The Magic of Words
Chapter-3 The House Call
Short answer questions
a. What did Dr. Braun discover when he went with the girl who came to his house? 
Ans: When Dr. Braun went with the girl who came tohis house, he discovered that the girl’s mother who was seriously sick from pneumonia and lying on the bed was once a maintenance staff. The girl’s mother told him that her daughter (the girl herself) was dead three months before. The doctor was a little frightened knowing the truth that the girl was not alive but a spirit who had appeared merely to help her mother.
b. Why did the doctor have a look of surprise on his face when Elda told him that her little daughter died in September? 
Ans: Her little daughter had gone to the doctor for The House Call for her treatment. Mother says that her daughter died in September. The mother Elda had only one daughter. She was dead at the age of seven. She reported him that she had kept her shoes and shawl in her memory. How had the little girl gone to call him if she were dead? In such ambiguity any person in the place of the doctor would be surprised. He wondered at the realization of the truth. That’s the reason, the doctor had a look of surprise on his face.
c. Who is Dr. Braun? How old is he when he visits Elda? 
Ans: Dr. Emil Braun is a famous German doctor, head surgeon in a hospital in the central part of the city. He is 68 year old when he visits Elda.
Long answer questions
a. Show the points of similarities and difference between the two supernatural stories ‘The House Call’ and ‘The Loving Mother’. 
Ans: In the story ‘The House Call’, a little girl comes to the surgeon, Dr. Braun, and pleads him to follow her up to her residence. Shoe says that her mother is very sick and probably she is dying. The doctor steps down to the street and walks behind her. She always keeps some distance between herself and the doctor. The little girl only waits to see whether the doctor is following her. Finally, she comes to an old tenement house. Entering the dark hallway, she climbs the stairs. The doctor cannot catch up. Finally, on the fifth floor, she points out the doorway. She tells him that her mother is there. She thanks him. The doctor enters the room and gives some medicine to the patient, suffering from pneumonia. He knows her to be a maintenance staff of the hospital. The woman, coming to her consciousness, informs him that she had only one daughter who died of flu three months before. He looks around but doesn’t find the little girl. He observes shoes and shawl of the girl and finds they are wet. He feels chilled to his bones. When she falls asleep, he walks out with worried mind.
In the story “The Loving Mother”, Shoji Sakota is a pharmacist. At midnight, woman comes to ask ame. It is his wonderful experience because the lady asks for ame, a nourishing food, not for any medicine, at midnight. For the following three nights, she comes and asks the same thing. In the fourth night, Sakota, with his friend, takes many photos of hers, but her figure is not seen in any photographs. In the fifth night, they follow her to her residence. To their wonder, the lady is found to be lying on the bed, dead, and besides her, her little baby was licking the ame.
Similarly: both are ghost stories. In both stories, one appears after death to help the loved one. In ‘The House Call’, the girl, knowingly, leads the doctor to her mother’s residence, but in the second, mother leads the pharmacist and his friend to her living place.
Difference: In ‘The House Call’, a little daughter comes to a doctor’s residence for The House Call, because her mother is dying. In ‘The Loving Mother’, mother comes to a pharmacist’s drugstore to take ame for her baby. In the former, the daughter is dead, but in the latter one, the mother is dead.
b. What are two possible explanations of who the girl was who came to fetch the doctor? 
Ans: It was the day after Christmas, 1903, 9.30 in the evening. The famous German Surgeon, Dr. Emil Braun, was alone in the dining room. He was sitting, dining and writing some notes of his all the surgery works he had done the same day. He was so tired that he dozed off soon with his head on his arm on the table. Meanwhile, a little girl came at the door to call the doctor. Her mother was very sick and she’s dying. Mrs. Braun asked her to call the doctor to see her mother in the morning. However, Dr. Braun who heard the talk came out and walked along the way following the little girl.
It was raining lightly as he walked down the steps to the street. He wanted to get closer to the girl, but she was walking fast. She was much ahead keeping a good distance between the doctor and herself. He couldn’t ask any questions. She walked too fast, however, stopping only for a moment at each corner to make sure the doctor saw where she was going. Finally, the girl came to an old tenement house. Entering the dark front hallway, she started up the stairs. The doctor could not catch up. Finally they were at the top of the stairs on the fifth floor. Standing in front of a doorway, the girl pointed through it. She told him that her mother was there. She thanked him. The doctor also thanked the girl for her obedience.
The doctor entered the room. He saw a woman lying in the bed. She was maintenance staff of his hospital before. She was suffering from pneumonia. He gave her some medicine and made her comfort. During their talk, we come to know that she had left the job. She had gone to live in the village with her brother. She came to the city back after her little daughter passed away. The doctor thought that she had still a child. The woman explained that she had a child, but the child died of the flu three months before. The doctor looked around, but she was not there. Elda, the sick mother, had kept Heide’s shows and shawl for her memory. He looked at the things more closely. Both things were wet. The woman wondered how the girl went to call him. She was just thinking about him earlier that night. She fell asleep. He stepped out closing the door.
The girl who came to call the doctor was certainly dead daughter of Elda, once the maintenance staff of Dr. Emil Braun. Elda was very sick and wished to have the presence of the doctor for her treatment. The dead child might have heard her and therefore she had gone to the doctor’s house for the house call. I think it was not impossible for the girl because she was in the form of an apparition (ghost), not a real human being.
It is also possible that the girl was a real human being who saw sick Elda, and decided to help her. She might have gone to the doctor’s house with the same purpose. She might not have wished to introduce herself in the presence of Elda.
Nevertheless, the first is more probable that the second one in the context of the story.