How does Holmes react to Dr. Roylott in "The Adventure of the Speckled Band"?

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William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Roylott only meet in person one time. Dr. Watson is present and describes the meeting. Roylott bursts into Holmes' sitting room and tries to interrogate and intimidate the detective. Holmes is perfectly cool and even mocks the intruder by totally ignoring his questions. For example:

“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 imperturbably.

Holmes and Watson do not see Dr. Roylott again after he storms out of Holmes' living room until he is dead, having been bitten by his own poisonous snake. It was not absolutely necessary to the story to introduce Dr. Roylott after his stepdaughter Helen leaves. Holmes could have gone down to Stoke Moran, inspected the rooms, waited in the dark with Watson, and driven the "speckled band" back through the ventilator, where it killed its owner--all without ever having met his antagonist while Dr. Roylott was still alive. The purpose of the short and unproductive meeting between Roylott and Holmes was to introduce the element of conflict and drama. The story becomes a conflict between these two strong-willed men, and the menace of Dr. Roylott hangs over the remainder of the story. If this powerful and half-mad man were to catch Holmes and Watson snooping inside his country manor, he is quite capable to trying to kill them. A country gentleman like Roylott would certainly possess an assortment of guns. 

Fortunately, Roylott remains in London for the remainder of the day after threatening Holmes. And when Holmes and Watson see him again that night he is sitting dead. By driving the snake back into Roylott's room, Holmes had settled their conflict by causing the other man's death.

"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.”

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The Adventure of the Speckled Band

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