To run gracefully and well is a rare accomplishment, for it demands a particularly well-adjusted physical organization, great strength, and a deep breath-reservoir. Bressant’s body poised itself lightly between the hips, and swayed slightly, but easily, from side to side at each spring. The knees alternately caught the weight without swerving, and shifted it, with an elastic toss, from one to the other. The feet came down sharp and firm, and springily spurned the road in a rapid though rhythmical succession. In a few moments, the turn around the spur of the hill was reached, and the runner was well settled down to his pace.
The stone-fences, the occasional apple-trees, the bushes and bits of rock bordering the road, slipped by half seen. The full use of the eyes was required for the path in front, rough as it was with loose stones, and seamed with irregular ruts. Easy work enough, however, as long as it remained level, and open to the starlight. But, some distance beyond, there dipped a pretty abrupt slope, and here was need for care and quickness. Sometimes a step fell short, or struck one side, to avoid a stone, or lengthened out to overpass it. The whole body was thrown more back, and the heels dug solidly into the earth, at each downward leap. Here and there, where the incline was steeper, four or five foot-tramps followed rapidly upon each other; and then, gathering himself up, with a sudden, strong clutch, as it were, the young man continued on as before. Thus the slope was left behind; and now began a low, long stretch, lying between meadows, overshadowed by a bordering of willow-trees, and studded with lengths of surreptitious puddles, for the ground was clayey, and the rain was unabsorbed. As Bressant entered upon it, he felt the cold moisture of the air meet his warm face refreshingly; he was breathing deep and regularly, and now let himself out to a yet swifter pace than before.
The willow-trees started suddenly from the forward darkness, and vanished past in a dusky twinkling. The road seemed drawn in swift, smooth lines from beneath his feet, he moving as in a mighty treadmill. The breeze softly smote his forehead, and whispered past his ears. Now he rose lightly in the air over an unexpected puddle, striking the farther side with feet together, and so on again. Twice or thrice, his steps sounded hollowly over a plank bridging. At a distance, steadily approaching, appeared the outlet, light against the dark willow setting. When it was reached, ensued a rough acclivity, hard for knees and lungs, winding upward for a considerable distance. Up the runner went, with seemingly untired activity, and the stones and sand spurted from beneath his ascending feet. The air became drier and warmer again as he mounted, and the meadows slept beneath him in their clammy darkness.