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Moonfleet is a tale of smuggling by the English novelist J. Meade Falkner, first published in 1898. The book was extremely popular among children worldwide up until the 1970s, mostly for its themes of adventure and gripping storyline. It remains a popular story widely read and is still sometimes studied in schools.


Plot summary

In 1757, Moonfleet is a small village near the sea in the south of England. John Trenchard is an orphan who lives with his aunt. John goes to the Why Not? Inn with his friend Ratsey to talk to Elzevir, who is sad after his son’s death by Mr Maskew. John doesn’t want to go out because the ghost of Blackbeard roams the village on winter nights. He stole a famous diamond and hid it. He was buried under the church, he gets out of his coffin to find his diamond each winter night.

A bad storm hits the village and there is a flood. While attending the Sunday service at church, John hears a strange sound from 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 pretend to check the damage from the storm. John visits the church regularly. One day, a hole opens in the ground. He follows the passage to look for Blackbeard’s diamond. He ends up in a big room with coffins on shelves and casks of wine on the floor.

He realises his friends are smugglers but has to hide when he hears someone approach. John is surprised to hear Ratsey’s and Elzevir’s voices. When they leave, they cover the hole. John finds a locket which holds a piece of paper with numbers and words from the Bible in Blackbeard’s coffin. But he cannot get out. He drinks wine and passes out to wake up in David’s room. He goes back to his aunt after his long illness but she does not want him there so he stays with Elzevir.

Elzevir must leave Moonfleet but first they must unload wine from a ship. They have to be careful because the excisemen know. John says goodbye to Grace, his love, and gets his mother’s prayer book. There is a fight near the ship: Maskew is killed by a stray bullet and John is wounded by the troops. Elzevir and John must hide in the cave until John's wound heals. In the meantime, he breaks Blackbeard's code with his Bible and he discovers the diamond in a well. Elzevir knows where the well is, so they decide to search for it.

John tells Grace the whole story before he leaves. Elzevir finds out the well is in a castle and gets the man who cleans the well to help him. John goes down the well and gets the diamond but the man wants it. There is a fight and Elzevir throws him down the well. Elzevir does not want any money from the diamond and advises John to help the village with it. They see a man in Holland: Krispijn Aldobrand, who is a famous diamond dealer. He says the diamond is glass, writes John’s name and address on a piece of paper and offers £10. John grabs the diamond but the dealer shouts for help. Elzevir and John are taken prisoner after a fight.

Elzevir and John go to prison for many years until they are taken to Java. On the voyage, their ship sinks near Moonfleet. Elzevir helps John to get ashore but he drowns, and John ends up in the bar with Ratsey. At the bar, John meets Grace. He does not recognise her at first but then they have a long talk. John tells her about the diamond and his life in prison. He regrets having lost everything but he learns from a letter his old teacher gives him that the Dutch dealer has died and has left him all the money because he was sorry for having stolen John’s diamond from him. John gives the money to the village, a new hospital and new houses are built. The school and the church are equipped and John marries Grace. They have three children and never leave the village.

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