CHAPTER 3 Hasty Departure

ON the evening of May 30 I was sitting at my desk in my room at the Hotel Esplanade, gloomily leafing through a sheaf of Czech press translations -- arrests, trials and editorial diatribes. The translator had drawn circles around several unpleasant references to me as the correspondent of the "American slanderous newspaper, the New York Times." One of them described how I had tried at a press conference to move out of range of a Czech newsreel camera. "Mr. Schmidt does not like the limelight," it said sarcastically.

More and more I was being forced back upon newspapers, announcements of the official news agency, and foreign diplomats, as my sole sources of information. Perhaps my presence here was valueless. Perhaps it was time for me to clear out.

Then, about 6:30 P.M., the telephone rang. Would I come down to the United Press, the voice said, a touch of panic in it. There was something urgent that concerned me, me personally.

I raced downstairs and the three blocks to the United Press office. The radio monitor was taking down a broadcast of the indictment in a trial to begin the next day. Nearly every Western diplomatic mission was implicated. And my name was there too, as a Western agent who had been in contact with two of the thirteen Czech defendants. With the help of Miss Mary Baker, an English girl who had once been my translator, I was supposed to have carried secret information from an underground resistance organization to the American Embassy.

Now I really was scared. I still feel ill when I think about it.

Of the long list of Americans mentioned, headed by former Ambassador Steinhardt, I was the only one still in Prague. At the time I did not recognize the names of the two defendants with whom I was linked, although later I realized that Miss Baker had introduced them to me at a social gathering. Just that. Certainly there was no espionage involved. But the truth was scarcely important. In a Communist trial an official charge is fact.

-20-

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