FROM TO DANCE AT THE PALAIS ROYALE

When Aggie left the sitting room, she went to vacuum the master bedroom. The cat Duchess regarded the vacuum cleaner asher personal enemy, spitting and hissing if it came anywhere near her. She had been sitting on Mr. Stockwood's dresser, watching the birds in the garden, but when she saw Aggie with the vacuum cleaner, she flew out of the room with a yowl.

That evening, as Aggie finished the dinner dishes, Mrs.Bradley came into the kitchen.
"You cleaned the master bedroom today, didn't you?"

"Aye," Aggie said, "I do it every other day."

"Did you notice anything valuable?" Mrs. Bradley asked.

Aggie thought for a moment. Mrs. Stockwood often left her rings on her bedside table. But not today.

"No," she replied, "nothing that I can remember."

"Nothing at all?" Mrs. Bradley looked at her with those hard grey eyes. Aggie shook her head.

"Mr. Stockwood forgot his wristwatch this morning. He thought he left it on his bedside table. It isn't there now. It isn't anywhere."

"I dusted that table," Aggie recalled. "There wasn'a any wristwatch."

"This is a valuable watch," Mrs. Bradley said. "It's identical to the one Rodney wears. Mrs. Stockwood bought them both last Christmas. You must know we would never tolerate a thief in this house. The girl who worked here before you was dismissed for stealing silverware."

Aggie felt herself redden.

"Mrs. Bradley, I've never stolen a penny in my life. What would I do with a man's watch?"

"There's plenty of pawnshops in this city," Mrs. Bradleysaid. "Now, Mrs. Stockwood is willing to make an exception this time. That's certainly more than I'd do. You put the watch back where you found it, and there'll be no questions asked. If not, you'll lose your place with us. There'll be no reference either."

"But I didn'a take the watch," Aggie said. "Why would I lie?"

"Well, I didn't take it and Rodney certainly didn't. We haven't had any workmen in the house since spring cleaning. That leaves you, doesn't it? You have until tomorrow. If it were up to me, I'd turn you out this minute."

Aggie was shaking when she left the kitchen, but her mind was clear. This was just about the worst thing that could possibly happen. If she were dismissed as a thief, no one else would hire her. She might even be shipped back to Scotland in disgrace. Carefully, in her mind, she went over every corner of the Stockwoods' bedroom. She was certain there had been no watch. 

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