The Sign of the Four
The Statement of the Case
| Miss Morstan entered the room with a firm step
and an outward
composure of manner. She was a blonde young lady, small,
dainty, well gloved, and dressed in the most perfect taste. There
was, however, a plainness and simplicity about her costume
which bore with it a suggestion of limited means. The dress was
a sombre grayish beige, untrimmed and unbraided, and she wore
a small turban of the same dull hue, relieved only by a suspicion
of white feather in the side. Her face had neither regularity of
feature nor beauty of complexion, but her expression was sweet
and amiable, and her large blue eyes were singularly spiritual
and sympathetic. In an experience of women which extends over
many nations and three separate continents, I have never looked
upon a face which gave a clearer promise of a refined and
sensitive nature. I could not but observe that as she took the seat
which Sherlock Holmes placed for her, her lip trembled, her
hand quivered, and she showed every sign of intense inward
"I have come to you, Mr. Holmes," she said,"because you
once enabled my employer, Mrs. Cecil Forrester, to unravel a
little domestic complication. She was much impressed by your
kindness and skill."
"Mrs. Cecil Forrester," he repeated thoughtfully. "I believe
that I was of some slight service to her. The case, however, as I
remember it, was a very simple one."
"She did not think so. But at least you cannot say the same of
mine. I can hardly imagine anything more strange, more utterly
inexplicable, than the situation in which I find myself."
Holmes rubbed his hands, and his eyes glistened. He leaned
forward in his chair with an expression of extraordinary concen-
tration upon his clear-cut, hawklike features.
"State your case," said he in brisk business tones.
I felt that my position was an embarrassing one.
"You will, I am sure, excuse me," I said, rising from my
To my surprise, the young lady held up her gloved hand to
"If your friend," she said, "would be good enough to stop,
he might be of inestimable service to me."
I relapsed into my chair.
"Briefly," she continued, "the facts are these. My father was
an officer in an Indian regiment, who sent me home when I was
quite a child. My mother was dead, and I had no relative in
England. I was placed, however, in a comfortable boarding
establishment at Edinburgh, and there I remained until I was
seventeen years of age. In the year 1878 my father, who was
senior captain of his regiment, obtained twelve months' leave
and came home. He telegraphed to me from London that he had
arrived all safe and directed me to come down at once, giving
the Langham Hotel as his address. His message, as I remember,
was full of kindness and love. On reaching London I drove to the
Langham and was informed that Captain Morstan was staying
there, but that he had gone out the night before and had not
returned. I waited all day without news of him. That night, on
the advice of the manager of the hotel, I communicated with the
police, and next morning we advertised in all the papers. Our
inquiries led to no result; and from that day to this no word has
ever been heard of my unfortunate father. He came home with
his heart full of hope to find some peace, some comfort, and
She put her hand to her throat, and a choking sob cut short the
"The date?" asked Holmes, opening his notebook.
"He disappeared upon the third of December, 1878 -- nearly
ten years ago."
"Remained at the hotel. There was nothing in it to suggest a
clue -- some clothes, some books, and a considerable number of
curiosities from the Andaman Islands. He had been one of the
officers in charge of the convict-guard there."
"Had he any friends in town?"
"Only one that we know of -- Major Sholto, of his own regi-
ment, the Thirty-fourth Bombay Infantry. The major had retired
some little time before and lived at Upper Norwood. We com-
municated with him, of course, but he did not even know that his
brother officer was in England."
"A singular case," remarked Holmes.
"I have not yet described to you the most singular part. About
six years ago -- to be exact, upon the fourth of May, 1882 -- an
advertisement appeared in the Times asking for the address of
Miss Mary Morstan, and stating that it would be to her advan-
tage to come forward. There was no name or address appended.
I had at that time just entered the family of Mrs. Cecil Forrester
in the capacity of governess. By her advice I published my
address in the advertisement column. The same day there arrived
through the post a small cardboard box addressed to me, which I
found to contain a very large and lustrous pearl. No word of
writing was enclosed. Since then every year upon the same date
there has always appeared a similar box, containing a similar
pearl, without any clue as to the sender. They have been pro-
nounced by an expert to be of a rare variety and of considerable
value. You can see for yourself that they are very hanasome."
She opened a flat box as she spoke and showed me six of the
finest pearls that I had ever seen.
"Your statement is most interesting," said Sherlock Holmes.
"Has anything else occurred to you?"
"Yes, and no later than to-day. That is why I have come to
you. This morning I received this letter, which you will perhaps
read for yourself."
"Thank you," said Holmes. "The envelope, too, please.
Post-mark, London, S. W. Date, July 7. Hum! Man's thumb-
mark on corner -- probably postman. Best quality paper. Enve-
lopes at sixpence a packet. Particular man in his stationery. No
"Be at the third pillar
from the left outside the Lyceum
Well, really, this is a very pretty little mystery!
What do you