Helen's mother used to receive a sum of 1000 pounds a year which after her death passed on to her family that consisted of Helen and her twin sister Julia, and their step father. According to the terms of the mother's will once the sisters got married a certain amount was to be given to them annually.
The step father was aware of this and as he had no other source of income of his own did all that he could to prevent the sisters from getting married. He killed Julia with the help of his pet snake when he heard that she was going to get married.
The snake had been trained to respond to the sound of his whistle and return to him, once he had bitten the victim. After Julia died there was no need to use the whistle to recall the snake.
Later, when Helen decided to get married, the step father tried to kill Helen and attempted the same method he had used with Julia. This required him to blow the whistle.
Fortunately for Helen, he did not succeed the first time; the whistle's sound instead warning Helen and leading her to seek the help of Sherlock Holmes.