The Sign of the Four

by

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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Major Sholto Character Analysis

Major Sholto is the father of Bartholomew and Thaddeus Sholto and was a friend to Captain Morstan, with whom he served in India. Jonathan Small relates how he brought Sholto into the Agra treasure scheme, hoping to secure his release from the Andaman Islands penal colony where Sholto was an authority figure. Sholto, suffering from gambling debts, double-crossed Small and Captain Morstan and took the treasure for himself. On his deathbed, he had a slight change of heart and instructed his sons to share the treasure with Miss Morstan—but he died before revealing the treasure’s location after seeing the face of Jonathan Small at the window.

Major Sholto Quotes in The Sign of the Four

The The Sign of the Four quotes below are all either spoken by Major Sholto or refer to Major Sholto. 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 4 Quotes

"'I have only one thing,” he said, “which weighs upon my mind at this supreme moment. It is my treatment of poor Morstan's orphan. The cursed greed which has been my besetting sin through life has withheld from her the treasure, half at least of which should have been hers. And yet I have made no use of it myself, so blind and foolish a thing is avarice. The mere feeling of possession has been so dear to me that I could not bear to share it with another. See that chaplet dipped with pearls beside the quinine-bottle. Even that I could not bear to part with, although I had got it out with the design of sending it to her. You, my sons, will give her a fair share of the Agra treasure. But send her nothing—not even the chaplet—until I am gone. After all, men have been as bad as this and have recovered.”

Related Symbols: The Agra Treasure
Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes

Inside, a gravel path wound through desolate grounds to a huge clump of a house, square and prosaic, all plunged in shadow save where a moonbeam struck one corner and glimmered in a garret window. The vast size of the building, with its gloom and its deathly silence, struck a chill to the heart. Even Thaddeus Sholto seemed ill at ease, and the lantern quivered and rattled in his hand.

Page Number: 25
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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Major Sholto Character Timeline in The Sign of the Four

The timeline below shows where the character Major Sholto appears in The Sign of the Four. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2 — The Statement of the Case
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...charge of the convict-guard. His only friend in London, she tells Holmes, was the retired Major Sholto, who said he didn’t even know Captain Morstan was in town. (full context)
Chapter 3 — In Quest of a Solution
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...Watson that he has figured out that the pearls must have something to do with Major Sholto, who, he has discovered, died the same week that Miss Morstan started receiving the... (full context)
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In the cab toward the Lyceum theatre, Miss Morstan explains that Major Sholto was a “very particular friend” to her father. Her father’s letters were full of... (full context)
Chapter 4 — The Story of the Bald-Headed Man
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The servant leads Holmes, Watson and Miss Morstan to Thaddeus Sholto. He is an odd-looking 30-year-old man with a jerky manner. The house is decked out... (full context)
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...Bartholomew. They will need to visit him later, he says. Thaddeus talks about his father, Major Sholto, who came back to England from India with a small fortune, enough to take... (full context)
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In early 1882, Thaddeus explains, Major Sholto received a letter from India that caused a great shock from which he never... (full context)
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This treasure, continued Major Sholto at the time, had come into his and Captain Morstan’s possession in India. When... (full context)
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Just at that moment, Sholto had been about to reveal the location of the Agra treasure. But looking up from... (full context)
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...flower-bed, they could see only a single footprint. The next morning, the brothers discovered that Major Sholto’s room had been searched, a piece of paper reading “the sign of the four”... (full context)
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...“trustee.” Thaddeus explains that he learned yesterday that the treasure has been found at the Major’s old home, and that they must go there now to divide it up. (full context)
Chapter 7 — The Episode of the Barrel
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...assumes that Small must have been a convict under the guard of Captain Morstan and Major Sholto, which would explain why he is now seeking his share of the treasure—it was... (full context)
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Holmes gets Watson to realize that the letter that so frightened Major Sholto was most likely from the man he had wronged, now free to come for... (full context)
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...England now to find his treasure. He probably made contact with the staff of the Sholto household, trying to find an insider that might help him. On hearing that Major Sholto... (full context)
Chapter 12 — The Strange Story of Jonathan Small
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...his guards. During his incarceration, he learned about medication and healthcare, helping the camp surgeon. Major Sholto and Captain Morstan were stationed at the same camp, often playing cards with the... (full context)
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Major Sholto eventually lost quite a lot of money playing cards. Small decided to tell him... (full context)
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As part of the plan, Major Sholto was supposed to first verify that the treasure was where Small said it was,... (full context)
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...off with Tonga. He and Tonga had numerous adventures, all the while intending to track Sholto down in London. Three or four years ago, they finally made it to England. (full context)
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Hearing that Sholto was dying, Small tracked him down to his deathbed, searching the room for a clue... (full context)