Violet Hunter asks Holmes whether to accept a job as governess, with very strange conditions. She is enticed by the phenomenal salary which, as originally offered, is £100 a year, later increased to £120 when Miss Hunter balks at having to cut her long hair off, which is one of many peculiar provisos to which she must agree. The employer, Jephro Rucastle, seems pleasant enough, yet Miss Hunter obviously has her suspicions.
She announces to Holmes, after the raised salary offer, that she will take the job, and Holmes suggests that if he is needed, a telegram will bring him to Hampshire, where Mr. Rucastle's country estate, the Copper Beeches, is situated.
In about a fortnight, Holmes receives such a message, beseeching him to come and see her in Winchester. Once Holmes and Watson arrive, Miss Hunter tells them one of the most singular stories that they have ever heard.