The Gravedigger

It was in the land of hemp, some years ago, that the burghers asked the ropemaker to dig a mass grave. They feared the worst, and wars could breed plagues. A contract was drawn up and the ropemaker went to the outskirts of the town to dig not far from the highway. Strong and dedicated, the ropemaker worked quickly. The hole grew wider and deeper. One day, the bottom caved in even more, and he fell down into a pit. There did not seem to be any way to dig himself out. His shovel was nowhere to be found. For days, he sat in the pit, listening to carriages and carts roll by, bearing fresh rope to the ports where it was sold to chandlers, who then sold it to the great ships of the west. Though he tried to climb the muddy slopes and cry for help, nobody heard him and he kept slipping and falling down. It would soon be time to harvest his hemp. The ropemaker missed surveying his crops, retting them, stretching and twining the stalks in 300 yard walks between hooks, chatting with peasant girls and working under the blue sky. And then there was the bundling, loading, and the departures, the evenings of brewing and drinking, the fragrance of the good earth, the fragrance of bread, the way his hands were strong from years of working the earth and the twine. The ropemaker had a few seeds in his coat pocket that he carried around for good luck. One must have fallen into the soil, for he woke up one morning to see a stalk growing on the floor of the pit. A handful of seeds and one stalk do not, however, make a rope. And even the strongest hands need something to hold onto.

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