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The House Call - Summary | The Magic of Words

A Story from Germany

The House Call - Summary | The Magic of Words

The House Call

The story took place on 26th December 1903 in Berlin, Germany. The famous German surgeon, Dr. Emil Braun, was sitting alone in the dining room of his apartment trying to write notes about the surgery while having his dinner. Soon he dozed off but woke up when he heard the doorbell ring. He heard a child talking about her sick mother to Mrs. Braun. He went to the door and saw in the semi-darkness a little girl of perhaps six or seven who was wearing a cotton dress and shabby shoes. Over her head, she had a ragged shawl which she was holding together at the neck. The doctor felt sympathy for the child and her sick mother and became ready to go with her.

It was raining lightly outside as the doctor walked down the steps to the street but the girl was already almost a block up the street, waiting for him. She walked too fast, however. Stopping only for a moment at each corner to make sure he saw where she was going. The girl led the doctor through the poorest part of Berlin, the section of the city around the hospital where Dr. Braun was the head surgeon. Finally, they reached an old tenement house where the girl’s mother was living. The doctor climbed upstairs up to the fifth story. As the doctor entered the room, he heard the door close softly behind him.

The woman was lying in the bed. The doctor recognized her as a person who at one time worked as the maintenance staff at the hospital. She was suffering from pneumonia. When the doctor talked about the girl, daughter of the woman, Elda said that her daughter, Adelheid, had died of the flu in September just three days after her seventh birthday.

The doctor was surprised. The little girl was not there. Elda told that she had kept Heide’s shoes and shawl to remind her of Heide. The doctor got up and looked. He saw the same ragged shawl on a hook and a pair of shabby shoes on the floor. As he looked closely he found them wet. Elda said that she had been thinking about him earlier that night hoping and praying for him. As she was talking, she fell asleep. Then, touching her feverish head once more, he took his black bag, stepped out into the dark hallway, and closed the door.

Important Questions

1. Summarize the story “The House Call”
Ans: See the summary above for the complete answer.

2. Why did the doctor have a look of surprise on his face when Elda told him that little daughter died in September?
Ans: It was so because Elda’s little daughter had gone to Dr. Braun’s house to call him for the treatment of her sick mother. Dr. Braun had followed the same girl on the way. So, the doctor had a look of surprise.

3. What did Dr. Braun discover when he went with the girl who came to the house?
Ans: The doctor reached Elda’s house. He saw that girl at the door. But Elda said that her daughter had died in September. Dr. Braun surprised when he heard this. He finally realized that he might have been called by Elda’s dead daughter’s spirit. It shows that it was a dead sprit of Elda’s daughter who haunted the door of the doctor.

Questions for Practice

  1. What sickness did the woman have?
  2. What was the doctor doing when the doorbell rang?
  3. What details in the story suggest to the reader that the little girl is, in fact, a ghost?
  4. What do you think the doctor thought when he found out that the shoes were wet and the shawl damp?
  5. Why do you think the little girl walked ahead of the doctor instead of walking with him?

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