20 September 2016


Written by Arthur Conan Doyle 

(Abridged and adapted)

     One early morning the famous detective Mr. Sherlock Holmes woke up his friend Dr. Watson. He told him that a lady whose name was Helen Stoner had come to see him. She looked very unhappy and needed some serious help. She told them the following story. 

     Helen had become engaged a month ago.  Her parents had died and she was living with her stepfather Grimesley Roylott at Stoke Moran. Grimesley belonged to a family that had once been rich. But after a few years his family was no longer rich. 

     Grimesley was a cruel man.  He had worked as a doctor in India for a few years. One day he beat his servant to death. He was sent to prison for that. When Grimesley came out of prison, he decided to go back to England. He brought with him two pets, a wild cat and a monkey.

     Helen had a twin sister. Her name was Julia.  She died two years ago, just after she was engaged. Nobody knew why she died. The reason of her death was still a mystery.  On the night she died, she went to Helen’s bedroom and talked with her for a long time.  As Julia had recently become engaged, she had so many things to talk about with her sister.  

     It was already late evening when Julia came back to her room.  Just before leaving, Julia asked Helen if she had ever heard a whistle at night. For several nights, a whistling sound had awakened her. Helen was a heavy sleeper, and she said she had not heard it. 

     After Julia left her sister's room, she entered her own bedroom and locked the door. After a few minutes, Julia began shouting loudly. Helen went out into the corridor. When she was leaving her room, she heard a low whistle and a metallic sound. 

     Julia went out into the corridor. She was feeling terrible pain. Before she died, she shouted: "It was the band, the speckled band!". Then she died.

The police came but they did not find out anything. Nobody could have entered the room as Julia had locked the door from the inside. Helen thought that Julia had died of fear.

     After her sister’s death, her stepfather decided to make some repairs in Helen’s bedroom. So Helen had to sleep in the same room where her sister had died. During the night Helen heard the same whistle that her sister had heard before her death. She quickly got dressed and came to see Sherlock Holmes.

     After listening to Helen’s story, Sherlock Holmes decided to go and to see the house where Julia died.  He went to the house with his friend Dr. Watson. When at the house Sherlock Holmes noticed that Helen's room did not need any repairs. He thought that the repairs were an excuse to move Helen into her sister's old bedroom. 

     Sherlock Holmes also noticed that Julia's bedroom had a ventilator in the wall between her room and her stepfather’s room. In addition, there was a satin rope that led from the ventilator to the bed. Sherlock Holmes noticed that the ventilator and the rope were quite new, and had been put there quite recently, most probably just before the death of Julia. He also noticed another interesting thing. The bed was fixed to the floor. It could not be moved. All these things seemed to be very strange to Sherlock Holmes. 

     Sherlock Holmes thought that the real reason for the rope and the ventilator was to allow something dangerous to go from Grimesley’s room through the ventilator to the bed and kill the person sleeping there. He thought that the rope was made for a snake to move up and down.  As Grimesley had a few pets - a wild cat and a monkey - he might have a snake too – perhaps a poisonous snake.

     In nearby Grimesley’s room Sherlock Holmes noticed a safe and a dog-whip with an unusual loop tied in it. He thought that Grimesley might keep the snake in the safe and use the dog-whip to control the snake when it came out of the safe.

     Before evening came, Sherlock Holmes told Helen to lock herself into Julia's bedroom and to tell her stepfather that she was ill. When her stepfather went to bed, she communicate this to Holmes and Dr. Watson by opening the window – they were waiting for this signal in the garden of the house. Then she silently left Julia's bedroom to spend the night in her own room. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson then got into Julia’s room through the window and waited in the darkness.

     They were sitting and waiting in the dark room for a long time. Suddenly they heard a hissing sound. And then they heard a whistle. Sherlock Holmes, who was sitting next to the bed, got up, lit a match, and started beating something with his cane. Then, after a short time they heard a terrible cry in the room next to the room they were in.

     When Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson entered the room, they saw Helen’s stepfather, Grimesley, dead on the floor. A speckled snake was coiled about his head. It was a very poisonous snake. When Sherlock Holmes had beaten the snake with his cane, the snake had become very angry. It returned to Grimesley’s room through the ventilator and bit its master.

     Sherlock Holmes used the dog-whip to return the snake to the safe.

     Helen did not want to tell the police about what happened. She did not want people to know about this criminal case.  So, Sherlock Holmes did not tell the police what had happened. The police believed that Grimesley had died while playing with a dangerous pet.

     Sherlock Holmes explained to Watson that Grimesley had trained the snake to come when he whistled, and by giving it milk as a reward when it followed his orders. If the snake did not bite the girl, he called it back by a whistle and tried again the following night. The metallic sound that Helen had heard on the night of Julia's death had come from the door of the safe. When Grimesley put the snake back into the safe and shut the door of the safe, a metal sound was heard. 

     Sherlock Holmes also found out why the stepfather killed Julia, and was trying to kill Helen. After consulting with lawyers he found that each sister was to receive 250 pounds from Grimesley when she got married. This meant that Grimesley would lose 500 pounds if both of his stepdaughters got married. Grimesley’s greed had been the reason for killing Julia, and trying to kill Helen.

Abridged and adapted from the original version by Algirdas Makarevicius: 
The Adventure of the Speckled Band, by Arthur Conan Doyle

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