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Helen Stoner in The Speckled Band: Description & Quotes

Instructor: Ivy Roberts

Ivy Roberts has taught undergraduate-level film studies for over 9 years. She has a PhD in Media, Art and Text from Virginia Commonwealth University and a BA in film production from Marlboro College. She also has a certificate in teaching online from UMGC and non-profit marketing and fundraising from UC Davis.

This lesson introduces readers to Helen Stoner, Sherlock Holmes' client in Arthur Conan Doyle's short story 'The Adventure of the Speckled Band'. We will learn about Mrs. Stoner and the story she has to tell Holmes about the unusual circumstances surrounding the death of her sister.

Sherlock Holmes' New Client

'The Adventure of the Speckled Band is the eighth story in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, an anthology of short stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1893.

In 'The Speckled Band,' Helen Stoner solicits the help of the great detective Sherlock Holmes in the mystery of the death of her twin sister, Julia.

Mrs. Hudson, the proprietress of 221b Baker St., alerts Holmes to the presence of a young woman in his sitting room, 'a lady dressed in black and heavily veiled, who had been sitting in the window.' The earliness of the call, and Mrs. Stoners appearance, alerts Holmes to the severity of her predicament.

Mrs. Stoner raises her veil
veil

Terror

'It is not cold which makes me shiver,' said the woman in a low voice, changing her seat as requested.

'What, then?'

'It is fear, Mr. Holmes. It is terror.'

'She raised her veil as she spoke, and we could see that she was indeed in a pitiable state of agitation, her face all drawn and grey, with restless frightened eyes, like those of some hunted animal. Her features and figure were those of a woman of thirty, but her hair was shot with premature grey, and her expression was weary and haggard.'

Holmes observes several unspoken characteristics of the mysterious woman before she has a chance to tell her story. For instance, Helen is the victim of domestic abuse. Holmes notices a bruise on her wrist. Helen admits that both Dr. Roylott, her step father, and her fiancé are violent men. Of the doctor, she says, 'He is so cunning that I never know when I am safe from him.'

Who is Helen Stoner?

'My name is Helen Stoner, and I am living with my stepfather, who is the last survivor of one of the oldest Saxon families in England, the Roylotts of Stoke Moran, on the western border of Surrey.' Stoke Moran is a 200-year old property in surrey, a small town on the outskirts of London, a short train ride from the city.

Dr. Roylott, the last surviving heir of the family and warden of Stoke Moran, had married Helen's mother, making Helen and her twin sister, Julia, his step daughters. Their mother passed away eight years ago. Following her death, Dr. Roylott developed a violent disposition. The estate had fallen into disrepair. The Roylott fortune he had dried up and the girls were surviving off their inheritance from the Stoners.

The Mysterious Death of Julia Stoner

Helen's story is entirely mysterious. The coroner couldn't even identify a cause of death. Still, she tells Holmes the whole tale.

'The very horror of my situation lies in the fact that my fears are so vague, and my suspicions depend so entirely upon small points, which might seem trivial to another, that even he to whom of all others I have a right to look for help and advice looks upon all that I tell him about it as the fancies of a nervous woman. '

Two years ago, Julia died under peculiar circumstances. She had been complaining of an odd noise that would sound late in the night. Helen describes them as 'nocturnal whistles.' But Helen had never heard them herself, which was peculiar since their rooms were adjoined. Late one night she screamed out and Helen found her in the hall, white as a ghost. Julia collapsed into Helen's arms.

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