illustration of Sherlock Holmes in profile looking across a cityscape with a magnifying glass in the distance and a speckled band visible through the glass

The Adventure of the Speckled Band

by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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Discussion Topic

Sherlock Holmes' deduction skills and the clues he uses to solve the mystery in "The Adventure of the Speckled Band."

Summary:

Sherlock Holmes' deduction skills in "The Adventure of the Speckled Band" involve interpreting minute clues, such as mud splatters on Miss Stoner's jacket, to deduce her arrival method. He examines key areas and combines various hints, like nighttime whistles and metallic sounds, to solve the crime. Holmes' conjectures, often red herrings, maintain suspense, ultimately revealing the true culprit through careful investigation.

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What evidence from "The Adventure of the Speckled Band" shows Sherlock Holmes' deduction skills?

Holmes is able to make clever deductions from minute pieces of seemingly inconsequential evidence. He demonstrates this when he is able to explain how Miss Stoner arrived at Baker Street-

 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.

He decides which areas he needs to examine in order to determine the real events of the crime, and to defend Miss Stoner from any harm-

When you combine the ideas of whistles at night, the presence of a band of gipsies 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.

Holmes is able to rule out the gypsies, and by examining the rooms of Dr Roylott and Miss Stoner, to establish the bizarre course of events.

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Why does Sherlock Holmes guess events in "The Adventure of the Speckled Band"?

"The Adventure of the Speckled Band" by Arthur Conan Doyle is one of many stories Doyle wrote about his fictional detective Sherlock Holmes. These detective stories follow a fairly straightforward narrative trajectory. The main plots of the stories about Holmes usually begin with a new client or person in distress bringing a problem of some sort to Holmes' attention. Dr. Watson, chronicler of and foil for Holmes, normally indulges in a certain amount of speculation. Holmes himself usually offers some cryptic conjectures, thinks about the problem, and then begins research in earnest. The next stage is normally a visit to the site of the crime to confirm Holmes' ideas, and finally a dramatic scene in which the criminal is revealed and apprehended.

The main suspense in the stories does not just lie in the identity of the murderer but also in how Holmes will manage to figure out the means and identity of the criminal. As Doyle has Watson and Holmes speculate about the crime, we as readers pit our intellects against theirs, using their conjectures to try to piece together the crimes for ourselves. Holmes' conjectures often serve as a plot device know as a "red herring," a way to distract the reader from the actual suspect and maintain the suspense in the story. The main red herring in "The Adventure of the Speckled Band" is the gypsy band, which has nothing to do with the actual speckled band responsible for the murder and attempted murder.

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What clues help Sherlock Holmes solve the case in "The Adventure of the Speckled Band"?

There are other suggestive circumstances that should make the reader suspect that Dr. Roylott is responsible for the death of Julia Stoner and is trying to murder her sister Helen. These are not exactly clues but details of great significance. One is that Grimesby is a doctor. This, of course, suggests that he should know a great deal about poisons and could know of a type of poison which is undetectable in an autopsy. If such an undetectable poison existed, Roylott was the kind of man who would have found out about it.

Another striking detail has to do with money. Roylott would have been legally obliged to pay Julia a large sum of money if she got married and would have been obliged to do the same to Helen, who was engaged to be married within as little as one month.

She [the mother] had a considerable sum of money—not 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.

Roylott is hard up for money and has his estate mortgaged for more than it is worth. He would face financial ruin if he had to pay either of his stepdaughters the money they are entitled to.

Roylott has spent many years in India and seems to know a lot about exotic Indian animals. The cheetah and the baboon symbolize his esoteric interests.

Roylott associates with a band of rather mysterious gypsies, who could conceivably aid and abet him in killing his stepdaughters. These gypsies might know of undetectable poisons.

Dr. Roylott shows that he has a terrible temper. He served a long term in prison in India for killing a servant. He is hated and feared by everybody in the neighborhood of Stoke Moran. When he bursts into Holmes' room at Baker Street he makes a display of his strength, temper, and potential violence.

“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.

The reader is sure that Dr. Roylott is responsible for Julia Stoner's death and is trying to murder her sister Helen. Roylott is a "prime suspect." The only question is how he could manage to do it.

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What clues help Sherlock Holmes solve the case in "The Adventure of the Speckled Band"?

