At the time of this story, I was still living at my friend Sherlock Holmes’s flat in Baker Street in London. Very early one morning, a young woman, dressed in black, came to see us. She looked tired and unhappy, and her face was very white. ‘I’m afraid! Afraid of death,
Mr Holmes!’ she cried. ‘Please help me! I’m not thirty yet and look at my grey hair! I’m so afraid!’ ‘Just sit down and tell us your story,’ said Holmes kindly.
‘My name is Helen Stoner,’ she began, ‘and I live with my stepfather, Dr Grimesby Roylott, near a village in the country. His family was once very rich, but they had no money when my stepfather was born. So he studied to be a doctor, and went out to India. He met and married my mother there, when my sister Julia and I were very young. Our father was dead, you see.’ ‘Your mother had some money, perhaps?’ asked Sherlock Holmes.
Alt’Oh yes, mother had a lot of money, so my stepfather wasn’t poor any more.’ ‘Tell me more about him, Miss Stoner,’ said Holmes.
‘Well, he’s a violent man. In India he once got angry with his Indian servant and killed him! He had to go to prison because of that, and then we all came back to England. Mother died in an accident eight years ago. So my stepfather got all her money, but if Julia or I marry, he must pay us Ј250 every year.’
‘And now you live with him in the country,’ said Holmes.
‘Yes, but he stays at home and never sees anybody, Mr Holmes!’ answered Helen Stoner. ‘He’s more and more violent now, and sometimes has fights with the people from the village. Everybody’s afraid of him now, and they run away when they see him. And they’re also afraid of his Indian wild animals which run freely around the garden. A friend sends them to him from India. And the animals are not the only wild things in the garden; there are also gipsies. My stepfather likes these wild people, and they can come and go where they like. Poor Julia and I had very unhappy lives. We had no servants. They always left because they were afraid of my stepfather, and we had
To do all the work in the house. Julia was only thirty when she died, and her hair was already grey, like my hair now.’
‘When did she die?’ asked Sherlock Holmes.
‘She died two years ago, and that’s why I’m here. We never met anybody in the country, but sometimes we visited some of my family who live near London. There Julia met a young man who asked to marry her. My stepfather agreed, but soon after this she died.’ Miss Stoner put her hand over her eyes and cried for a minute.
Sherlock Holmes was listening with his eyes closed, but now he opened them and looked at Helen Stoner. ‘Tell me everything about her death,’ he said.
‘I can remember it all very well. It was a terrible time!’ she answered. ‘Our three bedrooms are all downstairs. First there is my stepfather’s room. Julia’s room is next to his, and my room is next to Julia’s. The rooms all have windows on the garden side of the house, and doors which open into the corridor. One evening our stepfather was smoking his strong Indian cigarettes in his room. Julia couldn’t sleep because she could smell them in her room, so she came into my room to talk to me. Before she went back to bed, she said to me, “Helen, have you ever heard a whistle in the middle of the night?”
AltI was surprised. “No,” I said.
“It’s strange,” she said. “Sometimes I hear a whistle, but I don’t know where it comes from. Why don’t you hear it?”
I laughed and said, “I sleep better than you do.” So Julia went to her room, and locked the door after her.’
‘Why did you lock your doors?