The Midnight Visitor

Introduction to the lesson

The plot revolves around a secret agent named Ausable who spends an evening with a writer named Fowler who expects a lot of adventure because he is meeting a secret agent. Instead, when he meets Ausable, he becomes bored because the events that transpired were exactly the opposite of what he had anticipated. Ausable's ability to get rid of his unexpected guest demonstrates his expertise as a secret agent.

The Midnight Visitor Summary

Ausable, a witty secret agent, is the protagonist of the storey. He spent the evening with a writer named Fowler because Fowler was interested in spending time with a secret agent, but when he spends time with Ausable, he realises that he is the polar opposite of what he had imagined and that he is a bore. Ausable then told Fowler that he had been thinking incorrectly and that he would soon be looking at a report that would change the course of the country's future. Then Ausable takes Fowler to his room, and when they walk in, there is a man with a gun named Max standing there. He told them to relax until the missile reports arrived in 30 minutes, as he was there to steal the reports. This was the first of many adventures that Fowler had anticipated when he thought about meeting a secret agent. While they were talking, Ausable began with a storey about how a guy had entered from the balcony below his room last month. During this conversation, a loud knock was heard at the door. Ausable stated that it had to be the police because he wanted them to check on him after a while in order to make the reports that were coming in extra secure. Max, pointing his gun at them, stated that he would be waiting on the balcony and that Ausable should send the cops away or else he would shoot them and risk being apprehended by the cops. Max jumps out the window as the doorknob is turned, and a loud scream is heard. The door opens, and a waiter enters, stating that he has brought the wine that Mr. Ausable had requested. He leaves, leaving the bottle, tray, and glasses on the table. Fowler is taken aback and inquires about the police, to which Ausable responds that there are none. Then Fowler inquired about the person who was waiting outside the window, to which Ausable replied that the person would not return and that there was no balcony there. This demonstrates Ausable's quick wit, as he took advantage of the situation and made Max nervous, causing him to jump out the window without thinking and without looking down. He would have died if he had jumped from the hotel's top floor. This is how Ausable outwitted Max and escaped a dangerous situation.

The Midnight Visitor Lesson and explanation

AUSABLE did not fit any description of a secret agent Fowler had ever read. Following him down the musty corridor of the gloomy French hotel where Ausable had a room, Fowler felt let down. It was a small room, on the sixth and top floor, and scarcely a setting for a romantic adventure. Ausable was, for one thing, fat. Very fat. And then there was his accent. Though he spoke French and German passably, he had never altogether lost the American accent he had brought to Paris from Boston twenty years ago. “You are disappointed,” Ausable said wheezily over his shoulder. “You were told that I was a secret agent, a spy, dealing in espionage and danger. You wished to meet me because you are a writer, young and romantic. You envisioned mysterious figures in the night, the crack of pistols, drugs in the wine.” “Instead, you have spent a dull evening in a French music hall with a sloppy fat man who, instead of having messages slipped into his hand by dark-eyed beauties, gets only a prosaic telephone call making an appointment in his room. You have been bored!” The fat man chuckled to himself as he unlocked the door of his room and stood aside to let his frustrated guest enter. “You are disillusioned,” Ausable told him. “But take cheer, my young friend. Presently you will see a paper, a quite important paper for which several men and women have risked their lives, come to me. Someday soon that paper may well affect the course of history. In that thought is drama, is there not?”

  • Musty- having a stale, mouldy, or damp smell.
  • Corridor- a long passage in a building from which doors lead into rooms.
  • Gloomy- dark or poorly lit, especially so as to appear depressing or frightening.
  • Scarcely- only just; almost not.
  • Accent- a distinctive way of pronouncing a language, especially one associated with a particular country, area, or social class.
  • Passably- just well enough; tolerably well
  • Espionage- spying
  • Envisioned- imagine as a future possibility; visualize.
  • Sloppy-  carelessly dressed
  • Prosaic- : ordinary
  • Chuckled- : laughed quietly, without opening his mouth
  • Disillusioned- disappointed in someone or something that one discovers to be less good than one had believed.

Ausable, according to Fowler, did not appear to be a secret agent at all. He was following Ausable to his room through a smelly and slightly frightening corridor. His room was on the sixth floor of the hotel, on the top floor. Ausable was a large man with an American accent, despite the fact that he had lived in Paris for the previous twenty years and spoke a little French and German. Then Ausable tells Fowler that despite being told that he would be meeting a secret agent, a spy agent who has dealt with danger, crime scenes, and drugs, Fowler was disappointed. He had to spend the evening in a music hall with an old, ill-dressed, extremely fat man who used traditional methods of communication rather than beauties delivering to him. He then declared that Fowler was tired of him. Ausable gave way to Fowler as soon as he opened the door to his room. He walked into the room, shut the door, and turned on the light. Then Ausable informed Fowler that he had been thinking incorrectly, and that the best was yet to come, as they would soon come across a paper for which many men and women had risked their lives, and that report was critical.


