“Stealing the Bell Ropes”

A puzzle by Henry Dudeney:

A robber broke into the belfry of a church, and though he had nothing to assist him but his pocket-knife, he contrived to steal nearly the complete lengths of the two bell-ropes, which passed through holes in the lofty boarded ceiling. How did he effect his purpose? Of course, there was no ladder or aught else to assist him. It is easy to understand that he might steal one rope and slide down the other, but how he cut the two, or any considerable portion of them, without a bad fall, is perplexing.

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