over my notes of the seventy odd cases in which I
have during the last eight years studied the methods
of my friend Sherlock Holmes, I find many tragic,
some comic, a large number merely strange, but none
commonplace; for, working as he did rather for the
love of his art than for the acquirement of wealth,
he refused to associate himself with any
investigation which did not tend towards the
unusual, and even the fantastic. Of all these varied
cases, however, I cannot recall any which presented
more singular features than that which was
associated with the well-known Surrey family of the
Roylotts of Stoke Moran. The events in question
occurred in the early days of my association with
Holmes, when we were sharing rooms as bachelors in
Baker Street. It is possible that I might have
placed them upon record before, but a promise of
secrecy was made at the time, from which I have only
been freed during the last month by the untimely
death of the lady to whom the pledge was given. It
is perhaps as well that the facts should now come to
light, for I have reasons to know that there are
widespread rumours as to the death of Dr. Grimesby
Roylott which tend to make the matter even more
terrible than the truth.
It was early in April in the
year '83 that I woke one morning to find Sherlock
Holmes standing, fully dressed, by the side of my
bed. He was a late riser, as a rule, and as the
clock on the mantelpiece showed me that it was only
a quarter-past seven, I blinked up at him in some
surprise, and perhaps just a little resentment, for
I was myself regular in my habits.
"Very sorry to knock you up,
Watson," said he, "but it's the common lot this
morning. Mrs. Hudson has been knocked up, she
retorted upon me, and I on you."
"What is it, then--a fire?"
"No; a client. It seems that
a young lady has arrived in a considerable state of
excitement, who insists upon seeing me. She is
waiting now in the sitting-room. Now, when young
ladies wander about the metropolis at this hour of
the morning, and knock sleepy people up out of their
beds, I presume that it is something very pressing
which they have to communicate. Should it prove to
be an interesting case, you would, I am sure, wish
to follow it from the outset. I thought, at any
rate, that I should call you and give you the
"My dear fellow, I would not
miss it for anything."
I had no keener pleasure
than in following Holmes in his professional
investigations, and in admiring the rapid
deductions, as swift as intuitions, and yet always
founded on a logical basis with which he unravelled
the problems which were submitted to him. I rapidly
threw on my clothes and was ready in a few minutes
to accompany my friend down to the sitting-room. A
lady dressed in black and heavily veiled, who had
been sitting in the window, rose as we entered.
"Good-morning, madam," said
Holmes cheerily. "My name is Sherlock Holmes. This
is my intimate friend and associate, Dr. Watson,
before whom you can speak as freely as before
myself. Ha! I am glad to see that Mrs. Hudson has
had the good sense to light the fire. Pray draw up
to it, and I shall order you a cup of hot coffee,
for I observe that you are shivering."
"lt is not cold which makes
me shiver," said the woman in a low voice, changing
her seat as requested.
"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 companion.
"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 to--none,
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
Holmes turned to his desk
and, unlocking it, drew out a small case-book, which
"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 matter."
"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
"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 mother's
re-marriage. She had a considerable sum of
money--not less than 1000 pounds 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
"But a terrible change came
over our stepfather about this time. Instead of
making friends and exchanging visits with our
neighbors, 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 stepfather's 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
"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
"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 mother's maiden sister, Miss Honoria
Westphail, who lives near Harrow, and we were
occasionally allowed to pay short visits at this
lady's 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.
Roylott's, the second my sister's, 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 o'clock 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
"'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 from perhaps 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
"'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
"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
"Quite so. Pray proceed with
"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 sister's 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 sister's 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 doctor's 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 sister's 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 to?"
"He investigated the case
with great care, for Dr. Roylott's 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
"How about poison?"
"The doctors examined her
for it, but without success."
"What do you think that this
unfortunate lady died of, then?"
"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 band--a 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 satisfied.
"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 honor
to ask my hand in marriage. His name is
Armitage--Percy Armitage--the 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 stepfather."
"Why, what do you mean?"
For answer Holmes pushed
back the frill of black lace which fringed the hand
that lay upon our visitor's 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 colored 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, Watson?"
"By no means."
"Then we shall both come.
What are you going to do yourself?"
