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there might be few such independent spirits as he mingling with
the baser clay of humanity.

He heard a light footstep above him as he descended the stairs,
and looking round saw that the young lady was standing there,
and glancing timidly towards him, seemed to hesitate whether she
should call him back or no. The best way of settling the question
was to turn back at once, which Nicholas did.

‘I don’t know whether I do right in asking you, sir,’ said
Madeline, hurriedly, ‘but pray, pray, do not mention to my poor
mother’s dear friends what has passed here today. He has suffered
much, and is worse this morning. I beg you, sir, as a boon, a favour
to myself.’

‘You have but to hint a wish,’ returned Nicholas fervently, ‘and
I would hazard my life to gratify it.’

‘You speak hastily, sir.’
‘Truly and sincerely,’ rejoined Nicholas, his lips trembling as he
formed the words, ‘if ever man spoke truly yet. I am not skilled in
disguising my feelings, and if I were, I could not hide my heart
from you. Dear madam, as I know your history, and feel as men
and angels must who hear and see such things, I do entreat you to
believe that I would die to serve you.’

The young lady turned away her head, and was plainly

‘Forgive me,’ said Nicholas, with respectful earnestness, ‘if I
seem to say too much, or to presume upon the confidence which
has been intrusted to me. But I could not leave you as if my
interest and sympathy expired with the commission of the day. I
am your faithful servant, humbly devoted to you from this hour,
devoted in strict truth and honour to him who sent me here, and

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