| Jephro Rucastle |
|Family|| First wife|
Alice Rucastle (daughter)
Mrs Rucastle (second wife)
Edward Rucastle (son)
|Behind the scenes|
|Appearances||"The Adventure of the Copper Beeches"|
Jephro Rucastle is the employer of Miss Violet Hunter and the primary antagonist in "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches". Miss Hunter employs Sherlock Holmes to solve the mystery surrounding her employment.
The story begins with Violet Hunter seeking work through an agency. She meets Jephro through the agency and, upon seeing her, Jephro shows immediate interest in her. A seemingly charming and jovial man at first glance, Jephro offers Violet work as a governor at his estate, bequeathing her a generous salary in exchange for performing unusual, but simplistic duties, the first being the shortening of her hair. Violet is suspicious of the strange offer however and declines his proposition, although Jephro tells her that his offer still stands should she change her mind.
Violet then immediately arranges a meeting with Sherlock Holmes to ask for his advice. Sherlock advises her to accept the job and be wary of anything out of the ordinary and to send a telegram should she find herself in any sort of danger. Violet contacts Jephro and accepts his job offer and immediately sets off to his estate, the Copper Beeches. Upon arriving there, Violet is acquainted with the members of Jephro's household: his child, Edward Rucastle who displays sadistic qualities in torturing small animals and his wife who seems to be in a constant state of depression. Jephro mentions also having a daughter, Alice Rucastle, living in the Philadelphia.
His staff includes Mr and Mrs Toller, whom Violet consider to be a sour pair. Mr Toller is almost always drunk and one of his duties includes caring for a rather vicious Mastiff locked in a cage. After a few days living with the Rucastles, Violet is perturbed by the surreality of the environment, but Jephro does his best in keeping her entertained by telling her funny stories for hours on end until she is quite weary.
Eventually, Jephro catches Violet in the mystery wing of the manor, despite previously telling her that he uses it as a dark room for developing photographs. It is here we see his true colours, as he drops the friendly façade he had displayed towards Violet and seemingly adopts a cold and ruthless demeanour, threatening to throw Violet 'to the Mastiff' should she ever set foot in the mystery wing again.
Violet, fearing for her life, sends a telegram for Sherlock and Watson and the pair immediately come to her aid. Sherlock surmises that Jephro's daughter Alice is actually the prisoner in the mystery wing of the Copper Beeches and that the man watching from the distance may be her lover. As the trio work to free Alice from Jephro's clutches, Jephro catches wind of their attempt and upon seeing Alice having been liberated from her room, he madly exclaims that he has them in his power and prepares to 'serve them' by releasing the Mastiff on them.
Sherlock and Watson try to stop Jephro from releasing the hound, only for them to be warned by Mr Toller that the Mastiff had not been fed for quite a few days. Indeed, as the moment Jephro frees the hound, it attacks and severely mauls him. Thanks to Watson's crack shot skills, the hound is killed and Jephro is saved.
Mrs Toller later revealed why Jephro had imprisoned his daughter: Alice had inherited a fortune from her late mother's will, but being of a patient and quiet disposition, she had left everything in her father's hands. When she became engaged, however, Jephro knew that her husband would be entitled to share that money with her, which in turn would deprive him of his rights to it. Hence, he tried to force his daughter to sign a paper (power of attorney) that would enable him to use her money whether she married or not, but Alice adamantly refused. Jephro's cruel, relentless persistence in the matter resulted in Alice becoming ill with brain fever - hence, the cut hair. When she finally recovered, Jephro tried to keep Alice away from her fiancé by locking her up in the mystery wing, and hiring Miss Hunter to unwittingly impersonate Alice.
It was revealed in the epilogue that Jephro had survived his encounter with the hound, but had also permanently become a broken man, kept alive solely through the care of his second wife and the Tollers.