The first clues that help Holmes solve the mystery are derived from his investigation into the estate of Helen and Julia's mother. From this, Holmes determines that if either Helen or Julia marries, Dr. Roylott's finances would be severely impeded; if both were to marry, he would be in financial ruin. This clearly gives Dr. Roylott a motive for the murder(s).

Next is Dr. Roylott's demand that Helen move into a particular room in his home, Stoke Moran. This seems a strange request and leads Holmes to believe that this room must, in some way, present Dr. Roylott with the opportunity to carry out his crime. Now, motive and opportunity have been established, Homes and Watson only have to infiltrate the room and await for the details to reveal themselves.

From the seemingly pointless ventilation shaft and the equally useless bell rope, Holmes is able to deduce that these two elements must be involved in the murder attempt in some way--why else would they be there? From the other details of of the whistling sound, the metallic clank, and the exotic pets that Dr. Roylott keeps on the grounds, Holmes deduces that some sort of animal must make its way through the vent and down the rope toward its victim.

Holmes only has to await the arrival of the swamp adder to confirm his theory.

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What clues help Sherlock Holmes solve the case in "The Adventure of the Speckled Band"?

There are at least three things that Sherlock Holmes would notice that would make him think that Roylott is the one who has killed Julia and is trying to kill Helen.  These are all things that Roylott has done that do not make a lot of sense if he is not the murderer.

  • Why does he have Helen move into the room where Julia died?
  • Why did he have this vent constructed that does not lead to the outside?  It just goes to another room -- that makes no sense.
  • Why does he put in this bell pull that is not attached to a bell?

All of this stuff makes no sense so it must be connected to the murder.

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Discuss three clues that Sherlock Holmes uses to solve the case.

When Helen Stoner first visits Sherlock Holmes, she describes sounds that she has been hearing in the night:

during the last few nights I have always, about three in the morning, heard a low, clear whistle. . . .

and

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.

Holmes mentally files away this information and will retrieve it when he is staying at Stoke Manor during his active investigation.

In the same initial interview, Helen Stoner tells Holmes that, because of some renovations to Stoke Manor,

I have had to move into the chamber in which my sister died, and to sleep in the very bed in which she slept.

These are two clues that Holmes uses to determine that the death of Miss Stoner's sister was a murder. Holmes also deduces that these strange occurrences figure prominently in the imminent threat to Miss Stoner's life. The sounds are significant, as is the location of her new bedchamber, and Holmes recognizes that right away. He has only to determine the particulars.

When he arrives at Stoke Manor and begins inspecting Helen Stoner's quarters, he notices the nonfunctioning bell pull. He observes

that it is fastened to a hook just above where the little opening for the ventilator is.

He easily sees that it is used to create an opening in the room—an opening large enough for the snake to enter.

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Discuss three clues that Sherlock Holmes uses to solve the case.

I want to talk about four clues that seem important here.

First, you have the fact that Dr. Roylott has moved Miss Helen Stoner into the room that used to be her sister's room.  This suggests that there is something in particular about that room that helps him kill people.

Second, you have the fact that Roylott put the bell pull in without Julia asking for it.  Why would he do that if it did not have to do with her death?

Third, the bell pull is not attached to a bell -- just to a hook in the vent.

Last, the vent leads to the next room, not to the outside.  It would make more sense and be easier for a vent to hook up to the outdoors.

So the vent and bell pull are weird and they are put in this room where Roylott wants Helen to sleep.  Very suspicious.

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How does Sherlock Holmes solve the Speckled Band mystery?

It is typical of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories that the great detective explains his whole line of reasoning--almost invariably to his friend and biographer Dr. Watson--near the very end of the story. This is understandable, since the usual pattern of these stories is to describe what Holmes says and does through the eyes and ears of Watson, but not to tell what Holmes might be thinking. Watson himself usually sees the same things as Holmes, since they are both together at the scene, but Watson is not capable of making the same kinds of deductions as his friend. Since the reader is getting the whole narrative from Watson, the reader is challenged to make his own deductions from the evidence. These deductions may be correct or incorrect, or partially correct and partially incorrect, but the reader cannot be sure about his suspicions or conclusions until he reaches the end of the story. In "The Adventure of the Speckled Band," Sherlock Holmes explains all of his observations and deductions in detail as follows:

"The presence of the gipsies, 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....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.

"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.

