A Voyage to Arcturus HTML version
air was cool and fresh; the light over the sea was beautiful, gleaming, and mysterious.
Land - probably Matterplay - lay ahead, a long, dark line of low cliffs, perhaps a mile
away. The current no longer ran toward the shore, but began to skirt the coast without
drawing any closer to it. As soon as Maskull realised the fact, he manoeuvred the tree out
of its channel and started drifting it inshore. The eastern sky blazed up suddenly with
violent dyes, and the outer rim of Branchspell lifted itself above the sea. The moon had
The shore loomed nearer and nearer. In physical character it was like Swaylone's Island -
the same wide sands, small cliffs, and rounded, insignificant hills inland, without
vegetation. In the early-morning sunlight, however, it looked romantic. Maskull, hollow-
eyed and morose, cared nothing for all that, but the moment the tree grounded, clambered
swiftly down through the branches and dropped into the sea. By the time he had swam
ashore, the white, stupendous sun was high above the horizon.
He walked along the sands toward the east for a considerable distance, without having
any special intention in his mind. He thought he would go on until he came to some creek
or valley, and then turn up it. The sun's rays were cheering, and began to relieve him of
his oppressive night weight. After strolling along the beach for about a mile, he was
stopped by a broad stream that flowed into the sea out of a kind of natural gateway in the
line of cliffs. Its water was of a beautiful, limpid green, all filled with bubbles. So ice-
cold, aerated, and enticing did it look that he flung himself face downward on the ground
and took a prolonged draught. When he got up again his eyes started to play pranks - they
became alternately blurted and clear.... It may have been pure imagination, but he fancied
that Digrung was moving inside him.
He followed the bank of the stream through the gap in the cliffs, and then for the first
time saw the real Matterplay. A valley appeared, like a jewel enveloped by naked rock.
All the hill country was bare and lifeless, but this valley lying in the heart of it was
extremely fertile; he had never seen such fertility. It wound up among the hills, and all
that he was looking at was its broad lower end. The floor of the valley was about half a
mile wide; the stream that ran down its middle was nearly a hundred feet across, but was
exceedingly shallow - in most places not more than a few inches deep. The sides of the
valley were about seventy feet high, but very sloping; they were clothed from top to
bottom with little, bright-leaved trees - not of varied tints of one colour, like Earth trees,
but of widely diverse colours, most of which were brilliant and positive.
The floor itself was like a magician's garden. Densely interwoven trees, shrubs, and
parasitical climbers fought everywhere for possession of it. The forms were strange and
grotesque, and each one seemed different; the colours of leaf, flower, sexual organs, and
stem were equally peculiar - all the different combinations of the five primary colours of
Tormance seemed to be represented, and the result, for Maskull was a sort of eye chaos.
So rank was the vegetation that he could not fight his way through it; he was obliged to
take to the riverbed. The contact of the water created an odd tingling sensation
throughout his body, like a mild electric shock. There were no birds, but a few
extraordinary - looking winged reptiles of small size kept crossing the valley from hill to