As he spoke, Ausable closed the door behind him. Then he switched on the light. And as the light came on, Fowler had his first authentic thrill of the day. For halfway across the room, a small automatic pistol in his hand, stood a man. Ausable blinked a few times. “Max,” he wheezed, “you gave me quite a start. I thought you were in Berlin. What are you doing here in my room? Max was slender, a little less than tall, with features that suggested slightly the crafty, pointed countenance of a fox. There was about him — aside from the gun — nothing especially menacing. “The report,” he murmured. “The report that is being brought to you tonight concerning some new missiles. I thought I would take it from you. It will be safer in my hands than in yours.” Ausable moved to an armchair and sat down heavily. “I’m going to raise the devil with the management this time, and you can bet on it,” he said grimly. “This is the second time in a month that somebody has got into my room through that nuisance of a balcony!” Fowler’s eyes went to the single window of the room. It was an ordinary window, against which now the night was pressing blackly.  “Balcony?” Max said, with a rising inflection. “No, a passkey. I did not know about the balcony. It might have saved me some trouble had I known.”

  • Authentic- of undisputed origin and not a copy; genuine.
  • Halfway- at or to a point equidistant between two others.
  • Wheezed- spoke breathing noisily and heavily
  • Slender-  gracefully thin.
  • Countenance- a person’s face or facial expression.
  • Menacing- suggesting the presence of danger; threatening.
  • Murmured- say something in a low or indistinct voice.
  • Missile- : weapons directed by remote control or automatically
  • Raise the devil- make a noisy disturbance.
  • Grimly- in a very serious, gloomy, or depressing manner.
  • Nuisance- a person or thing causing inconvenience or annoyance.
  • Balcony- a platform enclosed by a wall or balustrade on the outside of a building, with access from an upper-floor window or door.
  • Inflection- a change in the form of a word (typically the ending) to express a grammatical function or attribute such as tense, mood, person, number, case, and gender.
  • Passkey- a master key.

Ausable then closed the door behind him and turned on the light. As soon as the light was turned on, Fowler felt his first thrill of visiting a secret agent, as he noticed a man standing across the room with an automatic pistol. Ausable recognised the man as Max and inquired as to what he was doing in his room when he should have been in Berlin. Max was thin, a little short, and had a fox's face. Except for the gun he was holding, he appeared to be harmless. Max stated that he wanted the report on the missiles that Ausable had been waiting for because he thought he could keep it more safely. This is said to create humour as he just wanted the reports for his own benefit. Ausable sat down on a chair and started speaking that he would definitely have a fight with the management of the hotel as this was the second time that someone had climbed up from the balcony of the room. Then Fowler looked towards the window and saw that it was an ordinary window and that it was pretty much dark outside. Max said that he came through the masterkey and did not know about the balcony. Had he known about it his work would have become much easier.


“It’s not my balcony,” Ausable said with extreme irritation. “It belongs to the next apartment.” He glanced explanatorily at Fowler. “You see,” he said, “this room used to be part of a large unit, and the next room — through that door there — used to be the living room. It had the balcony, which extends under my window now. You can get onto it from the empty room two doors down — and somebody did, last month. The management promised to block it off. But they haven’t.” Max glanced at Fowler, who was standing stiffly not far from Ausable, and waved the gun with a commanding gesture. “Please sit down,” he said. “We have a wait of half an hour, I think.” “Thirty-one minutes,” Ausable said moodily. “The appointment was for twelve-thirty. I wish I knew how you learned about the report, Max.” The little spy smiled evilly. “And we wish we knew how your people got the report. But no harm has been done. I will get it back tonight. What is that? Who is at the door?” Fowler jumped at the sudden knocking at the door. Ausable just smiled. “That will be the police,” he said. “I thought that such an important paper as the one we are waiting for should have a little extra protection. I told them to check on me to make sure everything was all right.”