"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 o'clock 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
"No, 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
"It seems to me to be a most
dark and sinister business."
"Dark enough and sinister
"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 stepdaughter's 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
"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
"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 Holmes.
"What has she been saying to
you?" screamed the old man furiously.
"But I have heard that the
crocuses promise well," continued my companion
"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."
My friend smiled.
"Holmes, the busybody!"
His smile broadened.
"Holmes, the Scotland Yard
Holmes chuckled heartily.
"Your conversation is most entertaining," said he.
"When you go out close the door, for there is a
"I will go when I have said
my say. Don't 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 matter."
It was nearly one o'clock
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 wife's death was little short of 1100 pounds, is
now, through the fall in agricultural prices, not
more than 750 pounds. Each daughter can claim an
income of 250 pounds, 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 morning's 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 Eley's 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 laries.
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
"Look there!" said he.
A heavily timbered park
stretched up in a gentle slope, thickening mto 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
"There's 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, you'll 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
"We have had the pleasure of
making the doctor's acquaintance," said Holmes, and
in a few words he sketched out what had occurred.
Miss Stoner turned white to the lips as she
"Good heavens!" she cried,
"he has followed me, then."
"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 aunt's 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 examine."
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 sister's, and the one next to the main
building to Dr. Roylott's chamber?"
"Exactly so. But I am now
sleeping in the middle one."
"Pending the alterations, as
I understand. By the way, there does not seem to be
any very pressing need for repairs at that end
"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, of course?"
"Yes, but very small ones.
Too narrow for anyone to pass through."
"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, endeavored 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 discolored 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
"Where does that bell
communicate with?" he asked at last pointing to a
thick belt-rope which hung down beside the bed, the
tassel actually lying upon the pillow.
"It goes to the
"It looks newer than the
"Yes, it was only put there
a couple of years ago."
"Your sister asked for it, I
"No, I never heard of her
using it. We used always to get what we wanted for
"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, it's a dummy," said
"Won't it ring?"
"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?" remarked Holmes.
"Yes, there were several
little changes carried out about that time."
"They seem to have been of a
most interesting character--dummy 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 Roylott's
chamber was larger than that of his step-daughter,
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 interest.
"What's in here?" he asked,
tapping the safe.
"My stepfather's business
"Oh! you have seen inside,
"Only once, some years ago.
I remember that it was full of papers."
"There isn't a cat in it,
"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 don't 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
"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,
"It's a common enough lash.
But I don't know why if should be tied."
"That is not quite so
common, is it? Ah, me! it's 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 friend's
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.
"It is very essential, Miss
Stoner," said he, "that you should absolutely follow
my advice in every respect."
"I shall most certainly do
"The matter is too serious
for any hesitation. Your life may depend upon your
"I assure you that I am in
"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
"Yes, that is the Crown."
"Very good. Your windows
would be visible from there?"
"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
"Oh, yes, easily."
"The rest you will leave in
"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 companion's sleeve.
"Perhaps I have."
"Then, for pity's sake, tell
me what was the cause of my sister's death."
"I should prefer to have
clearer proofs before I speak."
"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
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 doctor's
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
"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?"
"Your presence might be
"Then I shall certainly
"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,
"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 pass through."
"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. Roylott's 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 coroner's
inquiry. I deduced a ventilator."
"But what harm can there be
"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 strike you?"
"I cannot as yet see any
"Did you observe anything
very peculiar about that bed?"
"It was clamped to the
floor. Did you ever see a bed fastened like that
"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 rope--or so we may call
it, since it was clearly never meant for a
"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 o'clock 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
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 it?"
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 the baboon."
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 Holmes's 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 words:
"The least sound would be
fatal to our plans."
I nodded to show that I had
"We must sit without light.
He would see it through the ventilator."
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 audible--a
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 it?"
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
"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. Roylott's room."
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
"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 man's lap, and
throwing the noose round the reptile's neck he drew
it from its horrid perch and, carrying it at arm's
length, threw it into the iron safe, which he closed
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
"With the result of driving
it through the ventilator."
"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 Roylott's
death, and I cannot say that it is likely to weigh
very heavily upon my conscience."