The presence of the gipsies was intended to put the reader as well as Sherlock Holmes "upon an entirely wrong scent." It was only too obvious from the beginning that the terrible Dr. Roylott must be the villain in the piece. The gipsies make it just vaguely possible that someone other than Roylott was responsible for Julia's death and is planning to murder her sister Helen. But even if the gipsies are directly responsible for killing Julia, that still doesn't exonerate Dr. Roylott. He is on exceptionally friendly terms with this "band" of gipsies who camp on his estate. He could have paid them to kill Julia, and he could be paying them to kill Helen.

It is only when Sherlock Holmes, accompanied by his faithful friend Dr. Watson, inspects the room in which Helen is now sleeping, along with the room directly next door which is occupied by her stepfather, that he is able to put the pieces of the puzzle together. In Helen's room he first notices the ventilator and the bell-rope. He quickly discovers that the bell-rope is a dummy, which suggests that it is there for some sinister purpose. Then when he finds that the bed has been bolted to the floor so that it cannot be moved to any other part of the room, the idea of a snake, as he says, occurs to him instantly. Holmes is expecting to find evidence of the existence of a poisonous snake even before he enters Dr. Roylott's room. A man with Roylott's scientific background and knowledge of Indian animals could possess a snake whose venom would not be detected upon autopsy.

Then Holmes and Watson go into Dr. Roylott's room. There the detective finds clues that convince him he has solved the mystery. The four most important clues in the room are the chair, the safe, the saucer of milk, and the whipcord with a loop on the end. Holmes could see that Roylott had been standing on the chair in order to put the snake through the ventilator. Holmes assumes that Roylott keeps the snake in the safe and that the snake must be there inside it right now. The milk must have been used to train the snake to return through the ventilator, and the whipcord must have been used to handle the dangerous swamp adder.

Holmes already knew before coming down to Stoke Moran that Dr. Roylott was having financial troubles and that he was legally bound to pay either stepdaughter one-third of the income from the girls' mother's estate when either of them got married. That would have meant financial ruin for Roylott. Julia died shortly before she was to be married. Helen was not in danger for two full years--but then she became engaged to be married within a month or six weeks. It was right after Roylott learned of Helen's engagement that he found an excuse to move her into the room next to his, and she had only been occupying the room for two nights when she first heard the whistle which, as she tells Holmes, had been the herald of her sister's death.

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How does Sherlock Holmes solve the Speckled Band mystery?

The Adventure of The Speckled Band is just the kind of unusual case that Sherlock Holmes loves to get his teeth into. Very little seems to make much sense until Holmes painstakingly pieces together the various clues to solve this most perplexing of mysteries.

There are many clues, all of them expertly used by Conan Doyle to create the maximum amount of mystery and suspense. A good clue should reveal something important but not too much. No one clue should provide the key to the entire story; together they should give us the full picture.

The clues start with the title of the book itself. We think we know what the word "speckled" means. We also know the various meanings of the word "band." However, if you put them together it is all rather ambiguous. However, it is powerful enough to keep us guessing and wanting to read on, especially as they were Julia's very last words before her tragic end.

It is important for Holmes to build up a picture of Helen Stoner's domestic life in order to understand the circumstances in which her sister Julia died. He is able to do this as soon as he meets Helen for the first time. She looks much older than her years, and her clothes are splashed with mud. She also has the second half of a return ticket in her glove. From all of these clues Holmes correctly deduces that Helen left home in a hurry, took a dog-cart to the train station, and caught the earliest possible train to London.

More generally, Holmes is able to deduce that Helen's home life is an unhappy one; the bruising on her wrists is a clear indication of this. This impression is further compounded when Holmes first encounters the violent, ill-tempered Dr. Roylott.

While at Stoke Moran, Holmes examines the will of Mrs. Stoner, Helen and Julia's mother. In it, he discovers that Roylott's share of the estate will decline sharply if Helen and Julia should marry. Because Julia was killed just before her marriage and Helen is herself soon to be married, it is not surprising that Helen fears for her life.

We can see Holmes piecing the clues together to point towards a solution of the mystery. However, there is still much more to be done. We may well suspect that Roylott had something to do with Julia's death, but we need to know how he did it.

This leads us onto the next clue. Stoke Moran is in a frightful state of dilapidation, yet the wing where Helen and Roylott live is currently being refurbished. Why is this? Perhaps the structure of the building is in some way related to the mystery? Again, we see that the clue both reveals and conceals. If Miss Stoner's room is locked and shuttered from the inside, then how could someone possibly get in? Holmes appears confused, although we are not privy to his innermost thoughts. Perhaps he is thinking that the cause of Julia's death was not someone, but some thing. After all, Dr. Roylott does seem to have a rather unhealthy obsession with dangerous, exotic animals; perhaps he has also deduced that whatever killed her did not come from outside the house but from inside.

