Holmes the meddler. Holmes the compassionate. Holmes the humorist.
People often think of Holmes, the logician. A glacial man so wrapped up in his talents of deduction and reason, that at times his aloof superiority makes him appear almost inhuman. But the truth is, Holmes is as highly compassionate as he is intellectual. This very human, considerate side of his personality is both subtly and out right present throughout many stories including The Disappearance of Lady Carfax and the story I read last night.
I’ve hit a roadblock with my own work lately what with having so much on my own To Do List. So while I’m struggling with focusing on my projects, I chose to enjoy one of my favorite Doyle stories.
The Scarlet Band is one of my favorite locked room mysteries and it’s definitely one of the more sinister shorts in The Canon. Right now I am working a new manuscript which incorporates an element of the locked room drama, so it is only fitting that I turn to Holmes for a bit of encouraging inspiration. After all, Holmes solved many locked room murders (The Abbey Grange, The Devil’s Foot, The Resident Patient and The Crooked Man).
An Elementary Intro:
Watson is surprised when his night owl / late riser of a flat mate is standing by his bedside one morning, dressed and calling on him to sit in on a meeting with a new client.
Pleased at being unexpectedly roused from his sleep, Holmes is quick to see to the comfort of his unexpected guest. Noticing that she is shivering, he calls for Mrs. Hudson to light the fire and put on a fresh kettle. His approach to Miss Stoner is the same patient, concerned attitude that is exhibited through out the series whenever he senses a true call for help. (**See The Devil’s Foot and The Resident Patient for “No Good Clients”).
Although Holmes is often perceived as being a cold fish, cases like this one remind us that he is very much in fact, a true and proper gentleman. He knows that his new client’s terror is genuine, and therefore, takes the necessary steps to make her feel at ease in order to disclose the facts of her case.
Holmes deduces a few facts about their guest and her journey to Baker Street in a less bombastic manner than he usually employs. Even a great mind enjoys a quiet, calm morning. Like most of the people who cross Holmes’ path, the young lady is impressed. His new client, Miss Stoner, reveals that she has been referred to him by a friend – one of Holmes’ previous, satisfied clients.
She proceeds to tell him the story of her family, including the events leading up to her late twin sister’s untimely and strange death. Her sister, on the verge of being married and inheriting a good annual allowance passed down from their mother, had complained of hearing a strange metallic sound in the middle of the night the week leading up to her wedding. A few nights later, her sister collapsed in the hall joining their rooms, muttering something about “the speckled band” before dying of shock.
After offering their condolences, Holmes starts to dismiss Miss Stoner (perhaps to incite her to get to the point faster) when she breaks down and admits that she is in now in fear of her own life. About to be married to a family friend, Miss Stoner announces that due to construction on her step-father’s estate, she has been forced to trade in her old bedroom and stay in her late sisters. She also hears the same strange, ominous sound each evening at bedtime.
Holmes realizes throughout this tale that Miss Stoner has been withholding a lot more information about her hot tempered, eccentric step- father, Doctor Royland Stokes Moran. At Holmes and Watson’s sympathetic encouragement, Miss Stoner admits the truth about her step father’s abusive, bully type manner. Holmes at once foresees the gravity of her situation and is quick to give his assurances they will visit her at the family home while her step father is away.
“When a doctor does go wrong he is the first of criminals. He has nerve and he has knowledge.”
With the departure of Miss Stoner brings the unexpected arrival of her step father. Hulking and red faced, Doctor Royland threatens our favorite duo, displaying his strength and severeness by bending a hot poker at Holmes. In a flourish of unexpected strength, the lanky and studious Holmes straightens the poker in the same manner in which he shrugs off most impending threats and dangerous antagonists.
“Danger is part of my trade.” – The Final Problem
The Speckled Band is one of the most enjoyable locked room mysteries in The Canon, even if it is rather easy to deduce The Who and The Why. I like it because aside from showing Sherlock’s hidden physical strength and ability to foresee a crime ten steps ahead, Doyle shows that he has two different senses of humor. Despite the ominous nature of many of his cases, Holmes can still cut a good jab at the right moment. When Watson attempts to mimic his skills of observation, Holmes responds with affectionate amusement. When they stake out Doctor Royland’s estate, Holmes shakes off the many dangerous, exotic animals stalking the grounds with a few sarcastic remarks.
“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”
I haven’t broken through my own creative block just yet, but the important thing to do is to take the advice I would pass on to you when this does happen – keep showing up for work. Even if it means staring at the screen or blank notepad. Play music that you enjoy, hit the local nature trail, read or watch similar stories and have some laughs with your friends.
I’m off to try and get some work done. Please feel free to leave a comment, share this post and invite other people you think would enjoy this blog. Don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss out and that every post is sent directly to your inbox or device, because there are a lot more entries to come! I look forward to hearing from you. Cheers!