"At 7:30," the secretary said. Everybody again checked watches.
"I have a gift for His Majesty," I said.
The secretary looked suspiciously at the large mahogany box I held on my lap. Silence.
"It is a shell box," I said, rather frantically.
"A shell box," the secretary said. Everybody nodded.
"For ammunition," I added, weakly.
It was my turn to look at my watch. Everybody looked at watches. Ten minutes to go. It had started to rain, and I counted the drops splashing on the marble walk outside. Mr. Gaywaly did not seem well. He appeared to have gotten smaller, and he was very pale. I tried to remember if I had brought along a handkerchief. I found that I had. Without warning, the Principal Private Secretary stood up. I shifted the box and stood up too. My white kid gloves, which I had put on and taken off a dozen times, fell to the floor. The men looked at them with strange, blank expressions, as if they were alive. Nobody moved. I reached down to retrieve them myself just as four men did the same. Our heads came together at knee level. Everybody apologized at once. Mr. Bhandary watched, saying nothing. Finally he nodded.
"Now?" I said. He nodded again.
Clutching the big box, I walked ahead of him down a marble hall to a pair of large double doors. He nodded toward the doors. I was on my own. It was exactly 7:30.
I stepped inside and stood uncertainly in a long. rectangular room. In the dim light, the deep carpeting and heavy furniture had a wine-red glow. Lion and tiger heads glared from darkened corners. The antlers of spotted and sambar deer cast intricate shadows on the carved ceiling. Partway up a tapestried wall, a leopard crouched on a projecting rock, its body tensed as if to spring. In the middle of the room, seated alone on a crimson couch, was His Majesty the King of Nepal.