hung down to
the bed. The discovery that this was a dummy, and that the bed was clamped to the floor,
instantly gave rise to the suspicion that the rope was there as a bridge for something
passing through the hole and coming to the bed. The idea of a snake instantly occurred to
me, and when I coupled it with my knowledge that the doctor was furnished with a supply of
creatures from India, I felt that I was probably on the right track. The idea of using a
form of poison which could not possibly be discovered by any chemical test was just such a
one as would occur to a clever and ruthless man who had had an Eastern training. The
rapidity with which such a poison would take effect would also, from his point of view, be
an advantage. It would be a sharp-eyed coroner, indeed, who could distinguish the two
little dark punctures which would show where the poison fangs had done their work. Then I
thought of the whistle. Of course he must recall the snake before the morning light
revealed it to the victim. He had trained it, probably by the use of the milk which we
saw, to return to him when summoned. He would put it through this ventilator at the hour
that he thought best, with the certainty that it would crawl down the rope and land on the
bed. It might or might not bite the occupant, perhaps she might escape every night for a
week, but sooner or later she must fall a victim.
I had come to these conclusions before ever I had
entered his room. An inspection of his chair showed me that he had been in the habit of
standing on it, which of course would be necessary in order that he should reach the
ventilator. The sight of the safe, the saucer of milk, and the loop of whipcord were
enough to finally dispel any doubts which may have remained. The metallic clang heard by
Miss Stoner was obviously caused by her stepfather hastily closing the door of his safe
upon its terrible occupant. Having once made up my mind, you know the steps which I took
in order to put the matter to the proof. I heard the creature hiss as I have no doubt that
you did also, and I instantly lit the light and attacked it.
With the result of driving it through the
And also with the result of causing it to turn upon its
master at the other side. Some of the blows of my cane came home and roused its snakish
temper, so that it flew upon the first person it saw. In this way I am no doubt indirectly
responsible for Dr. Grimesby Roylotts death, and I cannot say that it is likely to
weigh very heavily upon my conscience.