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"Well, Tormance is a big place. But I have an infallible rule, Corpang. As I come from the south, I always go due north."

"That will take us to Lichstorm."

Maskull gazed at the fantastically piled rocks all around them. “I saw these rocks from Matterplay. The mountains look as far off now as they did them, and there’s not much of the day left. How far is Lichstorm from here?”

Corpang looked away to the distant range. “I don’t know, but unless a miracle happens we shan’t get there tonight.”

[Source: A Voyage to Arcturus]

Can you please explain what you understand to be the meaning of "look as far off as they did them"? As is one of the most tricky words in English. I cannot understand the meaning of "as" here and "they did them" part. The context doesn't give a clue, either. Please help me understand.

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    The usage of them here throws me off more than anything. I'm expecting it to be then instead, which would make much more sense: Maskull has be travelling far, and it seems as though he barely got anywhere because the mountains look like they haven't moved at all. – Adam Aug 31 '15 at 19:24
  • I agree with @Adam. Are you sure you copied it correctly? – Barmar Aug 31 '15 at 21:17
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The key issue here involves the word them, which appears in the highlighted sentence in multiple editions of A Voyage to Arcturus. I think this word is a typo—and at least one edition of the book agrees with me. From David Lindsay, A Voyage to Arcturus (1963):

Maskull gazed at the fantastically piled rock all around them. "I saw these rocks from Matterplay. The mountains look as far off now as they did then, and there’s not much of the day left. How far is Lichstorm from here?”

If this is the correct rendering of the sentence, the speaker is simply remarking that the mountains seem no closer to the travelers at the moment he is speaking than they did earlier in Matterplay.

Unfortunately, none of the copies of the book from 1920 (its original year of publication) permit even a snippet view of the book's contents. The earliest edition I've been able to find that has them in place of then is the Floating Press edition of 2011.

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The whole sentence is a comparison statement. Maskull traveled a long way, and the mountains he saw appeared to not move at all as he approached them.

In this sentence, the word as is used to compare two things: what the mountains looked like at the beginning of his voyage and what they looked like at the end. If you were to extend the sentence for easier understanding, it would read like this:

The mountains look the same distance away now as they looked at the beginning of my voyage.

This makes the comparison clearer. As for the ending they did them, this is simply the second part of the comparison (note: as @SvenYargs points out, them is supposed to be then). They is referring to the mountains. Then is referring to when he was at the beginning of his journey.

Perhaps the strange part about this is the use of did. This word is used to repeat the previous verb without having to literally repeat it. So, if you replace did with looked, you get as they looked then which is easier to understand.

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