The narrator of this poem has been living "away at school", or "college". For most students in a residential school setting, the mid-term break anticipates a joyful reunion with family at home and celebration of time away from classes to engage in pleasurable activities. For the speaker, however, the "bells knelling classes to a close" are not signalling the arrival of family members coming to take him home for a happy mid-term break. Instead, "neighbours" transport him home. The tone of language used to set the scene is not joyous and full of anticipation of activities during the coming break, and the unexpected appearance of the neighbors instead of his family causes the reader to wonder what has happened. The description of the bells' sounds anticipates the tolling of bells after the funeral that will dominate the student's activities during his mid-term break.