“Oh what a rush of thought then came, dazing me with its sweet bitterness, to think that after all these weary years…we had come back to Moonfleet!”
J.Meade Falkner wrote those words in his timeless classic first published in 1898. It is a story of high adventure set in the Dorset smuggling village of Moonfleet. The ending of this book still has the power to move me not least because I know the place well. The Fleet or Chisel Bank still stands today more or less as it was then and the Dorset coastline in these parts is little changed. The smuggling Inn so wonderfully named the Why Not? in the story could be an old Inn tucked away in the lanes beyond the cliffs its signboard creaking in the wind along the deserted lane that leads down to the sea.
My father once told me that stones tossed into the sea off Lands End would one day, several hundreds of eons later find their way to Chisel Bank. There was a logical explanation to this, it had to do with sea currents around the coast of Britain and who knows it could well be true, certainly there is no where like this place on earth. One stands on the miles long Banks face to the sea transported to a timeless place the echos of the sea deep sucking at the stones, the wind tugging at your hair buffeting your very soul and just like the young John Trenchard in the story you cannot but be moved by the place. I have for years kept one of the smooth pebbles, black as basalt, smooth as silk that I picked up on the Fleet.
That wild coast took many men to their deaths in shipwrecks during the years in which the story is set and reading the novel again I can but imagine fondly that Master Ratsey and the faithful Elzevir Block still live today because of their characters so skillfully drawn by Falkner.
“Yes I love to see it best when it is lashed to madness in an autumn gale, and to hear the grinding roar of pebbles like a giant organ playing all the night, Tis then I turn and thank God, more from the heart, perhaps than any other living man, that I am not fighting for my life on Moonfleet Beach…”