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Kildares of Storm by Eleanor Mercein Kelly




With Frontispiece by Alonzo Kimball

New York The Century Co. 1916

Copyright, 1916, by The Century Co.

Published, October, 1916

TO AN UNFORGOTTEN MOTHER Who moulded for others than her daughter the standard of great womanhood

[Illustration: But for once Jacqueline of the eager lips turned her cheek, so that her mother's kiss should not disturb the memory of certain others]



Along a pleasant Kentucky road that followed nature rather than art in its curves and meanderings, straying beside a brook awhile before it decided to cross, lingering in cool, leafy hollows, climbing a sudden little hill to take a look out over the rolling countryside--along this road a single-footing mare went steadily, carrying a woman who rode cross-saddle, with a large china vase tucked under one arm.

People in an approaching automobile stopped talking to stare at her. She returned their gaze calmly, while the startled mare made some effort to climb a tree, thought better of it, and sidled by with a tremulous effort at self-control. A man in the machine lifted his hat with some eagerness. The woman inclined her head as a queen might acknowledge the plaudits of the multitude.

After they passed, comments were audible.

"What a stunner! Who is she, Jack?" The voice was masculine.

"Riding cross-saddle! Jack, do you know her?" The voice was feminine.

The answer was lower, but the woman on horseback heard it. "Of course I know her, or used to. It is the woman I was telling you about, the famous Mrs. Kildare of Storm."

Mrs. Kildare's color did not change as she rode on. Perhaps her lips tightened a little; otherwise the serenity of her face was unaltered. Serenity, like patience, is a thing that must be won, a habit of mind not easily to be broken. She reminded herself that since the invasion of automobiles she must expect often to encounter people who had known her before.

Her eyes, keen and gray and slightly narrowed, like all eyes that are accustomed to gaze across wide spaces, turned from side to side with quick, observant glances. Negroes, "worming" tobacco in a field, bent to their work as she passed with a sudden access of zeal.

"That's right, boys," she called, smiling. "The Madam sees you!"

The negroes guffawed sheepishly in answer.

A certain warmth was in her gaze as she looked about, her, something deeper than mere pride of possession. Her feeling for the land she owned was curiously maternal. "My dear fields," she sometimes said to herself. "My cattle, my trees"; and even, "my birds, my pretty, fleecy clouds up there."

When she came to a certain cornfield, acres of thrifty stalks standing their seven feet and more, green to the roots, plumes nodding proudly in the breeze, she faced her mare about and saluted, as an officer might salute his regiment.

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