Plot:In 1757, Moonfleet is a small village near the sea in the south of England. It gets its name from a formerly prominent local family, the Mohunes, whose coat of arms includes a symbol shaped like a capital 'Y'. John Trenchard is an orphan who lives with his aunt, Miss Arnold. Other notable residents are the sexton Mr Ratsey, who is friendly to John; Parson Glennie, the local clergyman who also teaches in the village school; Elzevir Block, the landlord of the local inn, called the Mohune Arms but nicknamed the Why Not? because of its sign with the Mohune 'Y'; and Mr Maskew, the unpopular local magistrate and his beautiful daughter, Grace.
Village legend tells of the notorious Colonel John "Blackbeard" Mohune who is buried in the family crypt under the church. He is reputed to have stolen a diamond from King Charles I and hidden it. His ghost is said to wander at night looking for it and the mysterious lights in the churchyard are attributed to his activities.
As the main part of the story opens, Block's youthful son, David, has just been killed by Maskew during a raid by the Maskew and other authorities on a smuggling boat. One night a bad storm hits the village and there is a flood. While attending the Sunday service at church, John hears strange sounds from the crypt below. He thinks it is the sound of the coffins of the Mohune family. The next day, he finds Elzevir and Ratsey against the south wall of the church. They claim to be checking for damage from the storm, but John suspects they are searching for Blackbeard's ghost.
Later John finds a large sinkhole has opened in the ground by a grave. He follows the passage and finds himself in the crypt with coffins on shelves and casks on the floor. He realises his friends are smugglers and this is their hiding place. He has to hide behind a coffin when he hears Ratsey and Elzevir coming. When they leave, they fill in the hole, inadvertently trapping him. John finds a locket in a coffin which holds a piece of paper with verses from the Bible. John eventually passes out after drinking too much of the wine while trying to quench his thirst, having not eaten or drunk for days. Later he wakes up in the Why Not? inn - he has been rescued by Elzevir and Ratsey. When he is better, he returns to his aunt's house, but she, suspecting him of drunken behaviour, throws him out. Fortunately, Elzevir takes him in......
John Meade Falkner (8 May 1858 - 22 July 1932) was an English novelist and poet, best known for his 1898 novel, Moonfleet. An extremely successful businessman as well, he became chairman of the arms manufacturer Armstrong Whitworth during World War I.Falkner was born in Manningford Bruce, Wiltshire, and spent much of his childhood in Dorchester and Weymouth. He was educated at Marlborough College and Hertford College, Oxford, graduating with a degree in history in 1882. After Oxford, he was a master at Derby School, then went to Newcastle as tutor to the family of Sir Andrew Noble, who ran Armstrong Whitworth Co., one of the largest arms manufacturers in the world. Falkner eventually followed him as chairman in 1915. In his business travels round the world, Falkner brought back antiquarian treasures of all kinds.
After his retirement as chairman in 1921 he became Honorary Reader in paleography at the University of Durham, as well as Honorary Librarian to the Dean and Chapter Library of Durham Cathedral. Falkner fell in love with Durham and, although he spent his later years travelling frequently, he called Durham his home, living in the Divinity House (now the University Music School) on Palace Green in front of the cathedral from 1902 until his death. There is a commemorative plaque there, while his monument is in the south cloister of the cathedral.