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13. Kitty Keeps Her Birthday
They were all assembled as usual at the breakfast-table.
Preferring the request suggested to her by Mrs. Presty, Kitty had hastened the
presentation of the birthday gifts, by getting into her mother's bed in the morning, and
exacting her mother's promise before she would consent to get out again. By her own
express wish, she was left in ignorance of what the presents would prove to be. "Hide
them from me," said this young epicure in pleasurable sensations, "and make me want to
see them until I can bear it no longer." The gifts had accordingly been collected in an
embrasure of one of the windows; and the time had now arrived when Kitty could bear it
no longer.
In the procession of the presents, Mrs. Linley led the way.
She had passed behind the screen which had thus far protected the hidden treasures from
discovery, and appeared again with a vision of beauty in the shape of a doll. The dress of
this wonderful creature exhibited the latest audacities of French fashion. Her head made a
bow; her eyes went to sleep and woke again; she had a voice that said two words--more
precious than two thousand in the mouth of a mere living creature. Kitty's arms opened
and embraced her gift with a scream of ecstasy. That fervent pressure found its way to the
right spring. The doll squeaked: "Mamma!"--and creaked--and cried again--and said:
"Papa!" Kitty sat down on the floor; her legs would support her no longer. "I think I shall
faint," she said quite seriously.
In the midst of the general laughter, Sydney silently placed a new toy (a pretty little
imitation of a jeweler's casket) at Kitty's side, and drew back before the child could look
at her. Mrs. Presty was the only person present who noticed her pale face and the
trembling of her hands as she made the effort which preserved her composure.
The doll's necklace, bracelets, and watch and chain, riveted Kitty's attention on the
casket. Just as she thought of looking round for her dear Syd, her father produced a new
outburst of delight by presenting a perambulator worthy of the doll. Her uncle followed
with a parasol, devoted to the preservation of the doll's complexion when she went out
for an airing. Then there came a pause. Where was the generous grandmother's gift?
Nobody remembered it; Mrs. Presty herself discovered the inestimable sixpenny picture-
book cast away and forgotten on a distant window-seat. "I have a great mind to keep
this," she said to Kitty, "till you are old enough to value it properly." In the moment of
her absence at the window, Linley's mother-in-law lost the chance of seeing him whisper
to Sydney. "Meet me in the shrubbery in half an hour," he said. She stepped back from
him, startled by the proposal. When Mrs. Presty was in the middle of the room again,
Linley and the governess were no longer near each other.
Having by this time recovered herself, Kitty got on her legs. "Now," the spoiled child
declared, addressing the company present, "I'm going to play."