The Sign of the Four

by

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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Miss Mary Morstan Character Analysis

Miss Morstan comes to Sherlock Holmes to see if he can help her find out what happened to her father, Captain Morstan, who disappeared a few years previously. She has also been receiving a pearl once a year in the post and been told to go to London’s Lyceum Theater in the evening of the day she comes to see Holmes. She therefore acts as the catalyst for the entire story, providing Holmes with a much-needed problem to solve. She is generally portrayed as quite passive, but is also virtuous, especially in her apparent lack of concern about her share of the Agra treasure (she is more interested in knowing what has happened to her father). Over the course of the novella, Miss Morstan falls in love with Dr. John Watson; at the end, she agrees to marry him. She lives with Mrs. Forrester, serving as her governess. She is described as beautiful and is around twenty-seven years old.

Miss Mary Morstan Quotes in The Sign of the Four

The The Sign of the Four quotes below are all either spoken by Miss Mary Morstan or refer to Miss Mary Morstan. 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 1 Quotes

“May I ask whether you have any professional inquiry on foot at present?"

"None. Hence the cocaine. I cannot live without brain-work. What else is there to live for? Stand at the window here. Was ever such a dreary, dismal, unprofitable world? See how the yellow fog swirls down the street and drifts across the dun-colored houses. What could be more hopelessly prosaic and material? What is the use of having powers, doctor, when one has no field upon which to exert them? Crime is commonplace, existence is commonplace, and no qualities save those which are commonplace have any function upon earth."

I had opened my mouth to reply to this tirade, when with a crisp knock our landlady entered, bearing a card upon the brass salver.

Related Characters: Sherlock Holmes (speaker), Dr. John Watson (speaker), Miss Mary Morstan
Page Number: 8-9
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 2 Quotes

"What a very attractive woman!" I exclaimed, turning to my companion.

He had lit his pipe again, and was leaning back with drooping eyelids. "Is she?" he said, languidly. "I did not observe."

"You really are an automaton,—a calculating-machine!" I cried. "There is something positively inhuman in you at times."

He smiled gently. "It is of the first importance," he said, "not to allow your judgment to be biased by personal qualities. A client is to me a mere unit,—a factor in a problem. The emotional qualities are antagonistic to clear reasoning.”

Related Characters: Sherlock Holmes (speaker), Dr. John Watson (speaker), Miss Mary Morstan
Page Number: 12
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3 Quotes

It was a September evening, and not yet seven o'clock, but the day had been a dreary one, and a dense drizzly fog lay low upon the great city. Mud-coloured clouds drooped sadly over the muddy streets. Down the Strand the lamps were but misty splotches of diffused light which threw a feeble circular glimmer upon the slimy pavement. The yellow glare from the shop-windows streamed out into the steamy, vaporous air, and threw a murky, shifting radiance across the crowded thoroughfare. There was, to my mind, something eerie and ghost-like in the endless procession of faces which flitted across these narrow bars of light,—sad faces and glad, haggard and merry. Like all human kind, they flitted from the gloom into the light, and so back into the gloom once more. I am not subject to impressions, but the dull, heavy evening, with the strange business upon which we were engaged, combined to make me nervous and depressed. I could see from Miss Morstan's manner that she was suffering from the same feeling. Holmes alone could rise superior to petty influences. He held his open note-book upon his knee, and from time to time he jotted down figures and memoranda in the light of his pocket-lantern.

Related Characters: Dr. John Watson (speaker), Sherlock Holmes , Miss Mary Morstan
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 4 Quotes

"Your servant, Miss Morstan," he kept repeating, in a thin, high voice. "Your servant, gentlemen. Pray step into my little sanctum. A small place, miss, but furnished to my own liking. An oasis of art in the howling desert of South London."

We were all astonished by the appearance of the apartment into which he invited us. In that sorry house it looked as out of place as a diamond of the first water in a setting of brass. The richest and glossiest of curtains and tapestries draped the walls, looped back here and there to expose some richly-mounted painting or Oriental vase. The carpet was of amber-and-black, so soft and so thick that the foot sank pleasantly into it, as into a bed of moss. Two great tiger-skins thrown athwart it increased the suggestion of Eastern luxury, as did a huge hookah which stood upon a mat in the corner. A lamp in the fashion of a silver dove was hung from an almost invisible golden wire in the centre of the room. As it burned it filled the air with a subtle and aromatic odor.

