Three brilliant novels of mystery and adventure in one special edition
John Meade Falkner was not a full time professional writer. In fact, during the First World War he became chairman of Armstrong Whitworth, the huge British arms manufacturer responsible for the construction of airplanes, cars, ships and more. Although he wrote some non-fiction (mostly travel guides), Falkner is primarily remembered for his classic of adventure fiction, the often dramatised ‘Moonfleet’. Set in mid-eighteenth century England, the novel is a grippingly told smuggling tale that is now regarded as a classic. ‘Moonfleet’ is joined in this unique Leonaur edition by Falkner’s two other novels. Aficionados of the ghostly tale will find much to reward them in the pages of the ‘Lost Stradivarius’. Lauded as the novel that could potentially have been written by the master of the literary supernatural short story, M.R. James, the plot centres around the violin of the title which is said to conjure the spirit of its former owner. ‘The Nebuly Coat’ is another gripping mystery set in Dorset, in which young architect Edward Westray, the principal character, must unravel the secrets of the suspicious Blandamers, whose coat of arms features the ‘nebuly’—a distinctive heraldic band device. This three-in-one Leonaur edition provides an excellent opportunity for both enthusiasts and newcomers to Falkner’s work to read or reread his highly regarded novels in a single satisfying and substantial volume.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
I made as if I would follow the others, not wishing to see what I must see if I stayed behind, and knowing that I was powerless to bend Elzevir from his purpose. But he called me back and bade me wait with him, for that I might be useful by and by. So I waited, but was only able to make a dreadful guess at how I might be of use, and feared the worst.
Maskew sat on the sward with his hands lashed tight behind his back, and his feet tied in front. They had set him with his shoulders against a great block of weather-worn stone that was half-buried and half-stuck up out of the turf. There he sat keeping his eyes on the ground, and was breathing less painfully than when he was first brought, but still very pale. Elzevir stood with the lanthorn in his hand, looking at Maskew with a fixed gaze, and we could hear the hoofs of the heavy-laden horses beating up the path, till they turned a corner, and all was still.
The silence was broken by Maskew: ‘Unloose me, villain, and let me go. I am a magistrate of the county, and if you do not, I will have you gibbeted on this cliff-top.’
They were brave words enough, yet seemed to me but bad play-acting; and brought to my remembrance how, when I was a little fellow, Mr. Glennie once made me recite a battle-piece of Mr. Dryden before my betters; and how I could scarce get out the bloody threats for shyness and rising tears. So it was with Maskew’s words; for he had much ado to gather breath to say them, and they came in a thin voice that had no sting of wrath or passion in it.
Then Elzevir spoke to him, not roughly, but resolved; and yet with melancholy, like a judge sentencing a prisoner:
‘Talk not to me of gibbets, for thou wilt neither hang nor see men hanged again. A month ago thou satst under my roof, watching the flame burn down till the pin dropped and gave thee right to turn me out from my old home. And now this morning thou shalt watch that flame again, for I will give thee one inch more of candle, and when the pin drops, will put this thine own pistol to thy head, and kill thee with as little thought as I would kill a stoat or other vermin.’
Then he opened the lanthorn slide, took out from his neckcloth that same pin with the onyx head which he had used in the Why Not? and fixed it in the tallow a short inch from the top, setting the lanthorn down upon the sward in front of Maskew.
As for me, I was dismayed beyond telling at these words, and made giddy with the revulsion of feeling; for, whereas, but a few minutes ago, I would have thought nothing too bad for Maskew, now I was turned round to wish he might come off with his life, and to look with terror upon Elzevir.
It had grown much lighter, but not yet with the rosy flush of sunrise; only the stars had faded out, and the deep blue of the night given way to a misty grey. The light was strong enough to let all things be seen, but not to call the due tints back to them. So I could see cliffs and ground, bushes and stones and sea, and all were of one pearly grey colour, or rather they were colourless; but the most colourless and greyest thing of all was Maskew’s face. His hair had got awry, and his head showed much balder than when it was well trimmed; his face, too, was drawn with heavy lines, and there were rings under his eyes. Beside all that, he had got an ugly fall in trying to escape, and one cheek was muddied, and down it trickled a blood-drop where a stone had cut him. He was a sorry sight enough, and looking at him, I remembered that day in the schoolroom when this very man had struck the parson, and how our master had sat patient under it, with a blood-drop trickling down his cheek too.
Maskew kept his eyes fixed for a long time on the ground, but raised them at last, and looked at me with a vacant yet pity-seeking look. Now, till that moment I had never seen a trace of Grace in his features, nor of him in hers; and yet as he gazed at me then, there was something of her present in his face, even battered as it was, so that it seemed as if she looked at me behind his eyes. And that made me the sorrier for him, and at last I felt I could not stand by and see him done to death.
When Elzevir had stuck the pin into the candle he never shut the slide again; and though no wind blew, there was a light breath moving in the morning off the sea, that got inside the lanthorn and set the flame askew. And so the candle guttered down one side till but little tallow was left above the pin; for though the flame grew pale and paler to the view in the growing morning light, yet it burnt freely all the time. So at last there was left, as I judged, but a quarter of an hour to run before the pin should fall, and I saw that Maskew knew this as well as I, for his eyes were fixed on the lanthorn.
At last he spoke again, but the brave words were gone, and the thin voice was thinner. He had dropped threats, and was begging piteously for his life. ‘Spare me,’ he said; ‘spare me, Mr. Block: I have an only daughter, a young girl with none but me to guard her. Would you rob a young girl of her only help and cast her on the world? Would you have them find me dead upon the cliff and bring me back to her a bloody corpse?’
Then Elzevir answered: ‘And had I not an only son, and was he not brought back to me a bloody corpse? Whose pistol was it that flashed in his face and took his life away? Do you not know? It was this very same that shall flash in yours. So make what peace you may with God, for you have little time to make it.’
With that he took the pistol from the ground where it had lain, and turning his back on Maskew, walked slowly to and fro among the bramble-plumps.