Old Fires and Profitable Ghosts (Dodo Press) - Arthur Quiller-Couch Found here at Gutenberg. 15 short stories by Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch (and if you can say that name five times fast I have a drinking game for you).After reading the first two stories I had started to worry that this was going to be one of those books written in the 1800s that always had to bring Christianity into a story - but happily that's not the case. Instead it's a glut of Heavy Symbolism that's involved, not Christianity (though there's Christian symbolism scattered about too). Some of the stories seem to be better written than others; in some there's a slightly dream-like tone that sometimes doesn't work as well. The more dreamy ones seem to be going for a symbolism (psychological?) that is often unclear yet at the same time hits the reader in the face as a "This Means Something" moment - which all just seems awkward. The Room of Mirrors is the best example. There are a lot of shipwrecks in these stories - it's the one theme that continues throughout the book.However! I don't dislike the book - I just had the impression that a few of the stories didn't quite seem as good as the rest. Many of the stories I did like, and would read again - the author does have the ability to make his stories seem like old folktales (not a surprise, given his biography).At this point it's best just to give you a plot blurb on each and then a few quotes as examples of the author's writing style.Contents:I. OCEANUS.Written as a letter to a family member, a brother struggles with his brother's death. He sees his brother again - or is it a dream/vision?II. THE SEVENTH MAN.Ship-wrecked survivors in the arctic. Suddenly there's one more in a head-count of the crew.III. THE ROOM OF MIRRORS.A man hunts down his enemy, but they are perhaps dependent on each other for existence in a supernatural way.IV. A PAIR OF HANDS.A quiet little ghost, and a rather sweet story. (I really liked this one.)V. THE LADY OF THE SHIP.A lady involved in a shipwreck is saved by a lord who then must deal with a case of...demonic possession? Or servitude to a demon? (I was somewhat fuzzy on that part, but so was the narrator.) Written by a servant trying to clear his master's name. (I also liked this story - good atmosphere.)VI. FROZEN MARGIT.Story told by one twin about the women saved from a shipwreck that he and his brother fell in love with. She chooses one of them, eventually they end up on a sea voyage that ends in...weirdness. (I didn't like the character of Margit, and don't think I'm supposed to - she's wildly unlikable. The story's ending was ...odd. As are all of Margit's choices.)VII. THE SINGULAR ADVENTURE OF A SMALL FREE-TRADER.A child from a family of smugglers gets separated from the crew of his vessel/smuggling group and ends up meeting a strange older lady.VIII. THE MYSTERY OF JOSEPH LAQUEDEM.Letter written by the minister to a friend, story of a Jewish business man who, while visiting the minister, meets a girl who the locals know to be "an imbecile." However he believes that he and the girl have a past bond. Romance with supernatural twist. IX. PRISONERS OF WAR.Two men who have known each other all their lives become enemies after becoming prisoners of war. "Humorous" ending.X. A TOWN'S MEMORY.Man returns to a town he hasn't seen since youth and tries to find someone that remembers him.XI. THE LADY OF THE RED ADMIRALS.Girl who lives with elderly guardians allows a passing stranger in on the secret of her fiance.XII. THE PENANCE OF JOHN EMMET.The parson has his pupil (our narrator) help him with a task he must perform for a dead man, and then tells his pupil the story behind it. (I liked this one.)XIII. ELISHA.Myth/fairytale-like story of the Biblical Elisha, the blind prophet, who returns to an area he'd visited before and finds out what happened in the life of Miriam since then.XIV. "ONCE ABOARD THE LUGGER".A small town gets a new minister and the local girls gossip about who will marry him. (This did not go where I thought it would or the way it would. Which I kind of like for surprising me. Then again, this depends on where you think the writer will go with things at this point.)XV. WHICH?A man and women meet who used to know each other, and reminisce about their sad past.Quotes:From The Singular Adventure of A Small Free-Trader:...But she interrupted me. Setting down her work-basket, which was heaped high with reels and parti-coloured rags of silk, she pushed a small table over to the big bed and loaded it with candlesticks. There were three candles already alight in the room, but she lit others and set them in line—brass