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Secret History Revealed By Lady Peggy O'Malley

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If I didn't tell this, nobody else ever would; certainly not Diana, nor Major Vandyke—still less Eagle himself—I mean Captain Eagleston March; and they and I are the only ones who know, except a few such people as presidents and secretaries of war and generals, who never tell anything even under torture. Besides, there is the unofficial part. Without that, the drama would be like a play in three acts, with the first and third acts chopped off. The presidents and secretaries of war and generals know nothing about the unofficial part.

It's strange how the biggest things of life grow out of the tiniest ones. There is the old simile of the acorn and the oak, for instance. But oaks take a long time to grow, and everybody concerned in oak culture is calmly expecting them to do it. Imagine an acorn exploding to let out an oak huge enough to shadow the world!

If, two years ago, when I was sixteen, I hadn't wanted money to buy a white frock with roses on it, which I saw in Selfridge's window, a secret crisis between the United States and Mexico would have been avoided; and the career of a splendid soldier would not have been broken.

One month before I met the white dress, Diana and Father and I had come from home—that's Ballyconal—to see what good we could do with a season in London; good for Diana, I mean, and I put her before Father because he does so himself. Every one else he puts far, far behind, like the beasts following Noah into the Ark. Not that I'm sure, without looking them up, that they did follow Noah. But if it had been Father, he would have arranged it in that way, to escape seeing their ugly faces or smelling those who were not nice to smell.

I suppose I should have been left at Ballyconal, with nothing to do but study my beloved French and Spanish, my sole accomplishments; only Father had contrived to let the place, through the New York Herald, to an American family who, poor dears, snapped it up by cable from the description in the advertisement of "a wonderful XII Century Castle." Besides, Diana couldn't afford a maid. And that's why I was taken to America afterward. I can do hair beautifully. So, when one thinks back, Fate had begun to weave a web long before the making of that white dress. None of those tremendous things would have happened to change heaven knows how many lives, if I hadn't been born with the knack of a hairdresser, inherited perhaps from some bourgeoise ancestress of mine on Mother's side.

When the American family found out what Ballyconal was really like, and the twelfth-century rats had crept out from the hinterland of the old wainscoting ("rich in ancient oak," the advertisement stated), to scamper over its faces by night, and door knobs had come off in its hands by day, or torn carpets had tripped it up and sprained its ankles, it said bad words about deceitful, stoney-broke Irish earls, and fled at the end of a fortnight, having paid for two months in advance at the rate of thirty-five guineas a week. Father had been sadly sure that the Americans would do that very thing, so he had counted on getting only the advance money and no more. This meant cheap lodgings for us, which spoiled Diana's chances from the start, as she told Father the minute she saw the house. It was in a fairly good neighbourhood, and the address looked fashionable on paper; but man, and especially girl, may not live on neighbourhood and paper alone, even if the latter can be peppered with coronets.

I don't know what curse or mildew collects on poor Irish earls, but it simply goes nowhere to be one in London; and then there was the handicap of Father's two quaint marriages....