Book Passage – Helen Keller

Source: “The World I Live In” By Helen Keller

Footsteps, I discover, vary tactually according to the age, the sex, and the manners of the walker. It is impossible to mistake a child’s patter for the tread of a grown person. The step of the young man, strong and free, differs from the heavy, sedate tread of the middle-aged, and from the step of the old man, whose feet drag along the floor, or beat it with slow, faltering accents. On a bare floor a girl walks with a rapid, elastic rhythm which is quite distinct from the graver step of the elderly woman. I have laughed over the creak of new shoes and the clatter of a stout maid performing a jig in the kitchen. One day, in the dining-room of an hotel, a tactual dissonance arrested my attention. I sat still and listened with my feet. I found that two waiters were walking back and forth, but not with the same gait. A band was playing, and I could feel the music-waves along the floor. One of the waiters walked in time to the band, graceful and light, while the other disregarded the music and rushed from table to table to the beat of some discord in his own mind. Their steps reminded me of a spirited war-steed harnessed with a cart-horse.

Often footsteps reveal in some measure the character and the mood of the walker. I feel in them firmness and indecision, hurry and deliberation, activity and laziness, fatigue, carelessness, timidity, anger, and sorrow. I am most conscious of these moods and traits in persons with whom I am familiar.

Footsteps are frequently interrupted by certain jars and jerks, so that I know when one kneels, kicks, shakes something, sits down, or gets up. Thus I follow to some extent the actions of people about me and the changes of their postures. Just now a thick, soft patter of bare, padded feet and a slight jolt told me that my dog had jumped on the chair to look out of the window. I do not, however, allow him to go uninvestigated; for occasionally I feel the same motion, and find him, not on the chair, but trespassing on the sofa