candlesticks, plated candlesticks, candlesticks of chinaware—fourteen candlesticks in all, and fresh candles in each. Laying a finger on her lip, she stepped to the big bed and unfastened the corking-pins which held the green curtains together. As she pushed the curtains back I lifted myself on an elbow.It was into a real theatre that I looked. She had transformed the whole level of the bed into a miniature stage, with buildings of cardboard, cleverly painted, and gardens cut out of silk and velvet and laid down, and rose-trees gummed on little sticks, and a fish-pond and brook of looking-glass, with embroidered flowers stuck along their edges, and along the paths (of real sand) a score of little dolls walking, all dressed in the uniform of the Grey Nuns. I declare it was so real, you could almost hear the fountain playing, with its jet d'eau of transparent beads strung on an invisible wire."But how pretty, mademoiselle!" I cried.She clasped her hands nervously. "But is it like, Yann? It is so long ago that I may have forgotten. Tell me if it is like; or if there is anything wrong. I promise not to be offended.""It is exactly like, mademoiselle.""See, here is the Mother Superior; and this is Soeur Gabrielle. I have to make the dresses full and stiff, or they wouldn't stand up. And that, with the blue eyes, is Soeur Hyacinthe. She walks with me— this is I—as she always did. And what do you think? With the fifteen dolls that you have brought I am going to have a real Pardon, and townspeople and fisher people to stand and worship at the altar of the Virgin, there in the corner. I made it of wax, and stamped the face with a seal that Charles gave me. He was to have been my husband when I left the school.""Indeed, mademoiselle?""Yes, but the soldiers burnt his house. It was but a week after I left the school, and the Chateau Sant-Ervoan lay but a mile from my mother's house. He fled to us, wounded; and we carried him to the coast—there was a price on his head, and we, too, had to flee—and escaped over to England. He died on this bed, Yann. Look—"She lifted a candle, and there on the bed's ledge I read, in gilt lettering, some words I have never forgotten, though it was not until years after that I got a priest to explain them to me. They were "C. DE. R. COMES ET ECSUL. MDCCXCIII."While I stared, she set the candle down again and gently drew the curtains round the bed."Rise now and dress, dear child, or your supper will be cold and the farmer impatient. You have done me good. Although I have written the farmer's letters for him, it never seemed to me that I wrote to living people: for all I used to know in Brittany, ten years ago, are dead. For the future I shall write to you."From The Penance of John Emmet:"'What happened?'"'Don't be dense, Padre. Why, it—the engagement. The dance was given by some people who live two miles from here—people called Bargrave. Felicia and I drove over. She wore an old Court dress of her grandmother's or great-grand-mother's: I'm no hand at costumes, and can only tell you that she looked particularly jolly in it. I went in uniform—mess uniform, that is. It's one of the minor advantages of the service that on these occasions a man hasn't to put on a cavalier's wig and look like a goat out for a holiday. Well, as I was saying, at this particular dance it happened. It was daybreak when we started to drive home; a perfect midsummer morning, sun shining, dew on the hedges, and the birds singing fit to split themselves. Felicia and I had a lot to say to each other, naturally; and it occurred to us to stop the carriage at the gates and send it on while we walked up to the house together. We took the path leading through the Italian garden, and there—pretty well in the same place where you saw him this afternoon— we came on John Emmet, already out and at work: or rather he was leaning on a hoe and staring after the carriage as it moved up the avenue behind the limes. We came on him from behind, and, I suppose, suddenly. Anyhow, we scared him. I never saw such a face in my life as he turned on us! It went all white in an instant, and then slowly whiter. No doubt our dress was unusual: but I'm not accustomed to be taken for a ghost—'"'Was it you who frightened him?'"'Yes, I think so. He kept his eyes on me, anyway: and at first, when Felicia asked him to congratulate her, he didn't seem to hear. After a bit, however, he picked up his speech and muttered something about fate, and wishing her joy—I forget what. Felicia confessed afterwards that his face had fairly frightened her.'I have to admit, I'm sharing that primarily for "like a goat out for a holiday" which for some reason really amused me.