“The Sign of the Four”

Note: the tab marked "Explanation" reveals the ending of the story. Do not view that if you are reading the story for the first time and do not want to spoil your enjoyment.
Title: The Sign of the Four Collection: The Novels
Year published: 1890 (February) Year set in: 1888
Mystery: Why is she getting the pearls and what happened to her father?
Apparent crime: Murder Actual crime: Shown below (possible spoiler)
Summary: A woman receives a valuable pearl every year from an unknown source.

The father of Mary Morstan disappeared while he was travelling to meet her. Years later, she begins to receive a valuable pearl every year from a mysterious person. After six years, she receives a letter, requesting to meet her. When she meets the sender, they find his brother has been murdered inside a locked room.

Actual crime
Explanation (spoiler alert)

Many years earlier, two army officers, Captain Morstan and Major Sholton, had met a convict who told them of a hidden treasure. They agreed to help the convict and his three friends escape and split the treasure between them. But Sholto had betrayed them and fled with the treasure.

Later, Morstan returned to England and confronted Sholto but died of a heart attack. When he later succumbs to poor health himself, Sholto tells his sons of what occurred.

When Sholto dies, his son Thaddeus sends the pearls to Morstan's daughter as recompense.

Jonathan Small, the convict who had met Sholto and Morstan, returns to England to find the treasure. His native servant kills Bartholomew Sholto and flees but Holmes manages to track him down. The native is killed and Small abandons the treasure into the Thames.

Quotations in this story (3)
"No, no; I never guess. It is a shocking habit, - destructive to the logical faculty."
"I never make exceptions. An exception disproves the rule."
"How often have I said that when you have eliminated the impossible whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?"

Characters in this story (10)
Surname First name Title
Holmes Sherlock
Hudson Mrs
Jones Athelney Detective
Morstan Mary
Sholto Thaddeus
Small Jonathan
Watson John Doctor
Wiggins Baker Street Irregular

Locations in this story (2)
Location Town/City County
221b Baker Street London
Pondicherry Lodge London

Other notes

Watson meets Mary Morstan during this story and marries her.


Mary Captain Arthur Morstan Major John Thaddeus Bartholomew Sholto Jonathan Small Mahomet SIngh Abdullah Khan Dost Akbar Chowdar McMurdo Toby Athelney Jones Forrester Bernstone Sherman Mordecai Smith Wiggins irregulars Achmet Holder Abelwhite Dawson Tonga India Andamans Norwood Pondicherry Agra Pinchin pearl chaplet sign four wooden treasure poison dart thorn creosote steam launch Aurora