American and British agents undermine a Nazi plot in Tibet, relying on the support of the wizened mystic "Old Ugly-Face."
ut his clasp knife and a hunk of hundred-year-old cedar from his hip pocket, shifted his position away from the flickering candle toward the steady glow of the charcoal brazier and resumed the whittling of a head of Chenrezi where he had left off the day before. Elsa watched him with emotions that ranged from baffled anger to despair. They were all one emotion, but they felt like wild dogs tearing at her: stark torture. However, there was no one but Andrew Gunning who could understand what she wanted to tell, what she must tell, even at the risk of friendship.
"Won't you leave off carving that thing, Andrew?"
"No. You'll find it easier if I look at this instead of you. Besides, it helps me to think. Go ahead. Talk." He went on carving, turning the thing in his hands to study the planes in the glow from the brazier, puckering his eyes, remembering the statue of Chenrezi in the monastery chapel.
"Drew, I'm a failure. I'm not even a tragic failure. Merely a flop--no dignity."