The Sign of the Four

by

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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Jonathan Small (The Wooden-Legged Man) Character Analysis

Jonathan Small is the wooden-legged man who seeks vengeance on Major Sholto for the theft of the Agra treasure. He is one of “the four” original men who acquired the treasure. He has lived a tough life, having lost his leg to a crocodile while serving as a soldier in India for the British Army. While guarding the Agra fortress during the Indian Mutiny, Small was brought in on a plan to acquire the treasure with Abdullah Khan and Mahomet Singh, who were guards under his command (the fourth man, Dost Akbar, was the foster brother of Abdullah Khan). Small was sent to a penal colony on the Andaman Islands for his role in the killing of the merchant who had possession of the Agra treasure. On the islands, Small met Captain Morstan and Major Sholto, letting them in on the secret about the treasure in exchange for help with his escape. Sholto, however, double-crossed the others and fled to England with the treasure. Small managed to escape the Andaman Islands with his companion, Tonga, and searched for Sholto, eventually managing to recover the treasure from Pondicherry Lodge, the Sholto family home. His victory doesn’t last long, however, as Holmes soon catches up with him and brings about his imprisonment. Small scatters the jewels of the Agra treasure into the Thames to prevent anyone else from enjoying their riches.

Jonathan Small (The Wooden-Legged Man) Quotes in The Sign of the Four

The The Sign of the Four quotes below are all either spoken by Jonathan Small (The Wooden-Legged Man) or refer to Jonathan Small (The Wooden-Legged Man). For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Empire and Imperialism Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Spencer Blackett edition of The Sign of the Four published in 1890.
Chapter 6 Quotes

"How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible whatever remains, HOWEVER IMPROBABLE, must be the truth? We know that he did not come through the door, the window, or the chimney. We also know that he could not have been concealed in the room, as there is no concealment possible. Whence, then, did he come?"

"He came through the hole in the roof," I cried.

Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 11 Quotes

“But it does seem a queer thing," he added, with a bitter smile, "that I who have a fair claim to nigh upon half a million of money should spend the first half of my life building a breakwater in the Andamans, and am like to spend the other half digging drains at Dartmoor. It was an evil day for me when first I clapped eyes upon the merchant Achmet and had to do with the Agra treasure, which never brought anything but a curse yet upon the man who owned it. To him it brought murder, to Major Sholto it brought fear and guilt, to me it has meant slavery for life."

Related Symbols: The Agra Treasure
Page Number: 69
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 12 Quotes

Major Sholto was the hardest hit. He used to pay in notes and gold at first, but soon it came to notes of hand and for big sums. He sometimes would win for a few deals, just to give him heart, and then the luck would set in against him worse than ever. All day he would wander about as black as thunder, and he took to drinking a deal more than was good for him.

One night he lost even more heavily than usual. I was sitting in my hut when he and Captain Morstan came stumbling along on the way to their quarters. They were bosom friends, those two, and never far apart. The major was raving about his losses.

“It's all up, Morstan,” he was saying, as they passed my hut. “I shall have to send in my papers. I am a ruined man.”

Related Characters: Jonathan Small (The Wooden-Legged Man) (speaker), Major Sholto (speaker), Captain Morstan
Related Symbols: The Agra Treasure
Page Number: 84
Explanation and Analysis:

“Well, Small,” said the major, “we must, I suppose, try and meet you. We must first, of course, test the truth of your story. Tell me where the box is hid, and I shall get leave of absence and go back to India in the monthly relief-boat to inquire into the affair.”

“Not so fast,” said I, growing colder as he got hot. “I must have the consent of my three comrades. I tell you that it is four or none with us.”

“Nonsense!” he broke in. “What have three black fellows to do with our agreement?”

“Black or blue,” said I, “they are in with me, and we all go together.”

Related Characters: Jonathan Small (The Wooden-Legged Man) (speaker), Major Sholto (speaker), Captain Morstan
Related Symbols: The Agra Treasure
Page Number: 86
Explanation and Analysis:
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Jonathan Small (The Wooden-Legged Man) Character Timeline in The Sign of the Four

