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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What information does Helen Stoner provide about her stepfather in "The Adventure of the Speckled Band"?

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Helen Stoner tells Holmes that her stepfather is a violent and quarrelsome man.

Helen Stoner comes to see the detective Sherlock Holmes when her sister is killed.  She feels that her sister died in suspicious circumstances, and she worries that something might happen to her too.  They lived with her stepfather, and the man is not a nice man.

Helen explains to Holmes that her stepfather married their mother, but their mother died and the three of them returned to the family’s estate, Stoke Moran.  There he immediately began to fight with the neighbors and generally behave in a horrible manner.

Dr. Roylott suffers from what Helen Stoner refers to as “violence of temper.”  He gave up his medical practice and settled into the family estate, but at this time a terrible change came over him.

Instead of making friends and exchanging visits with our neighbours, 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. 

Helen has a lot of examples of how her stepfather has been violent and gotten into fights with the neighbors and others.  He seems like a perfectly horrible man.

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 his anger.

It does not seem impossible that someone like this would try to kill his stepdaughters for the inheritance.  Dr. Roylott killed one and tried to kill the other.  Fortunately, she hired Holmes and he figured out that Roylott was using a snake to commit murder.

Holmes says that when a doctor goes bad, it is the worst thing.  Doctors are supposed to help people, not hurt them.  However, they are possessed of a great deal of intelligence and cleverness which can be used to commit their crimes, should they go bad.

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Why was Helen Stoner afraid of her stepfather in "The Adventure of the Speckled Band"?

Helen Stoner is afraid of her stepfather because he has a violent temper and her sister is dead.

Helen Stoner comes to hire Sherlock Holmes.  When a person comes to see the famous detective Sherlock Holmes, it means that the person is in serious trouble.  Helen’s trouble is that she lives with her stepfather, and he is not a good person.  The bigger problem is that her twin sister is dead and she is suspicious.

Helen tells Holmes that her stepfather Dr. Roylott is from an old family.  He was a doctor, but when he married her mother he no longer worked.  They returned to the old family manor, and his behavior changed.

But a terrible change came over our stepfather about this time. Instead of making friends and exchanging visits with our neighbours … he shut himself up in his house and seldom came out save to indulge in ferocious quarrels with whoever might cross his path. 

The violent quarrels with neighbors are just the beginning of Helen’s worries about her stepfather.  Helen had a twin sister, Julia, but she died under suspicious circumstances after they moved.  Helen is worried that strange things are still happening at her house and she might be next.

Helen is right to worry.  Holmes and Watson go to Stoke Moran to investigate. They stay the night, and hide in a room waiting for something to happen.  What happens is that a snake comes into the room.  It is a very deadly snake called a swamp adder.  It is what killed Julia.

Holmes explains to Watson that Dr. Roylott was dangerous because he was a doctor.  Doctors are supposed to do no harm, but this one did not stick to his oath.

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. 

The snake turns on Dr. Roylott and kills him, so from that point on Helen no longer needs to worry about her stepfather.  She can be safe in her own home, as long as she gets rid of all of the roaming animals!

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