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12th English – Lesson 4 – Supplementary – The Midnight Visitor

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12th English – Lesson 4 –
Supplementary – The Midnight Visitor

1. Answer in a sentence or two the following questions.

(a)Mention
two features of Ausable that were uncharacteristic of a detective.

Answer:
Ausable’s fat body and American accent were the two uncharacteristic features
of a detective.

 

(b)What
was Ausable waiting for?

Answer:
Ausable was waiting for an important report.

 

(c)Who
was the Midnight Visitor? What was the purpose of his visit?

Answer:
Max, a gunman was the midnight visitor. His purpose was to snatch the report on
new missiles which was about to be delivered to Ausable

 

(d)How
had Max actually entered the room?

Answer:
Max had used a duplicate key to enter Ausable’s room.

 

(e)Did
Max’s presence alarm Ausable?

Answer:
No, he was a little startled. But he was not alarmed. He just expressed his
surprise seeing Max who should have been in Berlin.

 

(f)How
did Ausable describe the balcony and the manner in which one could get into his
room, through it?

Answer:
It was not Ausable’s balcony. It belonged to the next apartment. It extends
under his window now. One can get on to it two doors down as someone did last
month. The hotel management, in spite of his protest, has not blocked the
balcony till now.

 

(g)
Where did Max try to hide himself?

Answer:
Max tried to hide himself in the balcony described by Mr. Ausable.

 

(h)Who
was Henry? Why had he visited Ausable’s room?

Answer:
Henry was the waiter who entered Ausable’s room with his drinks.

 

(i)What
happened to Max finally?

Answer:
Max foolishly, believing in the presence of a balcony, jumped from the 6th
floor to his sure death.

 

2. Answer the following questions in about three to four sentences
each.

(a)Who
was Fowler? Why did he meet Ausable?

Answer:
Fowler was a journalist. He was assigned to write a column about a private
detectives. He was disappointed on seeing a very fat man with American accent
living in a small room in the 6th ’ floor. The hotel was not even well-lit.

 

(b)Why
was Fowler initially disillusioned with Ausable?

Answer:
Fowler had a romantic notion of a private detective. Ausable did not look like
Mr. Bond. He was very fat and had American accent. He lived in a small room.
So, he was initially disappointed.

 

(c)Fowler
was thrilled when he entered Ausable’s room. Why?

Answer:
As soon as Ausable closed the door behind and switched on the light, Fowler had
his first authentic thrill of the day. Half way across the room a man with a
small automatic pistol in hand stood.

 

(d)How,
according to Ausable, had Max entered the room?

Answer:
Ausable did not disclose the real method Max must have adopted to enter his
room. He invented a story on the spot that it was the second time in a month
someone had entered his room through the neighbouring building’s balcony which
extended just below his window. He made Max believe that there was another
possible route of escape through the window.

 

(e)How
did the three men react to the knocking at the door?

Answer:
Fowler jumped at the sudden knocking at the door. Ausable smiled and said it
must be the police who he had asked to check on him to ensure a little extra
protection. Max bit his lip nervously. He rushed to the window so that he could
hide in the balcony and come back after sometime.

 

(f)Was
Ausable really waiting for the police? Give reasons.

Answer:
No, Ausable was not waiting for the police. He had ordered his drink with
waiter Henry. He was expecting him only. As the knock was heard, he decided to
use the opportunity to scare away Max by casually informing that it must be the
police. He added the police may fire if they see Max there.

 

3. Answer in a paragraph of about 150 words the following
questions.

(a)How
did Ausable outwit Max?

Answer:
Ausable was a shrewd private detective. He did not become panicky on seeing Max
with an automatic gun in his room. Even if he were, he did not show it off.
Instead, he expressed surprise that he expected him to be in Berlin. He cooked
up a nice story that it was the second time someone had broken into his room
through the balcony of the neighbouring apartment which reaches down under his
window. He expressed his displeasure that he would raise hell with the hotel
management for not blocking that balcony. This gave a strong suggestion to Max,
that he could have used the balcony instead of the pass key to enter Ausable’s
room.

Being a criminal or
spy, a person always looks for various routes of escape in times of danger.
Very rarely he starts direct encounter risking his life. When Henry, the waiter
who arrived with the pre-ordered drinks, knocked, Mr. Ausable simply smiled.
When Max asked who it was, he told a blatant lie that it was the police who had
come for his extra protection and wouldn’t hesitate to fire as the door wasn’t
locked but just closed. Max, assuming that there is a balcony extending below
Ausable’s window, jumped. He never knew that it was a suicidal jump from the
6th floor. Thus, Ausable outwitted the spy, Max.

 

(b)Describe
the significance of the balcony.

Answer:
On seeing Max, the spy, with a loaded automatic gun in his room, Ausable
expressed surprise. Max disclosed his plan very clearly. He had come to receive
the report on the new missile which was likely to be handed over to Mr. Ausable
in a short while. Ausable, without being shocked sat heavily on an armchair. He
grimly stated that he would raise hell with the hotel management because this
was the second time that someone had sneaked into his room through the nuisance
of the unblocked balcony. Max asks with disbelief, “balcony?” Max remarked that
he did not enter through the balcony but with a pass key. Ausable explained
that it was the balcony which extended from the living room of the next
apartment just below his room. One could walk through two doors and enter his
room.

He was not happy
with the management as they had failed to block it. When there was a knock at
the door, both Max and Fowler got perturbed. But Ausable smiled and said
casually it must be the police whom he had informed to check on him for extra
protection. Max was confused for a moment. Ausable said as the door was just
closed and not locked, the police could enter even by force at any moment and
fire at him. This gave Max no time to think. He jumped through the window
believing he will end up in the non-existent balcony, but fell like a stone
from the 6th floor with a scream. The vividly portrayed balcony led to the
suicidal jump of Max, the spy who had a gun but was not smart enough to tackle
Ausable’s ploy.

