A Voyage to Arcturus HTML version

Chapter 16. Leehallfae
At midnight, when Teargeld was in the south, throwing his shadow straight toward the
sea and making everything nearly as bright as day, he saw a great tree floating in the
water, not far out. It was thirty feet out of the water, upright, and alive, and its roots must
have been enormously deep and wide. It was drifting along the coast, through the heavy
seas. Maskull eyed it incuriously for a few minutes. Then it dawned on him that it might
be a good thing to investigate its nature. Without stopping to weigh the danger, he
immediately swam out, caught hold of the lowest branch, and swung himself up.
He looked aloft and saw that the main stem was thick to the very top, terminating in a
knob that somewhat resembled a human head. He made his way toward this knob,
through the multitude of boughs, which were covered with tough, slippery, marine leaves,
like seaweed. Arriving at the crown, he found that it actually was a sort of head. for there
were membranes like rudimentary eyes all the way around it, denoting some form of low
At that moment the tree touched bottom, though some way from the shore, and began to
bump heavily. To steady himself, Maskull put his hand out, and, in doing so, accidentally
covered some of the membranes. The tree sheered off the land, as if by an act of will.
When it was steady again, Maskull removed his hand; they at once drifted back to shore.
He thought a bit, and then started experimenting with the eyelike membranes. It was as
he had guessed - these eyes were stimulated by the light of the moon, and whichever way
the light came from, the tree would travel.
A rather defiant smile crossed Maskull's face as it struck him that it might be possible to
navigate this huge plant-animal as far as Matterplay. He lost no time in putting the
conception into execution. Tearing off some of the long, tough leaves, he bound up all the
membranes except the ones that faced the north. The tree instantly left the island, and
definitely put out to sea. It travelled due north. It was not moving at more than a mile an
hour, however, while Matterplay was possibly forty miles distant.
The great spout waves fell against the trunk with mighty thuds; the breaking seas hissed
through the lower branches - Maskull rested high and dry, but was more than a little
apprehensive about their slow rate of progress. Presently he sighted a current racing along
toward the north-west, and that put another idea into his head. He began to juggle with
the membranes again, and before long had succeeded in piloting his tree into the fast-
running stream. As soon as they were fairly in its rapids. he blinded the crown entirely,
and thenceforward the current acted in the double capacity of road and steed.
Maskull made himself secure among the branches and slept for the remainder of the
When his eyes opened again, the island was out of sight. Teargeld was setting in the
western sea. The sky in the east was bright with the colours of the approaching day. The