Related Characters: Dr. John Watson (speaker), Thaddeus Sholto (speaker), Sherlock Holmes , Miss Mary Morstan
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:

"'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 7 Quotes

The police had brought a cab with them, and in this I escorted Miss Morstan back to her home. After the angelic fashion of women, she had borne trouble with a calm face as long as there was some one weaker than herself to support, and I had found her bright and placid by the side of the frightened housekeeper. In the cab, however, she first turned faint, and then burst into a passion of weeping,—so sorely had she been tried by the adventures of the night. She has told me since that she thought me cold and distant upon that journey. She little guessed the struggle within my breast, or the effort of self-restraint which held me back. My sympathies and my love went out to her, even as my hand had in the garden. I felt that years of the conventionalities of life could not teach me to know her sweet, brave nature as had this one day of strange experiences. Yet there were two thoughts which sealed the words of affection upon my lips. She was weak and helpless, shaken in mind and nerve. It was to take her at a disadvantage to obtrude love upon her at such a time. Worse still, she was rich. If Holmes's researches were successful, she would be an heiress. Was it fair, was it honorable, that a half-pay surgeon should take such advantage of an intimacy which chance had brought about? Might she not look upon me as a mere vulgar fortune-seeker? I could not bear to risk that such a thought should cross her mind. This Agra treasure intervened like an impassable barrier between us.

Related Characters: Dr. John Watson (speaker), Miss Mary Morstan
Related Symbols: The Agra Treasure
Page Number: 37
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 9 Quotes

"It is a romance!" cried Mrs. Forrester. "An injured lady, half a million in treasure, a black cannibal, and a wooden-legged ruffian. They take the place of the conventional dragon or wicked earl."

"And two knight-errants to the rescue," added Miss Morstan, with a bright glance at me.

"Why, Mary, your fortune depends upon the issue of this search. I don't think that you are nearly excited enough. Just imagine what it must be to be so rich, and to have the world at your feet!"

It sent a little thrill of joy to my heart to notice that she showed no sign of elation at the prospect. On the contrary, she gave a toss of her proud head, as though the matter were one in which she took small interest.

Related Characters: Dr. John Watson (speaker), Miss Mary Morstan (speaker), Mrs. Forrester (speaker), Sherlock Holmes
Related Symbols: The Agra Treasure
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 11 Quotes

"The treasure is lost," said Miss Morstan, calmly.

As I listened to the words and realized what they meant, a great shadow seemed to pass from my soul. I did not know how this Agra treasure had weighed me down, until now that it was finally removed. It was selfish, no doubt, disloyal, wrong, but I could realize nothing save that the golden barrier was gone from between us. "Thank God!" I ejaculated from my very heart.

She looked at me with a quick, questioning smile. "Why do you say that?" she asked.

"Because you are within my reach again," I said, taking her hand. She did not withdraw it. "Because I love you, Mary, as truly as ever a man loved a woman. Because this treasure, these riches, sealed my lips. Now that they are gone I can tell you how I love you. That is why I said, 'Thank God.'"

"Then I say, 'Thank God,' too," she whispered, as I drew her to my side. Whoever had lost a treasure, I knew that night that I had gained one.

Related Characters: Dr. John Watson (speaker), Miss Mary Morstan (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Agra Treasure
Page Number: 71-72
Explanation and Analysis:
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Miss Mary Morstan Character Timeline in The Sign of the Four

