The House Call
A story from Germany
The story took place on 26th December, 1903 in
. 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 semidarkness 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
, the section of the city around the hospital where Dr. Braun was head surgeon. Finally they reached an old tenement house where the girl’s mother was living. The doctor climbed up stairs 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,
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.
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 felt asleep. Then, touching her feverish head once more, he took his black bag, stepped out into the dark hallway, and closed the door. Elda