English CBSE Class 10 NCERT Footprints without Feet Chapter 3 The Midnight Visitor Line by Line Explanation and Meaning of Difficult Words



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.


Word Meaning
Secret Agent Detective, Spy
Following him Walking behind
Musty Having stale smell
Gloomy Dark, having less light
Let down Disappointed


Ausable is a detective whose appearance is not similar to what Fowler had read in stories about  other detectives. Fowler was walking behind Ausable in the corridor of a French hotel. The corridor had a smell of dampness and it did not have proper light. Fowler was disappointed.



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.


Word Meaning
Scarcely Barely, Just enough
Romantic adventure Normal comfort


Ausable’s room was on sixth and top floor. The room was just enough for a normal comfort. Ausable was 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.


Word Meaning
Accent Style of speaking
Altogether Completely
Passably Just enough


Ausable had a peculiar (strange) style of speaking. His spoken French and spoken German was just good enough. His accent continued to be that of an American. Although twenty years ago, Ausable had shifted to Paris from Boston. [Boston is a place in America and Paris is a place in France]



“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.


Word Meaning
Wheezily Breathing with a sound
Espionage Spying

Ausable spoke with a sound of breathing in his voice. You are disappointed. Somebody told you that I was a detective. I was working on spying and dangerous things. You wanted to meet me because you are a young and energetic writer.

You envisioned mysterious figures in the night, the crack of pistols, drugs in the wine.”

Word Meaning
Envisioned Imagined
Mysterious Strange looking
Crack of pistols Firing from pistols


Ausable continues to speak.

You had imagined to meet a strange person tonight. You thought that there would be sounds of pistol and wines mixed with drug will be served.



“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.


Word Meaning
Sloppy Careless, Not serious
Prosaic Ordinary, Conventional


Ausable continues to speak.

But you spent a boring evening in hall of French hotel. You met a careless and fat person. He did not get paper messages from beautiful ladies. But he made an appointment with someone (Fowler) through an ordinary telephone call to meet 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.


Word Meaning
Chuckled Laughed without a sound
Frustrated Annoyed, Depressed, Unsatisfied


Ausable continues to speak.

You were bored. The fat man (Ausable) laughed a bit and opened the lock of his door. He stood at the side to allow his annoyed guest to enter first into the room.

“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.


Word Meaning
Disillusioned Disappointed
Take cheer Be happy


Assuable told Fowler that Fowler was disappointed. But be happy my dear friend. Very soon you will see that a very important paper is getting delivered to me. Many men and women have risked their life to obtain that paper.



Someday soon that paper may well affect the course of history. In that thought is drama, is there not?” As he spoke, Ausable closed the door behind him. Then he switched on the light.

Very soon someday that paper will make a new history. Thinking about this possibility is very exciting. Assuage also entered the room and closed the door. 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.


Word Meaning
Authentic Real, Genuine
Thrill Excitement, Action, Surprise
Blinked Shut and opened eyes quickly


When lights were switched on, Fowler saw the first real action of the day. Because in the middle of the room, a man was standing. He had an automatic pistol in his hand. Ausable blinked his eyes.

“Max,” he wheezed, “you gave me quite a start. I thought you were in Berlin. What are you doing here in my room?”


Word Meaning
Give a start To surprise


Asuable spoke with sound of breathing. Max, you have surprised me. I thought you were in Berlin. What are you doing 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.


Word Meaning
Slender Thin
Less than tall Not very tall
Crafty Nice, Good looking
Countenance Expression of a face
Aside from Except
Menacing Dangerous


Max was thin and not very tall person. His features and face indicated that he was clever like a fox. Except the gun, he did not look dangerous.

“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.”


Word Meaning
Murmur Speak in a low voice, Whisper

Max spoke in low voice. The report about some new missile will be delivered to you tonight. I want to take that report from you. The report will be safer with me. [Max had come to steal that report from Asuable]

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.


Word Meaning
Raise the devil Take up the problem
Grimly Seriously


Asuable went toward a chair that had arm-rests.. He sat down in that chair with a jerk.  Ausable seriously told that he will raise the problem with the management of the hotel. You can be sure about it.



“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.


Word Meaning
Nuisance Troublesome, Problematic


Today, second time in a month, a person has entered into my room through that troublesome balcony. Fowler turned his eyes towards the only window of the room. It was an ordinary window. Through window he could see  darkness of the night.

