On a rainy and windy Wednesday evening, October 19th, 2011, twenty members gathered at Hershey’s Steak and Seafood restaurant in East Lansing for The Fall meeting of the Greek Interpreters. The evening’s quiz and discussion centered on “The Speckled Band”.
Two new guests, William Saul and Joe Washburn, were welcomed, and we hope to enjoy their company at future meetings. The meeting opened with the customary Canonical Toasts to Mrs. Hudson, Mycroft Holmes, the second Mrs. Watson and The Woman.
Following a supper of roast beef or chicken stir-fry, a resolution of the evening’s quiz was conducted by Bill Reusch (the chemist). This quiz actually written by an absent member, Etta Abrahams (aka The Woman), and was initially given at our February, 1996 meeting. It proved to be particularly challenging, but one of our members, Shirley Siew, rose to the task and achieved a winning score of 30.
The disussion of this story focused largely on Dr. Roylott’s fascination for Indian animals, especially the snake. Ronald Rosenblat’s “Fauna in the Canon” provides a clear account of the many deficiencies in Watson’s description of Roylott’s Indian animal collection. The snake in particular is poorly identified. and authoritative sources indicate there is no such reptile as the “Swamp Adder”. Two possible Indian snakes that might fit Watson’s account are shown below. From his observation of, “a peculiar yellow band, with brownish speckles”, many of our members favored the Russell’s viper as the culprit.
Many other snake related questions were posed. Can a snake be trained to climb and descend a rope? Would a snake hear a low whistle? Do snakes drink milk? The general answer to these questions was “No”. Also, the two snakes identified above grow to a large size, five to six feet in length. The snake coiled about Dr. Roylott’s head was clearly half that size, and if Dr. Roylott used the same snake employed two years earlier, it would have grown considerably, unless starved. It was interesting that no comments on possible Freudian undertones in this story were made. Such aspects have been raised by others, but our members eschewed such interpretations and thought only of literal snakes and pokers.
The meeting concluded with the reading of Vincent Starrett’s “221B” poem, followed by our singing of The Anthem.