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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 301 pages of information about The Absentee.

’My lady, the reception-room has been lately painted—­the smell of paint may be disagreeable; with your leave, I will take the liberty of showing you into my master’s study.’

He opened the door, went in before her, and stood holding up his finger, as if making a signal of silence to some one within.  Her ladyship entered, and found herself in the midst of an odd assembly:  an eagle, a goat, a dog, an otter, several gold and silver fish in a glass globe, and a white mouse in a cage.  The eagle, quick of eye but quiet of demeanour, was perched upon his stand; the otter lay under the table, perfectly harmless; the Angora goat, a beautiful and remarkably little creature of its kind, with long, curling, silky hair, was walking about the room with the air of a beauty and a favourite; the dog, a tall Irish greyhound—­one of the few of that fine race which is now almost extinct—­had been given to Count O’Halloran by an Irish nobleman, a relation of Lady Dashfort’s.  This dog, who had formerly known her ladyship, looked at her with ears erect, recognised her, and went to meet her the moment she entered.  The servant answered for the peaceable behaviour of all the rest of the company of animals, and retired.  Lady Dashfort began to feed the eagle from a silver plate on his stand; Lord Colambre examined the inscription on his collar; the other men stood in amaze.  Heathcock, who came in last, astonished out of his constant ‘Eh! re’lly now!’ the moment he put himself in at the door, exclaimed, ‘Zounds! what’s all this live lumber?’ and he stumbled over the goat, who was at that moment crossing the way.  The colonel’s spur caught in the goat’s curly beard; the colonel shook his foot, and entangled the spur worse and worse; the goat struggled and butted; the colonel skated forward on the polished oak floor, balancing himself with outstretched arms.

The indignant eagle screamed, and, passing by, perched on Heathcock’s shoulders.  Too well-bred to have recourse to the terrors of his beak, he scrupled not to scream, and flap his wings about the colonel’s ears.  Lady Dashfort, the while, threw herself back in her chair, laughing, and begging Heathcock’s pardon.  ‘Oh, take care of the dog, my dear colonel!’ cried she; ’for this kind of dog seizes his enemy by the back, and shakes him to death.’  The officers, holding their sides, laughed, and begged—­no pardon; while Lord Colambre, the only person who was not absolutely incapacitated, tried to disentangle the spur, and to liberate the colonel from the goat, and the goat from the colonel; an attempt in which he at last succeeded, at the expense of a considerable portion of the goat’s beard.  The eagle, however, still kept his place; and, yet mindful of the wrongs of his insulted friend the goat, had stretched his wings to give another buffet.  Count O’Halloran entered; and the bird, quitting his prey, flew down to greet his master.  The count was a fine old military-looking gentleman, fresh from the chace:  his hunting accoutrements hanging carelessly about him, he advanced, unembarrassed, to the lady; and received his other guests with a mixture of military ease and gentleman-like dignity.

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