The timeline below shows where the character Jonathan Small (The Wooden-Legged Man) appears in The Sign of the Four. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3 — In Quest of a Solution
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...on it. Beside the cross, the paper reads, “the sign of the four – Jonathan Small, Mahomet Singh, Abdullah Khan, Dost Akbar.” Though he isn’t sure of the significance of the... (full context)
Chapter 6 — Sherlock Holmes Gives a Demonstration
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...a footprint and a circular print of a wooden stump. He and Watson agree that the wooden-legged man must have had help; the outer walls of the house are too high for him... (full context)
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Watson wonders how the wooden-legged man ’s ally could have got into the room. Holmes is mildly annoyed by Watson, saying,... (full context)
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Holmes notices that the wooden-legged man appears to have stepped in creosote. They hear the police arrive and quickly examine the... (full context)
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...tells Thaddeus he will be freed soon enough. He also names the real suspect, Jonathan Small; he adds that he is aware of an accomplice, though does not know his identity... (full context)
Chapter 7 — The Episode of the Barrel
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...views about the case, calling it “simplicity itself.” He identifies the wooden-legged man as Jonathan Small, one of the signatories on “the sign of the four” map in Captain Morstan’s possession.... (full context)
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...of the four” chart, it follows that the man they are looking for is Jonathan Small. (full context)
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Holmes continues that Small must have returned to England now to find his treasure. He probably made contact with... (full context)
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Holmes reasons that Small probably didn’t want Bartholomew dead, but that this was the result of his accomplice’s actions.... (full context)
Chapter 8 — The Baker Street Irregulars
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...from her that Mordecai Smith has gone off somewhere in his steam launch, hired by a man with a wooden leg . He tricks her into revealing the name and appearance of the steam launch: the... (full context)
Chapter 9 — A Break in the Chain
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Holmes also insists that, when the capture is complete, he would like to question Jonathan Small on his own; he also wants Watson to be entrusted with taking the treasure to... (full context)
Chapter 10 — The End of the Islander
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...while conducting his chemical experiment during the night, it had occurred to him that Jonathan Small would want to leave England under the cover of darkness. He reasons that Small would... (full context)
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...river before chancing on one where the foreman had recently taken a ship from a wooden-legged man . At that very moment, Mordecai Smith had come to instruct the foreman that he... (full context)
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...which looked like a Newfoundland dog.” They yell at the other boat to stop; a wooden-legged man shakes his fists at them, cursing. (full context)
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...aground on the shore in “wild and desolate” marsh-land. Holmes and his company ensnare Jonathan Small, and recover the treasure chest from the boat. Holmes and Watson notice a poison dart... (full context)
Chapter 11 — The Great Agra Treasure
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As the police boat heads back, Holmes talks with Jonathan Small, who denies having anything to do with killing Bartholomew—that was all Tonga, “that little hell-hound,”... (full context)
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Small reflects on his unfortunate life, saying it seems unfair that “I, who have a fair... (full context)
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Jones comes in to say that Mordecai Smith is professing his innocence; Small confirms that he knew nothing of their criminality and he was just doing his job.... (full context)
Chapter 12 — The Strange Story of Jonathan Small
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Watson heads to Baker Street and reconvenes with Holmes, Jones and Jonathan Small. Watson shows them the empty treasure box. Small admits that this was his doing—he scattered... (full context)
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Jones accuses Small of thwarting justice. Small snarls back, “Where is the justice that I should give it... (full context)
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Holmes reminds Small that they are yet to hear his side of the story, and so can’t judge... (full context)
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Small launches into his story. He was born into a humble country life in Worcestershire. He... (full context)
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After recovering from his injury, Small was employed as an overseer on a plantation, tasked with making sure the men worked... (full context)
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In Agra, Small joined a volunteer corps that set up base in the old fort. Here, he served... (full context)
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Small swore to be on their side, as long as no one at the fort was... (full context)
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...the men therefore had the opportunity to intercept the treasure and divide it among themselves. Small agreed to the plan. (full context)
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That night, the men executed their plan, killing the merchant and snatching the treasure. Small pauses for a drink of whiskey and water and then continues his story. After burying... (full context)
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Though the situation in the country calmed down soon enough, Small and the others were arrested for murdering the merchant. It turned out that a second... (full context)
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Small was eventually sent to the Andaman Islands, where he got along well with his guards.... (full context)
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Major Sholto eventually lost quite a lot of money playing cards. Small decided to tell him and Captain Morstan about the treasure, offering to share it with... (full context)
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...of the plan, Major Sholto was supposed to first verify that the treasure was where Small said it was, before reporting back. Sholto double-crossed them and stole the treasure, never returning... (full context)
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Around this time, Small met Tonga, a native of the islands. Tonga was sick, but Small nursed him back... (full context)
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Tonga helped Small escape by bringing a boat. Small got past the guard by hitting him with his... (full context)
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Hearing that Sholto was dying, Small tracked him down to his deathbed, searching the room for a clue as to where... (full context)
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During this time, Small and Tonga earned a living by exhibiting Tonga at fairs as “the black cannibal,” at... (full context)
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...Lodge, Tonga climbed up the roof with a rope tied round his waist so that Small could climb up. Unbeknownst to Small, Tonga instinctively killed Bartholomew with a blow-dart when he... (full context)
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...of Tonga’s darts, given that he had found the casing with all the darts inside. Small reminds him that Tonga would have had one already loaded in the blowpipe. With this,... (full context)