trial would certainly be cancelled and you would have a very disagreeable interview with the police.’

‘I could make an article out of that, too.’

His lips tightened. ‘Obviously your papers would be confiscated, Mr Foster. If it amuses you to write articles so that they may be confiscated, that is your affair. I am concerned with practical newspaper work.’

He had me there; I was not. But I felt that at the moment he was not either. I thought he was trying to show me how helpless I should be without him. I said, as calmly as I could, ‘Very well, you’re the paper’s representative here and you tell me it’s very difficult. I understand. Now, how do we get over the difficulty?’

I had to wait while he lit a cigarette and blew smoke at the end of it like a bad actor pretending to think. ‘You could try going down into Greece over Saturday night and Sunday and sending your work from there.’ He blew some more smoke. ‘Of course, the police would guess what you were attempting. An American on a Chicago paper tried it.’


Now he looked directly at me. ‘He just wasted a lot of time, Mr Foster. Of course he had no written matter when they searched him at the frontier; it was memorized; but they made difficulties about his visa, took his passport away to get it fixed, and kept him at the frontier station for a week. He had a very uncomfortable time.’

‘I see. Well, now you’ve told me how it can’t be done, what’s the answer?’

He was rocking again. ‘There is no answer, Mr Foster. Other ways have been tried. The crews of foreign airliners were used as couriers for a while, but no longer. It is too dangerous for them. I have tried to make all this clear to the head office, but what is real here does not seem so in New York and London.’

‘In fact, you think it’s a great waste of time my being here at all.’

‘No, I do not say that.’

‘In effect you say it.’

‘You misunderstand me. I am in favour of these articles. This trial is dramatisch… er-’ He broke off, feeling for the word.


‘Yes, theatrical. Thank you. The trial of a political leader on ideological grounds is most theatrical to Western ways of thinking. So I say that to have a distinguished playwright, such as you, Mr Foster, write matter about the Deltchev trial is a very cute editorial idea. I am myself looking forward to reading the series. But — ’ he leaned forward impressively — ‘you cannot write it here and send or take it out of the country; that is, not unless you paraphrase the Propaganda Ministry’s official matter and get every page stamped by the censorship. You must resign yourself to that.’


‘See the trial, Mr Foster, memorize’ — he stabbed his forehead with a finger to show me where — ‘and then go home and write your articles. That is what you must do.’

For a moment or two I did not answer.

I had been in a train for four days and had had very little sleep on the journey. I had arrived at seven o’clock that morning in a strange city under a hot sun and in a sticky, enervating atmosphere. I had left my luggage in a hotel that might, for all I could remember of the geography of the streets, be a hundred yards away or three miles from where I was now; and even if I found the hotel and remembered the room number, I would not know how to ask for the key. I had trailed round cafes and government offices, listening to conversations that concerned me conducted in a language I did not begin to understand, at the heels of an aggrieved, self-important eastern European with fat hips and a bad smell. I had a blister on the sole of my right foot and a grimy face. I was also hungry and well on the way to wishing I had not come. Now I was being told that the fact that I had come at all was a pity, but that if I behaved myself and cared to waste my time, I might stay and see the fun. Or so it seemed to me then. I felt myself losing my temper and then managed to wait until the moment had passed before replying. I tried to keep my voice level.

‘Mr Pashik, you know as well as I do that these articles are meant for publication during the trial as a commentary on it. They’d be useless afterwards.’

‘Do you think so?’ He looked knowing. ‘Deltchev will be condemned to death. Your articles will be part of the campaign against the sentence.’

‘That’s not what I was told. I was asked to send the stuff in as I did it.’

‘And why?’ He threw up his hands, smiling with teeth like salted almonds. ‘In case you, Mr Foster, the distinguished playwright, should find time to enjoy yourself on the expense account, or get an idea for a new play about life behind that sinister Iron Curtain and forget your commission. Editors treat us all like children.’

‘Nevertheless, the articles are expected.’

‘No, Mr Foster, they are not. I sent a cable to head office saying that they will not be available until you return.’

‘I think you should have consulted me before you did that.’

‘I am responsible, Mr Foster.’

There was a thin-lipped silence. Then I said, ‘Mr Pashik, are you a member of the People’s Party? I didn’t think to ask you before.’

He smiled again, but the American accent became more pronounced. ‘Ah, Mr Foster, you are mad at me. I don’t blame you. I will be frank with you.’


‘If there is any trouble with the censorship over anything that goes out of this office, it will be closed up. That means that I will be closed up, finished. I am responsible.’

‘Then you’ll still be responsible if the articles are published after the trial.’

‘Ah, no. If the Propaganda Ministry admits you to the country, it is their affair if you produce hostile matter when you leave. While you are here the responsibility rests with this office that you should not prejudge the trial by sending hostile matter.’ He shrugged. ‘It is no doubt for them an expedient. For myself, I am hostile to the regime; but I have been expelled for my opinions before, and Pan-Eurasian, representing twenty-seven foreign newspapers, has a responsibility to others besides your editor. So you see I must play ball with the regime, Mr Foster.’

I did not know quite what to say. My impulse was to take the trial permit from my pocket, put it on his desk, and say that I would leave in the morning. Certainly that is what he hoped I would do. It was only my awareness of disliking him for a poor reason that made me hesitate. He pushed the cigarettes toward me.

I shook my head. ‘When did you send that cable?’

‘Four days ago, Mr Foster.’

‘Why not before?’

‘It was not certain that you were coming.’

‘It was settled three weeks ago that I was coming.’

‘I did not know that.’

‘Have you had a reply?’

‘Yes, Mr Foster.’

‘May I see it, please?’

‘Certainly.’ He opened a drawer in the desk and brought out a cable and put it in front of me. I read:

Your 109 of 6 June understood advise Foster and arrange air passage London soonest close trial.

‘You could have shown me this before,’ I said.

‘I did not realize that you did not trust me, Mr Foster,’ he replied gently. ‘The cable only says to advise you of something and secure an air passage for you. It does not explain what I have been telling you. You still have to believe that I am telling you the truth.’

His smile said that this was the moment when I should feel silly and apologize. Perhaps it was the smile that prevented my doing so. Instead, I said, ‘I take it that the other foreign correspondents will be under the same restriction?’

‘If they are hostile to the regime they will have to be equally discreet.’

‘That story about the American who tried to go to Greece for the weekend — I suppose you made that up in case I thought of the idea myself and didn’t tell you.’

‘It was a way of warning you that the method was known.’

‘You go at things in rather a roundabout way, don’t you?’

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