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A Cabinet Secret by Guy Newell Boothby

What could have become of poor Woller


The

Commander-in-Chief rose and began to pace the room.

"I have already sent a special messenger with a letter to the Secretary of State," he replied. "In it I have told him what I fear and also what I have done. I shall consult the various heads of Departments as soon as I reach Pall Mall, on the bare chance that one of them may be able to elucidate the mystery.

"At the same time I should communicate with the railway authorities, if I were you," I continued. "I should inform them that, owing to the fact of his being detained by matters of the greatest importance, it is possible that Woller may not be able to travel by that particular train."

"That is a good idea," the Commander-in-Chief replied; "I will act upon it at once. In the event of our receiving no news, that should be sufficient to give us time to arrange some other plan. It will mean delaying the vessel at Southampton, however, and--good gracious me!--what a pile of difficulties it will land us in! The Colonial Secretary must be informed, and the matter must come before the Cabinet. As you said just now, if by any chance it should leak out and the Press get hold of it, there is no telling where it will end."

"You have communicated with Scotland Yard, of course?"

"I sent a messenger to them shortly after midnight, that is to say, as soon as I had found

out that Woller had left Windsor, and that he had not been to his Club, or to his own house. Their best men are at work upon it, but so far without any satisfactory result."

"And can his own servants throw any light upon the matter?"

"None whatever!" the Commander-in-Chief replied. "When he left for Windsor he informed them he should be back early, in order to dress for my dinner in the evening. They say he appeared to be in the best of health and spirits, and seemed greatly pleased with the arrangements made for his journey to-day. Lord Laverstock accompanied him from the Castle, and was the last to speak to him at Windsor Station. From the conversation I have had with him by telephone, I gathered that Woller was looking forward to his dinner with us last night. The guard of the train corroborates the fact that he travelled to Paddington. For the reason that the Railway Authorities expected him by the next train, there was no crowd upon the platform to witness his arrival. On alighting he simply called a cab and drove away. After that he vanishes completely."

"There is no way, I suppose, in which we can make further enquiries concerning him?"

"There is nothing so far as I can see. We are doing all that is possible, but our position in the meantime is a most anxious and unpleasant one. Now I shall hasten along to see the Secretary of State for War, and hear what he thinks of the situation. He will doubtless consider it necessary to call an immediate meeting of the Council, when the situation can be discussed in all its bearings."

"Let us hope that he may be heard of before very long," I replied.

So saying I left him and drove home again, feeling sadly upset by the untoward turn events had taken. What could have become of poor Woller? Had he been decoyed into some slum and murdered? A hundred fears for his safety assailed me, each one equally probable and equally cruel.


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