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The Hand of Ethelberta

28. Ethelberta's - Mr. Chickerel's Room
The question of Neigh or no Neigh had reached a pitch of
insistence which no longer permitted of dallying, even by a
popular beauty. His character was becoming defined to
Ethelberta as something very differently composed from that
of her first imagining. She had set him down to be a man
whose external in excitability owed nothing to self-
repression, but stood as the natural surface of the mass
within. Neigh's urban torpor, she said, might have been in
the first instance produced by art, but, were it thus, it had
gone so far as to permeate him. This had been disproved,
first surprisingly, by his reported statement; wondrously, in
the second place, by his call upon her and sudden proposal;
thirdly, to a degree simply astounding, by what had occurred
in the city that day. For Neigh, before the fervour had
subsided which was produced in him by her look and
general power while reading 'Paradise Lost,' found himself
alone with her in a nook outside the church, and there had
almost demanded her promise to be his wife. She had
replied by asking for time, and idly offering him the petals of
her rose, that had shed themselves in her hand. Neigh, in
taking them, pressed her fingers more warmly than she
thought she had given him warrant for, which offended her. It
was certainly a very momentary affair, and when it was over
seemed to surprise himself almost as much as it had vexed
her; but it had reminded her of one truth which she was in
danger of forgetting. The town gentleman was not half so far
removed from Sol and Dan, and the hard-handed order in
general, in his passions as in his philosophy. He still
continued to be the male of his species, and when the heart
was hot with a dream Pall Mall had much the same aspect
as Wessex.