I shall die of 'em, if Jeremiah don't strangle me first. As I expect he will.'
'I have never heard any noises here, worth speaking of.'
'Ah! But you would, though, if you lived in the house, and was obliged to go about it as I am,' said Affery; 'and you'd feel that they was so well worth speaking of, that you'd feel you was nigh bursting through not being allowed to speak of 'em. Here's Jeremiah! You'll get me killed.'
'My good Affery, I solemnly declare to you that I can see the light of the open door on the pavement of the hall, and so could you if you would uncover your face and look.'
'I durstn't do it,' said Affery, 'I durstn't never, Arthur. I'm always blind-folded when Jeremiah an't a looking, and sometimes even when he is.'
'He cannot shut the door without my seeing him,' said Arthur. 'You are as safe with me as if he was fifty miles away.'
('I wish he was!' cried Affery.)
'Affery, I want to know what is amiss here; I want some light thrown on the secrets of this house.' 'I tell you, Arthur,' she interrupted, 'noises is the secrets, rustlings and stealings about, tremblings, treads overhead and treads underneath.'
'But those are not all the secrets.'
'I don't know,' said Affery. 'Don't ask me no more. Your old sweetheart an't far off, and she's a blabber.'
His old sweetheart, being in fact so near at hand that she was then reclining against him in a flutter, a very substantial angle of forty-five degrees, here interposed to assure Mistress Affery with greater earnestness than directness of asseveration, that what she heard should go no further, but should be kept inviolate, 'if on no other account on Arthur's--sensible of intruding in being too familiar Doyce and Clennam's.'
'I make an imploring appeal to you, Affery, to you, one of the few agreeable early remembrances I have, for my mother's sake, for your husband's sake, for my own, for all our sakes. I am sure you can tell me something connected with the coming here of this man, if you will.'
'Why, then I'll tell you, Arthur,' returned Affery--'Jeremiah's coming!'
'No, indeed he is not. The door is open, and he is standing outside, talking.'
'I'll tell you then,' said Affery, after listening, 'that the first time he ever come he heard the noises his own self. "What's that?" he said to me. "I don't know what it is," I says to him, catching hold of him, "but I have heard it over and over again." While I says it, he stands a looking at me, all of a shake, he do.'
'Has he been here often?'
'Only that night, and the last night.'
'What did you see of him on the last night, after I was gone?'
'Them two clever ones had him all alone to themselves. Jeremiah come a dancing at me sideways, after I had let you out (he always comes a dancing at me sideways when he's going to hurt me), and he said to me, "Now, Affery," he said, "I am a coming behind you, my woman, and a going to run you up." So he took and squeezed the back of my neck in his hand, till it made me open MY mouth, and then he pushed me before him to bed, squeezing all the way. That's what he calls running me up, he do. Oh, he's a wicked one!'
'And did you hear or see no more, Affery?'
'Don't I tell you I was sent to bed, Arthur! Here he is!'
'I assure you he is still at the door. Those whisperings and counsellings, Affery, that you have spoken of. What are they?'
'How should I know? Don't ask me nothing about 'em, Arthur. Get away!'
'But my dear Affery; unless I can gain some insight into these hidden things, in spite of your husband and in spite of my mother, ruin will come of it.'
'Don't ask me nothing,' repeated Affery. 'I have been in a dream for ever so long. Go away, go away!'
'You said that before,' returned Arthur. 'You used the same expression that night, at the door, when I asked you what was going on here. What do you mean by being in a dream?'
'I an't a going to tell you. Get away! I shouldn't tell you, if you was by yourself; much less with your old sweetheart here.'
It was equally vain for Arthur to entreat, and for Flora to protest.