The pretty little posting station, known as the Plough Inn, on the Old London Road, where the Sterndale Road crosses it, was in a state of fuss and awe, at about five o'clock on a fine sharp October evening, for Sir Jekyl Marlowe, a man of many thousand acres, and M.P. for the county, was standing with his back to the fire, in the parlour, whose bow-window looks out on the ancient thoroughfare I have mentioned, over the row of scarlet geraniums which beautify the window-stone. "Hollo!" cried the Baronet, as the bell-rope came down in answer to an energetic but not angry pull, and he received Mrs. Jones, his hostess, who entered at the moment, with the dismantled bell-handle still in his hand. "At my old tricks, you see. I've been doing you a mischief, hey? but we'll set it right in the bill, you know. How devilish well you look! wonderful girl, by Jove! Come in, my dear, and shut the door. Not afraid of me. I want to talk of ducks and mutton-chops. I've had no luncheon, and I'm awfully hungry," said the comely Baronet in a continued chuckle. The Baronet was, by that awful red-bound volume of dates, which is one of the melancholy drawbacks of aristocracy, set down just then, and by all whom it might concern, ascertainable to be precisely forty-nine years and three months old; but so well had he worn, and so cleverly was he got up, that he might have passed for little more than forty. He was smiling, with very white teeth, and a gay leer on pretty Mrs. Jones, an old friend, with black eyes and tresses, and pink cheeks, who bore her five-and-thirty years as well almost as he did his own burthen. The slanting autumnal sun became her, and she simpered and courtesied and blushed the best she could. "Well, you pretty little devil, what can you do for me-hey? You know we're old friends-hey? What have you got for a hungry fellow? and don't stand at the door there, hang it-come in, can't you? and let me hear what you say." So Mrs. Jones, with a simpering bashfulness, delivered her bill of fare off book. The Baronet was a gallant English gentleman, and came of a healthy race, though there were a 'beau' and an archbishop in the family; he could rough it good-humouredly on beefsteak and port, and had an accommodating appetite as to hours. "That will do very nicely, my dear, thank you. You're just the same dear hospitable little rogue I remember you-how long is it, by Jove, since I stopped here that day, and the awful thunderstorm at night, don't you recollect? and the whole house in such a devil of a row, egad!" And the Baronet chuckled and leered, with his hands in his pockets.