“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.”


Word Meaning
Inflection Way of speaking
Rising inflection Speak loudly
Passkey Master key


Max spoke very loudly ‘Balcony’. I came using a master key. I did not know about balcony. If I knew about balcony, it would have been less troublesome to come into the room.

“It’s not my balcony,” Ausable said with extreme irritation. “It belongs to the next apartment.” He glanced explanatorily at Fowler.


Word Meaning
Irritation Feeling angry or annoyed
Explanatorily While explaining
Glanced Looked


With great annoyance, Asuable told that it was not his balcony. The balcony was for the next room. He looked at Fowler while explaining.



“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.

Please understand that this room was a part of a big flat. These two rooms were connected through a door. The next room was the living room. That living room had a balcony. That balcony is up to my room.

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.”

There is an empty room after two rooms. Anyone can come to the balcony from that room. The hotel management had promised that they would stop that entry to my balcony. But till now they have not done.

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.”


Word Meaning
Commanding Ordering
Gesture Signal
Stiffly Straight, Not bending


Max looked at Fowler. Near Ausable, Fowler was standing straight. Max pointed the pistol to Fowler, and ordered him to sit down. Max said that probably they would need to wait for half an hour.

“Thirty-one minutes,” Ausable said moodily. “The appointment was for twelve-thirty. I wish I knew how you learned about the report, Max.”

Ausable angrily said that they would need to wait for thirty one minutes. The appointment was fixed for twelve-thirty. Ausable asked Max how he came to know about the report.

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?”


Word Meaning
Evilly Wickedly, Naughtily


Max smiled wickedly. Max wanted to know how people of Ausable got the report. But no damage has been done yet. I will get back the report tonight. Max asked who had come to the door. Somebody was knocking 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.”

Fowler was surprised to listen to knocking at the door. Ausable smiled and said that police was at the door. I thought that I should take some extra precaution and protection for a very important paper. I had told police to come to my room. This is to ensure that everything was OK.

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 became nervous. He bit his lips. The knock on the door came once again. Ausable asked max what he would do. If I did not open the door, they will surely come in. The door is not locked. And police will surely 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!”


Word Meaning
Backed Moved back
Swiftly Quickly
Sill Bottom portion of a window


Max became very angry. His face became black because of anger. He quickly moved towards window. He put his one leg over the sill of window. He gave a warning to Ausable to send police back. Max said he will wait in the balcony. If police do not go back I will shoot them to take the report.

The knocking at the door became louder and a voice was raised. “Mr Ausable! Mr Ausable!”

Now the door was being knocked more loudly. Somebody call out the name of 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.


Word Meaning
Grasped Held, Caught


Max kept his gun pointed towards Ausable (the fat man) and Fowler (his guest). Now his body was slightly bent. He caught frame of the window with his other hand. Then he put his other leg also 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.


Word Meaning
Screamed Shouted
Shrilly Very loudly


The knob of the door started turning. [Meaning that somebody was opening the door] Quickly Max released his hand and body from the window and he jumped on the balcony. While jumping in the balcony he shouted very loudly.

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.


Word Meaning
Deftly Skillfully
Uncorked Opened


The door opened. A waiter came in the room. He had a tray, two glasses and a bottle of wine with him. He put these on the table. He told Ausable that he had brought the drink Ausable had ordered while he was coming to room. The waiter went out of 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.”


Word Meaning
Stammered Speak with pause


Face of the Fowler had become white because of fear. But what about the police? Ausable replied that he had not called police. Only Henry the waiter had come. I expected him to come any moment.

“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.”

Fowler said would the man in the balcony come in. Ausable said that the man would never come back. Please understand my friend that there is no balcony. [Max had fallen to the ground from sixth floor]



Important Links
The Midnight Visitor – Textbook Q&A The Midnight Visitor – Extra Q&A
The Thief’s Story – Explanation A Question of Trust – Explanation
The Thief’s Story – Textbook Q&A A Question of Trust – Textbook Q&A
The Thief’s Story – Extra Q&A A Question of Trust – Extra Q&A
Re-arrange Exercises Error Finding Exercises
Active-Passive Rules Gap Filling Exercises
Passages Direct-Indirect Speech Rules
Story Writing Tips Letter Writing




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