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Analyzing a Mystery (Grades 11-12)

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Analyzing a Mystery

A slow and heavy step, which had been heard upon the stairs and in the passage, paused immediately outside the door. Then there was a loud and authoritative tap.

"€œCome in!" said Holmes.

A man entered who could hardly have been less than six feet six inches in height, with the chest and limbs of a Hercules. His dress was rich with a richness which would, in England, be looked upon as akin to bad taste. Heavy bands of astrakhan were slashed across the sleeves and fronts of his double-breasted coat, while the deep blue cloak which was thrown over his shoulders was lined with flame-coloured silk and secured at the neck with a brooch which consisted of a single flaming beryl. Boots which extended halfway up his calves, and which were trimmed at the tops with rich brown fur, completed the impression of barbaric opulence which was suggested by his whole appearance. He carried a broad-brimmed hat in his hand, while he wore across the upper part of his face, extending down past the cheekbones, a black vizard mask, which he had apparently adjusted that very moment, for his hand was still raised to it as he entered. From the lower part of the face he appeared to be a man of strong character, with a thick, hanging lip, and a long, straight chin suggestive of resolution pushed to the length of obstinacy.

"You had my note?" he asked with a deep harsh voice and a strongly marked German accent.
"€œI told you that I would call." He looked from one to the other of us, as if uncertain which to address.

"Pray take a seat," said Holmes. "This is my friend and colleague, Dr. Watson, who is occasionally good enough to help me in my cases. Whom have I the honour to address?"

"You may address me as the Count Von Kramm, a Bohemian nobleman. I understand that this gentleman, your friend, is a man of honour and discretion, whom I may trust with a matter of the most extreme importance. If not, I should much prefer to communicate with you alone."

I rose to go, but Holmes caught me by the wrist and pushed me back into my chair. "It is both, or none," said he. "You may say before this gentleman anything which you may say to me."

The Count shrugged his broad shoulders. "Then I must begin,"€ said he, "by binding you both to absolute secrecy for two years; at the end of that time the matter will be of no importance. At present it is not too much to say that it is of such weight it may have an influence upon European history."

"I promise," said Holmes.

"€œAnd I."

"You will excuse this mask," continued our strange visitor. "The august person who employs me wishes his agent to be unknown to you, and I may confess at once that the title by which I have just called myself is not exactly my own."

"I was aware of it," said Holmes dryly.

"The circumstances are of great delicacy, and every precaution has to be taken to quench what might grow to be an immense scandal and seriously compromise one of the reigning families of Europe. To speak plainly, the matter implicates the great House of Ormstein, hereditary kings of Bohemia."

"€œI was also aware of that," murmured Holmes, settling himself down in his armchair and closing his eyes.

Our visitor glanced with some apparent surprise at the languid, lounging figure of the man who had been no doubt depicted to him as the most incisive reasoner and most energetic agent in Europe. Holmes slowly reopened his eyes and looked impatiently at his gigantic client.

"If your Majesty would condescend to state your case,"€ he remarked, "I should be better able to advise you."

The man sprang from his chair and paced up and down the room in uncontrollable agitation. Then, with a gesture of desperation, he tore the mask from his face and hurled it upon the ground. "You are right," he cried; "I am the King. Why should I attempt to conceal it?"
1. 
In the beginning of the passage, how does the author show the authority of the man knocking at the door?



2. 
One of the key elements of a mystery is the characters.
How does the author of this passage use the characters to add to the mystery?



3. 
Comedic relief is used to lighten the tension. Which line shows an example of comedic relief from the passage?
  1. "His dress was rich with a richness which would, in England, be looked upon as akin to bad taste."
  2. "This is my friend and colleague, Dr. Watson, who is occasionally good enough to help me in my cases."
  3. "The august person who employs me wishes his agent to be unknown to you, and I may confess at once that the title by which I have just called myself is not exactly my own."
  4. "If your Majesty would condescend to state your case,"€ he remarked, "I should be better able to advise you."
4. 
Holmes and Watson knew the true identity of the man before he revealed himself.
  1. True
  2. False
5. 
In which way(s) does the author add more suspense to the story?
  1. The visitor says he's not who he said he was.
  2. The visitor swears Holmes and Watson to secrecy.
  3. The visitor says his issue will influence European history.
  4. All of the above
6. 
Which sentence from the passage uses the plot to add to the mystery?
  1. "You will excuse this mask," continued our strange visitor.
  2. "From the lower part of the face he appeared to be a man of strong character, with a thick, hanging lip, and a long, straight chin suggestive of resolution pushed to the length of obstinacy."
  3. "You may address me as the Count Von Kramm, a Bohemian nobleman."
  4. "The circumstances are of great delicacy, and every precaution has to be taken to quench what might grow to be an immense scandal and seriously compromise one of the reigning families of Europe."
7. 
Which sentence from the passage uses the characters to add to the mystery?
  1. "Heavy bands of astrakhan were slashed across the sleeves and fronts of his double-breasted coat, while the deep blue cloak which was thrown over his shoulders was lined with flame-coloured silk and secured at the neck with a brooch which consisted of a single flaming beryl."
  2. "€œI told you that I would call." He looked from one to the other of us, as if uncertain which to address."
  3. "This is my friend and colleague, Dr. Watson, who is occasionally good enough to help me in my cases."
  4. "A slow and heavy step, which had been heard upon the stairs and in the passage, paused immediately outside the door."
8. 
In a mystery, the plot often begins with action, intrigue, or suspense to hook the reader.

How does this passage do the same?
  1. It takes place at a detective agency.
  2. It features Sherlock Holmes, an iconic figure in mysteries.
  3. It introduces a mysterious character knocking at the door.
  4. It explains that the man is in a disguise.
9. 
The man is Count Von Kramm, a Bohemian nobleman.
  1. True
  2. False
10. 
Aside from the fact that it features Sherlock and Holmes, well-known figures in the mystery genre, how can you tell this passage is a mystery?



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