 

(c)Ausable
planned to get rid of Max the very moment he noticed him. Explain with
supporting evidence from the story.

Answer:
Ausable spun a story on seeing Max. Max was armed, and he was unarmed. Any
wrong move would cost his life. So, he decided to be cool throughout. He
feigned anger against the hotel management. His vivid word picture of a balcony
extending just below his window from the next apartment makes both Fowler and
Max believe that Ausable is angry and irritated. This makes Max happy for
learning another possible way of escape in case any threat comes through the
door. He tries to add little pieces of evidence like “the management promised
to block it” to make Max believe that someone had already used the same balcony
to break into

Ausable’s room
earlier. Ausable knew that Henry would arrive soon with the drinks he had
ordered. So, he timed his narrative in such a way that the arrival of Henry
takes place soon after his vivid word portrait of the balcony to Max and
Fowler. His ingenious idea of relating the knock of the waiter to a
non-existent police officer is a stroke of genius. Because the fear of
encountering police and a possible gun fight only goads Max to jump to his
death from the 6th floor of the hotel. He thought he was jumping down on to the
balcony but he was outwitted. These facts indicate that Ausable had planned to
get rid of Max soon after he saw him in his room.

 

(d)Sketch
the character of Ausable.

Answer:
Ausable does not look very handsome, worthy of being called a secret agent or a
detective. He is the central character of the story “The Midnight Visitor”. He
is not physically very strong. There is nothing elegant or mysterious about
him. He is an American who is unable to cover up his American accent when he
speaks French and German though he has lived in France for over 20 years. He is
practical and shrewd. He is a well balanced individual. Even at gun point he
keeps his cool and instantly cooks up a story to trap the villain, spy Max. He
outwits Max without moving from his armchair. He uses his presence of mind. He
tells two lies which not only save him and Fowler but also give the momentum
for Max to kill himself in an attempt to hide in the non-existent balcony.

 

(e)Do
you think physical appearance matters most for a secret agent? Answer giving
reasons in the context of the story ‘The Midnight Visitor.’

Answer:
Physical appearance is important for heroes like James Bond who acts in movies
or plays. They need sophisticated cars, a royal life style to flaunt about. But
in reality, a detective or a secret agent is not much different from an
ordinary citizen at least in appearance. He is an ordinary person who thinks
and acts with extraordinary intelligence. When it comes to the question of
survival, sharpness of wit and handsome looks would help a person, the
disappointment of Fowler, the journalist is very obvious. The young and
romantic writer envisioned mysterious figures in the night, the crack of
pistols, etc.

The writer must
have cherished the idea of beauties with dark eyes passing on secret notes. But
he has witnessed nothing but a dull music in a French hotel with a sloppy man
who made a prosaic appointment only in a prosaic telephone call. Ausable raises
the expectations of both the readers and Fowler when he mentions the important
paper he waited which many men and women had risked their lives to possess. The
drama that ensues in the room testifies the fact that there is no correlation
whatsoever with sharpness of wit and the physical appearance of a person. Only
after Fowler witnesses how Ausable had outwitted Max to choose his own death
without moving from his armchair, he realizes the truth.

 

(f)The
unexpected presence of a criminal wielding a gun triggers different reactions
in the two men who entered the room. In this light, discuss the appropriacy of
the title.

Answer:
A visitor usually comes during the wakeful hours. Nocturnal visitors are
usually thieves. They don’t inform one in advance because the purpose of their
visit is never noble enough to inform in advance. People involved in shady
businesses only choose midnight to break into someone’s house. In this story a
spy is after an important report about missiles, a secretly guarded report,
which is expected to be delivered to the private detective Ausable at 12.30 am.
The spy gets the secret information from his trusted connections. So, he
arrives earlier than Ausable and sneaks into his room using a pass key. The spy
is brandishing his pistol to coerce the private detective to pass on the report
as and when it arrives. Ausable outsmarts him by cooking up a story about a
non-existent balcony beneath his window which extends from the neighbouring
apartment. He connects brilliantly the knock of Henry the waiter to that of
police who might fire at Max as he is armed. So, the title of the story, “The
Midnight Visitor” is very pertinent.

 

4. Look at the following expressions used in the story. Match them
with their meanings.

let down: to complain or scold

chuckled to himself: try one’s luck/
take a risk

take cheer: become enraged

raise the devil: disappointed

black with anger: laughed softly to
himself

take chances: to be encouraged

Answer:

let down: disappointed

chuckled to himself: laughed softly to
himself

take cheer: to be encouraged

raise the devil: to complain or scold

black with anger: become enraged

take chances: try one’s luck/ take a
risk

 

5. Based on your understanding of the
story, complete the Graphic Organiser (GO) suitably.

Answer:

Title: The Midnight Visitor

Author: Robert Jay Arthur Jr.

Setting: Room in a French hotel

Plot: Disillusionment and realisation
of a journalist on the deceptive nature of

Characters: Ausable Henry Fowler Max

Climax: Max assuming a balcony under
Ausable’s window jumps to his death

 

6. Given below are pictures of fictitious detective characters in
English & Tamil short stories. Match them with the authors who created
them.

Agatha Christie – Hercule Poirot

Sujatha – Ganesh, Vasanth

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – Sherlock
Holmes & Dr. Watson

Devan – Sambu

Tamizhvanan – Sankar Lai

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