These suspicions are confirmed as Holmes begins to search Julia's room. First of all, there is the fake bell-pull that is not attached to anything. Then there is the ventilation duct which leads to Roylott's room and not outside. Also, the bed is nailed to the floor, implying that someone wanted Julia and Helen to remain in one place at night, a place near the ventilation shaft.

A search of Roylott's room turns up more clues. There is a saucer of milk on top of the safe. It just is not the right size for a domestic pet. We also know that Roylott owns a cheetah and a baboon. When Holmes sees a dog whip hung on the corner of Roylott's bed with a loop much too small for a dog, it seems at last that Holmes has just about solved the mystery.

When the final truth is revealed, we can retrace our steps and see how each clue pointed toward the terrifying denouement while keeping us in suspense all along.

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How does Sherlock Holmes solve the Speckled Band mystery?

The Adventure of the Speckled Band by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is a story in which Sherlock Holmes and his faithful chronicler Watson come to the help of Helen Stoner. Several clues are presented along the way that help Holmes solve the mystery.

First, we have Helen's sister's dying words, "the speckled band." Next, we have the will of Helen's mother, which shows that Roylston will benefit from the sisters' death. 

When Holmes arrives at Stoke Moran, he discovers three more clues, the bed anchored to the floor, what appears to be a nonfunctional bell pull, and a small hole that leads between Helen's bedroom and that of Roylston. Another clue is the insistence of Roylston that the young women must sleep in that specific bedroom, despite the fact that Helen is naturally reluctant to sleep in the room where her sister died.

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How does Sherlock Holmes solve the Speckled Band mystery?

When Miss Helen Stoner brought her case to Mr. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson, Holmes had some suspicions about what might be happening to her. Miss Stoner fears that someone is trying to kill her. She has recently become engaged and while sleeping in her sister's room she hears strange sounds in the night. Miss Stoner is afraid that whatever killed her sister while she was engaged to be married is coming to kill her as well.

When Miss Stoner leaves and her stepfather angrily bursts into the apartment, threatening Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson, Holmes naturally wonders why Dr. Roylott would have been so angry about Helen's visit. Holmes and Watson then visit the estate where Miss Stoner and Dr. Roylott live and inspect the premises. They agree to spend the night in Miss Stoner's room to try and hear the same strange sounds that have her so worried. They do hear animals romping outside--Miss Stoner explained that her stepfather kept many exotic pets-- before a whistling and clanging disturbs them. Discerning that the sound is coming from a grate in the wall, Holmes whacks at it with his cane.

On the other side, Dr. Roylott is bitten by the now-angry swamp adder he was trying to send through the wall. When Holmes and Watson emerge from Helen's room, they find Dr. Roylott dead and wearing a spotted yellow bandanna around his forehead-- the speckled band. 

Holmes often solves his cases quite early in investigation, but still must prove himself to be right by allowing events to play out to some extent. This was just one such case where Holmes had put together the suspect, motive, and means long before the moment when Dr. Roylott planned to strike, but needed to catch him in the act. When Holmes and Watson finally see Dr. Roylott dead in his room, the case has officially been solved and remedied. 

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What clues does Sherlock Holmes use to solve the murder in "The Adventure of the Speckled Band"?

Holmes comes across his first solid clue when he investigates the family background of the murdered woman and her sister Helen. Helen has already told him that their mother, unlike their stepfather, was wealthy and died in an untimely accident some years back. Holmes sets out to discover more. He comes across a copy of the mother's will, whereby he learns that she left a considerable allowance to both her daughters in the event of their marriage. Julia had been engaged when she died, and Helen has recently become engaged as well. Holmes therefore realises that as the marriage of his stepdughters would have left him 'with a mere pittance', Dr Roylott has taken steps to ensure the marriages do not take place. In other words, he contrived the murder of Julia and is planning the same for Helen. The mother's will thus provides Holmes with a vital clue to the identity of the murderer; it supplies a motive.

