Mr. Chips is eighty-five years old, but he thinks himself far from ill. Dr. Merivale tells him he should not venture out on this cold November day, but he also adds that Mr. Chips is fitter than the doctor himself. What Mr. Chips does not know is that the doctor has told the landlady, Mrs. Wickett, to look after him; Mr. Chips’s chest clouds in bad weather.
Mr. Chips sinks into his armchair by the fire, happy in the peace and warmth. The first thing about his remembered career sets him laughing. He came to teach at Brookfield in 1870, and in a kindly talk, old Wetherby, the acting headmaster, advised him to watch his disciplinary measures. Mr. Wetherby heard that discipline was not one of Mr. Chips’s strong points. When one of the boys dropped his desktop too loudly on the first day of class, Mr. Chips assigned him a hundred lines and had no trouble after that. The boy’s name was Colley—Mr. Chips seldom forgot a name or a face—and he remembered that years later he had taught Colley’s son, and then his grandson, who, he used to say pleasantly, was the biggest young nitwit of them all. Mr. Chips was fond of making little jokes about the boys, who took his jibes well and grew to love him for his honesty and friendliness. Indeed, Mr. Chips’s jokes were regarded as the funniest anywhere, and the boys had great sport telling of his latest.
Remembering these things, Mr. Chips thinks growing old is a great joke, although a little sad; when Mrs. Wickett comes in with his tea, she cannot tell whether Mr. Chips is laughing or crying. Tears are spilling down his withered cheeks.
Brookfield knew periods of grandeur as well as of decay. When Mr. Chips arrived there, the school was already a century old and regarded as a place for boys whose lineage was respectable but seldom distinguished. Mr. Chips’s own background was not distinguished, either, but it had been hard for him to realize that his mind was not the type to assume leadership. He had longed to work his way into the position of headmaster. After many failures, however, he knew that his role was that of a teacher, and he gave up his administrative ambitions. He loved his students, and they often came to chat with him over tea and crumpets. Sometimes they remarked, as they left, what a typical bachelor old Mr. Chips was.
It is painful to Mr. Chips that no one at Brookfield remembers his wife. When he was forty-eight years old, he married Kathy Bridges, and even now he wonders how that miracle came about. He saw a girl waving from the top of a rocky ledge one day when he was out walking, and thinking her in trouble, he set out to rescue her. On the way, he sprained his ankle, and Kathy ended up assisting him. It was a remarkable love, for she was years younger than he. Kathy, however, left an enduring mark upon Mr. Chips. He grew more lenient with the boys, more understanding of their...
(The entire section is 1,046 words.)