`What change is there in you, Martin,' she replied; `for that concerns me nearest? You look more anxious and more thoughtful than you used.'

`Why, as to that, my love,' said Ma rtin as he drew her waist within his arm, first looking round to see that there were no observers near, and beholding Mr. Tapley more intent than ever on the fog; `it would be strange if I did not; for my life, especially of late, has been a hard one.'

`I know it must have been,' she answered. `When have I forgotten to think of it and you?'

`Not often, I hope,' said Martin. `Not often, I am sure. Not often, I have some right to expect, Mary; for I have undergone a great deal of vexation and privation, and I naturally look for that return, you know.'

`A very, very poor return,' she answered with a fainter smile. `But you have it, and will have it always. You have paid a dear price for a poor heart, Martin; but it is at least your own, and a true one.'

`Of course I feel quite certain of that,' said Martin, `or I shouldn't have put myself in my present position. And don't say a poor heart, Mary, for I say a rich one. Now, I am about to break a design to you dearest, which will startle you at first, but which is undertaken for your sake. I am going,' he added slowly, looking far into the deep wonder of her bright dark eyes, `abroad.'

`Abroad, Martin!'

`Only to America. See now. How you droop directly!'

`If I do, or, I hope I may say, if I did,' she answered, raising her head after a short silence, and looking once more into his face, `it was for grief to think of what you are resolved to undergo for me. I would not venture to dissuade you, Martin; but it is a long, long distance; there is a wide ocean to be crossed; illness and want are sad calamities in any place, but in a foreign country dreadful to endure. Have you thought of all this?'

`Thought of it!' cried Martin, abating, in his fondness -- and he was very fond of her -- hardly an iota of his usual impetuosity. `What am I to do? It's very well to say, Have I thought of it? my love; but you should ask me in the same breath, have I thought of starving at home; have I thought of doing porter's work for a living; have I thought of holding horses in the streets to earn my roll of bread from day to day? Come, come,' he added, in a gentler tone, `do not hang down your head, my dear, for I need the encouragement that your sweet face alone can give me. Why, that's well! Now you are brave again.'

`I am endeavouring to be,' she answered, smiling through her tears.

`Endeavouring to be anything that's good, and being it, is, with you, all one. Don't I know that of old?' cried Martin, gaily. `So! That's famous! Now I can tell you all my plans as cheerfully as if you were my little wife already, Mary.'

She hung more closely on his arm, and looking upwards in his face, bade him speak on.

`You see,' said Martin, playing with the little hand upon his wrist, `that my attempts to advance myself at home have been baffled and rendered abortive. I will not say by whom, Mary, for that would give pain to us both. But so it is. Have you heard him speak of late of any relative of mine or his, called Pecksniff? Only tell me what I ask you, no more.'

`I have heard, to my surprise, that he is a better man than was supposed.'

`I thought so,' interrupted Martin.

`And that it is likely we may come to know him, if not to visit and reside with him and -- I think -- his daughters. He has daughters, has he, love?'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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