Secondly, when Holmes and Watson go to see the bedroom where Julia died, they discover very odd things about it. The bed is clamped to the floor, and beside it there is a bell-rope which does not ring any bell.There is also a small ventilator in the wall above the rope, even although there is another room next door. As Holmes wonders, why have a ventilator that just opens out into another room?  It is also a matter of no small significance that the room next door is Dr Roylott's. Holmes concludes from all this that the clamped bed was used to trap Julia while the means of her death came down upon her as she slept - from the ventilator and down the false bell-rope.

A third clue lies in the nature of Dr Rolyott's lifestyle. Helen reveals that he once practised in India and has all manner of exotic pets sent over from there. Although Holmes somewhat uncharacteristically goes off on the wrong track to begin with, thinking that the local gypsies have had a hand in Julia's death, he soon comes to realise that the culprit is actually a deadly Indian snake kept by Roylott and trained to go through the ventilator and down the bell-rope. Apparently its poison is not readily traceable, so that the real cause of Julia's death was missed. (It must be remembered that post-mortem examinations at the time when this story was written were not as advanced as they are now.) Holmes and Watson get to see the snake in action for themselves when it kills Roylott, finally putting an end to his nefarious activities. 

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How does Holmes solve the mystery in "The Adventure of the Speckled Band"?

Most Sherlock Holmes stories are solved with the same formula.  Holmes and Watson are usually sought out by someone in distress who tells them of their problem.  Then the duo set out to investigate.  In this story, Helen Stoner seeks out Holmes and he and Watson soon arrive to the estate to investigate the death of her sister two years earlier.  The only thing to go on is that the sister said the words, "...the speckled band..." right before she died.  So what was the speckled band?

At the estate Holmes notices a few details, as usual he tends to see what most others have overlooked.  Firstly, he remarks that Helen is being forced to move into the room where her sister died indicating to Holmes that there must be something special about this room and that the murderer might be ready to strike again.  Therefore Holmes investigates the room and find several odd things. For one the bed is nailed down.  By assessing the peculiarities of the room, he is able to put together a plausible course of action.  

In the end, Holmes catches the step-father in the act.  He has used a bell cord and the ventilation system which connected his room with the step daughter's to let down a poisonous snake which was intended to bite her in her sleep. The snake itself is the 'speckled band' to which Helen's sister referred to just before she died. 

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How does "The Adventure of the Speckled Band" demonstrate Sherlock Holmes' intuition and rational deduction abilities?

It seems to me that the paragraph you write for your assignment could begin with more or less the same words as those stated in the question:

Sherlock Holmes is known for his intuition, and his ability to make quick, rational deductions from what he sees and hears.

The next sentence would most likely refer to the specific story under discussion.

Good examples of the detective's superior mental abilities can be seen in his story "The Adventure of the Speckled Band."

You don't have to look through the whole story to find your examples. In a typical Sherlock Holmes story the detective exhibits his uncanny mental powers near the beginning. Throughout the main body of the story Watson, the narrator, only describes what Holmes says and does--but Watson rarely tells the reader what Holmes is thinking until after the whole case is solved. Then at the end of the story Holmes will frequently explain what he had been thinking during his investigation. This is true in "The Adventure of the Speckled Band."

Holmes deduces that Helen Stoner traveled by dog cart to the railroad station because of the mud on left arm of her jacket and the return ticket he spots in the glove on her left hand. He must have sensed intuitively that she was covering up some bruise marks, which he uncovers by pushing back the frilly cuff of Helen's sleeve. She acknowledges that the five little livid spots were made by the grasp of her violent stepfather.

Then at the end of the story, after the fiendish Dr. Grimesby Roylott has been killed by his own snake, Holmes explains some of his thinking to his friend and companion Dr. Watson. This is the best place to find examples of Holmes' powers of deduction. The explanation begins with the following words:

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. 

You could probably paraphrase most of the above paragraph if you want to include the information in one paragraph. For example, you could say:

Sherlock Holmes explains to Watson that his attention was speedily drawn to the ventilator, and to the bell-rope which hung down to the bed. 

And so on. In that case you would not need to use quotation marks.

So examples of Sherlock Holmes' intuition and his ability to make quick, rational deductions from what he sees and hears are typically to be found at the beginning and conclusion of the stories. The middle part deals with the strange characters he invariably meets, with Watson's observations of Holmes' "methods" of investigation, and with the "adventure" aspect of the story which is almost always present. For instance, in "The Adventure of the Speckled Band" Holmes has to cope with a poisonous snake which ends up killing his dangerous and half-insane adversary Dr. Grimesby Roylott.

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