The story opens in the familiar quarters of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson at 221-B Baker Street in London. It is a warm summer evening, and their conversation wanders from subject to subject until Holmes mentions his family. Despite Watson’s sharing the apartment for several years, he has never known Holmes to speak much of his background, and Watson is surprised to hear that Holmes has an elder brother, Mycroft, whom the detective describes as a reasoner even greater than himself. However, Mycroft, Holmes explains, has an absolute aversion to interrupting his daily routine for the sometimes vigorous activity needed to solve crimes.
Holmes has a purpose in mentioning Mycroft precisely at this time, because his corpulent brother has summoned him to what Holmes characterizes as one of the strangest clubs in London. Holmes and Watson, therefore, stroll to the Diogenes Club for Watson’s first sight of this strangest member of the city’s strangest club. The Diogenes Club was founded for gentlemen who desired the refuge of a club and the privacy of their homes: Conversation is forbidden except in the Strangers’ Room, in which Holmes and Watson are joined by Mycroft.
Mycroft sets before Holmes the mystery of the story: A neighbor of his, a Mr. Melas, has come to him with the tale of a very strange experience. Thinking at once of his younger brother, Mycroft has asked Melas to join them at the club so that Holmes may pursue the problem. Melas, a Greek, works as a translator in London, and his adventure began when he was hired for that purpose by a Mr. Latimer. Latimer asked Melas to accompany him to his house; when they entered their carriage, Latimer closed the window shades so that Melas could not see where they were going. Latimer then drew out a blackjack and threatened Melas so effectively that the interpreter made no protest during their ride of almost two hours.
Because night had fallen, Melas was unable to identify his surroundings when the carriage stopped. He was shown into a house and introduced first to a small, mean-looking man, and then to an emaciated figure whose head was crisscrossed and whose mouth...
(The entire section is 879 words.)