At the Rock Spring School for Boys, Professor Ellis Fowler teaches poetry and literature to a group of boys and reads from the works of Housman. Some of the boys are interested, some are bored. Fowler notes it's the last class of the semester and lets them out early, but notes they have all passed and he gently berates them for being dunderheads and then offers them a Merry Christmas and good luck in their future.
The Headmaster calls Fowler into his office and notes that the professor hasn't responded to the letter the trustees have sent him. Fowler apologizes for not having opened his mail due to finals but agrees to go along with what they say. The Headmaster is relieved and starts talking about Fowler's replacement. Fowler doesn't realize at first that he's being retired after fifty-one years of teaching. The Headmaster explains that they've decided a younger man should take his place. Shocked, Fowler staggers out, crying, as the students wonder what happened to him.
In his home, Fowler listens to Handel's Messiah and his housekeeper comes in. He asks her to put off dinner and goes over photos of his old students. As he remembers them, he notes that he gave them nothing and he was a failure, a relic. He wonders how he ever thought he ever accomlished anything and goes to take a nap. As he leaves, the housekeeper notices that he's taken a pistol with him. She goes to the hallway where she sees he's gone out into the winter.
Fowler is considering the school statue and then takes out the pistol and prepares to shoot himself. Suddenly the class bells ring out and he goes to his classroom. He finds it empty and collapses into his desk. However, he looks up to see students appearing at the desks. They introduce themselves and Fowler recognizes them as students he's had that have died in the years since. They all speak of how Fowler inspired them with the poetry that he taught them, and thank him for what he gave them. The bells ring again and the students fade away.
Later, the housekeeper assures the Headmaster that Fowler has returned home, while students sing Christmas carols outside. Fowler informs the housekeeper that he is accepting retirement and has actually left his mark.
Written by Gadfly on Oct 4, 2015