English XI

The House Call

Summary

“The House Call” is a story of appearance-after-death. It occurred in the city of Germany in 1903. The main character of the story is an old German doctor named Dr. Emil Braun. While he was trying to have his dinner at 9:30, a little girl came to his house for call. She told him that her mother was very sick. Despite his wife’s unwillingness and his overtiredness, Dr. Braun decided to help the child’s mother and followed the child. He thought it was an order to him by God.

            It was raining. The child led him past the hospital where Braun was the head surgeon, to an old house in the tenement area of the outskirts of the city. The doctor tries his best of his age to catch up the girl but could not do so. She finally led him at the top of the fifth floor of an old house.

            The girl took the doctor to a room where a woman was very sick, and lying in the bed as if dead. Dr. Braun immediately recognized the woman because she used to work at the same hospital as he did.

            The doctor noticed that the woman was suffering from pneumonia. He gave her some medicine. Sitting on chair near the woman, he started talking to the woman. Her name was Elda. The doctor told her how her daughter had come to call him, but the woman said that her daughter Adelheid was already dead. She died three months before. The doctor had a look of surprise on his face as he looked around the room. The little girl was not there.

            The woman said that she had kept her daughter’s shoes and shawl to remind her of her daughter. She pointed to the corner of the room where they had been kept. The doctor got up and looked at the shawl and shoes. They were shabby and wet. It feared him a lot. The woman told the doctor that he was mistaken about who went to get him that night. She further said he came over there because she had been thinking about him; she had been wishing, and praying earlier that night that he would have come for her checkup.

            It was sure to the doctor that the child was dead and her spirit went to call him. Finally, he touched her feverish head once more, he ran to heel to see his wife.


  1. If the doctor was too tired to eat or write, why was he not too tired to go to see the sick woman?

The protagonist of the story, “The House Call” is Dr. Emil Braun who was a very kind and helpful man. He was so much dedicated to his profession that he didn’t care much about personal comfort or monetary gains. He would always be ready to help needy persons. Moreover, he was a religious man. He strongly believed in the god. He thought it was his utmost duty to do the work put in front of him by the god. 

When a poor girl came to call him for her mother’s check up, it was already half past nine (9:30) in the evening. It was also raining lightly outside. The doctor was lying asleep with his head on the dining table. Because of his tiredness, he had been even unable to even eat well and had dozed off on the dining table. He felt sympathy for the little girl. He thought it was the god’s intention that he should make this house call.

Hence, it was because of his helpful nature and his readiness to obey to the god that he got ready to go with the girl to see her sick mother.

  1. Why do you think the little girl walked ahead of the doctor instead of walking with him?

The little girl who came to call Dr. Emil Braun in the rainy evening was, in fact, the spirit of Elda’s daughter Hiede. She knew her reality might be exposed soon to doctor if she walked close to him. And in that condition the doctor might get frightened or might refuse to go with her. That would jeopardize her mother’s treatment. Therefore, the little girl walked ahead of the doctor instead of walking with him to keep her reality secret from him.

  1. The story says that the doctor was trying to catch up with the little girls so he could ask her a few questions. or What do you think he wanted to ask her? or Do you think the girl wanted to answer the questions? Explain.

The poor little girl who came to call Dr. Emil Braun was walking quickly ahead of him, giving him no chance to come close to her. On the other hand, the doctor was trying to catch her up. For him, this episode was quite mysterious. It raised several questions in his mind, which he wanted to ask her. He might ask her these questions:

  1. What is the problem with your mother?
  2. Where do you live in the town?
  3. Is there not any elder in your family to come at night?
  4. How did you know about me? Etc.

The little girl didn’t want to answer these questions because if she talked for long with the doctor, he might know about her reality soon. She didn’t want to give him any chance of knowing that she was a ghost.      

  1. Why did the doctor have a look of surprise on his face when Elda told him that her little daughter died in September?

The little girl who went to call Dr. Emil Braun had said that her mother was very sick. When he saw Elda, his former maintenance staff, in the tenement house, he thought she might have sent her daughter to call him. He had a few words with her. He had seen her and come with her. How she could have been dead? Dr. Braun did not believe Elda when she told him that her little daughter died in September. Therefore, he had a look of surprise on his face.  

  1. What do you think the doctor thought when he found out that the shoes were wet and the shawl damp?

When the doctor found out that the shoes were wet and the shawl damp, he might have thought that the girl who had gone to call him had used them to hide her reality of being a ghost. She was the spirit of Elda’s daughter named Hiede. Elda had kept those things as the reminder of her dead daughter.   

  1. Do you think Elda’s hoping and praying had anything to do with the doctor’s coming to see her? Explain.

Elda was suffering from pneumonia. She was alone in her small apartment in a tenement house. She had no one to send at her behest (order or request) for a doctor. She was helpless and was just hoping and praying for Dr. Emil Braun’s surprise arrival for her treatment. The spirit of her dead daughter Hiede knew about her wish and need, and went to call the famous doctor. In this way, we find that Elda’s hoping and praying had something to do with the doctor’s coming to see her.

  1. Why do you suppose the doctor did not tell Elda that night what happened?

What happened that night with Dr. Emil Braun and Elda was very weird. That mysterious event might have taken both of them by big surprise, giving rise to several questions in their mind. The doctor was pretty much clear at the end of the episode that the girl who had gone to call him was the spirit of Elda’s daughter. But he didn’t tell her anything about her for some reasons. First, she fell asleep while telling him that she was just hoping and praying for his arrival. How could he wake her up to say it was her daughter’s spirit that had gone to call him? Similarly, it might have also created some kind of stress or fear in the sick woman’s mind after knowing about her daughter’s spirit. Therefore, Dr. Braun didn’t tell Elda anything about it.

  1. Do you think he told her later? Explain.

I think the doctor told Elda later about the mysterious event. It was directly related with her and her dead daughter. It shows the benign nature of her daughter’s spirit that helped her by calling the doctor. The doctor must have thought that the poor woman should know about it. She might feel proud of have such a daughter who took care of her even after death.

I think Elda also might have asked him in his follow up visit who had really gone to call him. She had no one to send at her behest (order or request) for this work. She realized well that he had come not just because of her pray and hope. Moreover, the doctor could also not keep it secret from her for long for psychological reason. When some very strange or extraordinary things about someone are in our mind, we all have an urge to share them with the related person. Therefore, I think the doctor must have told Elda about her daughter’s spirit probably after she recovered from pneumonia.    

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