The timeline below shows where the character Miss Mary Morstan appears in The Sign of the Four. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1 — The Science of Deduction
Rationality vs. Emotion Theme Icon
...he has no case to work on currently: “I cannot live without brainwork.” Just then, Miss Mary Morstan arrives at the apartment. (full context)
Chapter 2 — The Statement of the Case
Wealth Theme Icon
Miss Morstan is a young blonde woman whom Watson describes as “dressed in the most perfect taste”... (full context)
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Miss Morstan outlines the facts of her case, as Holmes watches her gleefully with “hawk-like” features. Her... (full context)
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Miss Morstan continues that, though her father made it to London, he subsequently disappeared, and she never... (full context)
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Miss Morstan goes on, explaining that six years ago an advert appeared in the newspaper asking for... (full context)
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Holmes reads the note, which instructs Miss Morstan to “be at the third pillar from the left outside the Lyceum Theatre tonight at... (full context)
Rationality vs. Emotion Theme Icon
...same to that on the pearl box addresses and deduces that it is the same. Miss Morstan takes back the box, thanks Holmes, and leaves the flat. (full context)
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Watson exclaims how attractive he found Miss Morstan . When Holmes says he hadn’t noticed, Watson says, “you really are an automaton –... (full context)
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Holmes goes out for an hour, leaving Watson to daydream about Miss Morstan . He figures out that she must be twenty-seven—“a sweet age, when youth has lost... (full context)
Chapter 3 — In Quest of a Solution
Wealth Theme Icon
Rationality vs. Emotion Theme Icon
...something to do with Major Sholto, who, he has discovered, died the same week that Miss Morstan started receiving the mysterious pearls. He figures that “Sholto’s heir” knows something about “the mystery... (full context)
Empire and Imperialism Theme Icon
The Victorian Gothic Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Empire and Imperialism Theme Icon
Rationality vs. Emotion Theme Icon
The Victorian Gothic Theme Icon
...Khan, Dost Akbar.” Though he isn’t sure of the significance of the paper, Holmes tells Miss Morstan to guard it safely. (full context)
The Victorian Gothic Theme Icon
...“eerie and ghostlike” about all of the people that they pass. He can tell that Miss Morstan feels similarly to him; Holmes is deep in thought. (full context)
Rationality vs. Emotion Theme Icon
The Victorian Gothic Theme Icon
...follow him. They get into another cab and head through the “foggy streets.” Watson tells Miss Morstan anecdotes about his time serving in Afghanistan. (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... (full context)
Empire and Imperialism Theme Icon
Wealth Theme Icon
...deathbed. At this point, Major Sholto told his sons that he felt guilty about how Miss Morstan had been treated. He asked them to give Miss Morstan her fair share of the... (full context)
Empire and Imperialism Theme Icon
Wealth Theme Icon
...searched high and low for the treasure. Bartholomew didn’t want to send the pearls to Miss Morstan , but Thaddeus insisted, seeing himself as her “trustee.” Thaddeus explains that he learned yesterday... (full context)
Wealth Theme Icon
...treasure is around “half a million sterling.” Watson thinks to himself how this will make Miss Morstan the richest heiress in England; he offers congratulations but inwardly feels disheartened. They arrive at... (full context)
Chapter 5 — The Tragedy of Pondicherry Lodge
Wealth Theme Icon
The Victorian Gothic Theme Icon
...the house. Thaddeus goes in meets the house keeper, Mrs. Bernstone, who has been crying. Miss Morstan and Watson instinctively hold hands in the dark as they look at the grounds with... (full context)
Chapter 6 — Sherlock Holmes Gives a Demonstration
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...does not know his identity yet. Holmes takes Watson aside and asks him to escort Miss Morstan home, before fetching Toby the hound from an associate of Holmes’ to help them track... (full context)
Chapter 7 — The Episode of the Barrel
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Watson takes Miss Morstan back to her home, feeling that the Agra treasure is “like an impassable barrier” between... (full context)
Chapter 9 — A Break in the Chain
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Rationality vs. Emotion Theme Icon
...frustrated that he has not yet solved the case. Watson decides to go to see Miss Morstan and Mrs. Cecil Forrester to update them; Holmes tells him “women are never to be... (full context)
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Watson heads to Miss Morstan ’s house, dropping off Toby the hound on the way. He tells them about the... (full context)
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...on his own; he also wants Watson to be entrusted with taking the treasure to Miss Morstan . Jones agrees to these demands, despite them being so “irregular.” Holmes then invites Jones... (full context)
Chapter 11 — The Great Agra Treasure
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Rationality vs. Emotion Theme Icon
Watson is dropped off at Vauxhall bridge with the treasure box and takes it to Miss Morstan ’s house. She is dressed in “white diaphanous material,” looking angelic. She doesn’t seem excited... (full context)
Wealth Theme Icon
...Watson wedges it open using a poker. To their amazement, the box is entirely empty. Miss Morstan calmly says, “the treasure is lost.” Watson, without being able to stop himself, exclaims, “thank... (full context)
Chapter 12 — The Strange Story of Jonathan Small
Rationality vs. Emotion Theme Icon
The Victorian Gothic Theme Icon
...that this may be the last case on which he is able to help, as Miss Morstan has accepted his marriage proposal. At this news, Holmes groans, “I really cannot congratulate you... (full context)
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Rationality vs. Emotion Theme Icon
...that Holmes gets nothing out of the case’s resolution—Jones has his suspect, and Watson has Miss Morstan . Holmes replies that “there still remains the cocaine-bottle,” before reaching out to grab it. (full context)