  • Glanced- take a brief or hurried look.
  • Explanatorily- serving to explain
  • Stiffly- in a manner that is not relaxed or friendly.
  • Waved- move to and fro with a swaying motion while remaining fixed to one point.
  • Commanding- having a position of authority.
  • Gesture- a movement of part of the body, especially a hand or the head, to express an idea or meaning
  • Evilly- morally wrong or bad

Ausable went on to say that it wasn't his balcony that people had tried to enter through, but rather the balcony of the apartment next door. He then began explaining to Fowler that his room was once part of a larger unit, and the room next to his room was once a living room. Then he explained that it had a balcony that extended all the way to his room's window. Then he explained that in order to get to his room, one had to go to the empty room two rooms away and climb up the balcony. Then he revealed that someone climbed up the balcony last month as well. He also informed Fowler that management had assured him that it would be blocked, but they had yet to do so. Max turned to face Fowler, who was standing nearby Ausable. Max motioned for Fowler to take a seat because the report had not yet reached Ausable. Ausable jokingly stated that the report would arrive in 31 minutes rather than 30 minutes. The report was supposed to arrive around 12:30 a.m. Ausable expressed regret that he did not know how Max learned about the report's arrival. Max smiled wickedly and expressed his desire to know how Ausable and his team obtained the report. He also stated that nothing had happened to the report because he would take it directly from Ausable to his team. Then there's a knock on the door, and Max panics. The knock on the door also frightens Fowler. Ausable responded to Max's question about who was at the door by saying that it had to be the police because he had asked them to check on him after a while because he thought the report he was about to receive was important and demanded extra attention. He had requested that the police check on him on a regular basis to ensure that everything was fine.

Max bit his lip nervously. The knocking was repeated. “What will you do now, Max?” Ausable asked. “If I do not answer the door, they will enter anyway. The door is unlocked. And they will not hesitate to shoot.” Max’s face was black with anger as he backed swiftly towards the window. He swung a leg over the sill. “Send them away!” he warned. “I will wait on the balcony. Send them away or I’ll shoot and take my chances!” The knocking at the door became louder and a voice was raised. “Mr Ausable! Mr Ausable!” Keeping his body twisted so that his gun still covered the fat man and his guest, the man at the window grasped the frame with his free hand to support himself. Then he swung his other leg up and over the window-sill. The doorknob turned. Swiftly Max pushed with his left hand to free himself from the sill and drop to the balcony. And then, as he dropped, he screamed once, shrilly. The door opened and a waiter stood there with a tray, a bottle and two glasses. “Here is the drink you ordered for when you returned,” he said, and set the tray on the table, deftly uncorked the bottle, and left the room. White-faced, Fowler stared after him. “But…” he stammered, “the police…” “There were no police.” Ausable sighed. “Only Henry, whom I was expecting.” “But won’t that man out on the balcony…?” Fowler began. “No,” said Ausable, “he won’t return. You see, my young friend, there is no balcony.”

  • Hesitate- to be reluctant or wait to act because of fear, indecision, or disinclination
  • Swiftly- moving or capable of moving with great speed or velocity; fleet; rapid
  • Sill- the horizontal piece or member beneath a window, door, or other opening.
  • Shrilly- piercingly; in a high pitch
  • Deftly- dexterous; nimble; skillful; clever
  • Uncorked- to draw the cork from
  • Stammered- to speak with involuntary breaks and pauses, or with spasmodic repetitions of syllables or sounds
  • Sighed- to let out one’s breath audibly, as from sorrow, weariness, or relief

As the knocking continued, Max became concerned about the situation, and Ausable asked him what he planned to do next. Ausable went on to say that the door was unlocked and that if he didn't let him open it, the cops would come in anyway and would definitely shoot if they saw him with a gun. Max was enraged by the situation and fled as quickly as he could. The knocking on the door became more insistent, and someone outside called for Mr. Ausable twice. Max sat on the window sill, facing inside, so his gun could still be pointed at Mr. Ausable and Fowler. Max then sat on the window sill with both legs outside, holding the window sill. When the doorknob turned, Max assumed that the police were on their way in, so he jumped from the window sill to land on the balcony, letting out a loud and shrill scream. When the door opened, there was a waiter standing there with a tray, a bottle of wine, and two glasses. He walked in, kept everything on the table, and said it was the bottle Ausable had ordered. He carefully removed the cork from the bottle and walked away. Fowler had no idea what had happened and stammered that where were the cops, to which Ausable replied that there were no cops and that he knew it was Henry, the waiter, and that he was only expecting him. Then Ausable inquired about the man outside the window, to which Ausable replied that he would never return because there was no balcony and Max had fallen to the ground from the building's top floor.

About the Author

Robert Jay Arthur Jr. (November 10, 1909 – May 2, 1969) was a speculative fiction writer best known for his work on The Mysterious Traveler radio series and his series of young adult novels The Three Investigators. Arthur was twice nominated for an Edgar Award for Best Radio Drama by the Mystery Writers of America. He also wrote scripts for television shows such as The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents.