They pulled the candle up forthwith and put it in my hand, and I flung the plasterer’s hammer into the bucket, where it hung above the well, and then got in myself. The turnkey stood at the break-wheel, and Elzevir leant over the parapet to steady the rope. ’Art sure that thou canst do it, lad?’ he said, speaking low, and put his hand kindly on my shoulder. ’Are head and heart sure? Thou art my diamond, and I would rather lose all other diamonds in the world than aught should come to thee. So, if thou doubtest, let me go, or let not any go at all.’
‘Never doubt, master,’ I said, touched by tenderness, and wrung his hand. ’My head is sure; I have no broken leg to turn it silly now’—for I guessed he was thinking of Hoar Head and how I had gone giddy on the Zigzag.
The grave doth gape and doting death is near—Shakespeare
The bucket was large, for all that the turnkey had tried to frighten me into think it small, and I could crouch in it low enough to feel safe of not falling out. Moreover, such a venture was not entirely new to me, for I had once been over Gad Cliff in a basket, to get two peregrines’ eggs; yet none the less I felt ill at ease and fearful, when the bucket began to sink into that dreadful depth, and the air to grow chilly as I went down. They lowered me gently enough, so that I was able to take stock of the way the wall was made, and found that for the most part it was cut through solid chalk; but here and there, where the chalk failed or was broken away, they had lined the walls with brick, patching them now on this side, now on that, and now all round. By degrees the light, which was dim even overground that rainy day, died out in the well, till all was black as night but for my candle, and far overhead I could see the well-mouth, white and round like a lustreless full-moon.