Hugo – THE BISHOP’S CANDLESTICKS from Les Miserable


HUGO (Les Miserable]


THE BISHOP, a white – haired, frail, kindly old man of about
seventy-five years.

JEAN VALJEAN, a muscular, robust man of middle height and
aged about forty-six. His clothes are wretchedly ragged and
he carries a heavy stick.

MDLLE. BAPTISTINE, the Bishop’s Sister, a tall, pale, slim, gentle
woman, about ten years younger than the Bishop.

MME. MAGLOIRE, the Bishop’s Housekeeper, a fair, plump little
middle-aged woman. Rather short of breath.

PERIOD 1815.

SCENE. The Dining-room of the BISHOP’S House. It
is a very plainly furnished apartment, containing
only the barest necessaries, there being no furniture
other than a square table C., which is half set
for supper, and four or five straw chairs. At the
back of stage is a door and window which open upon
garden. On the L. of door stands an old rosewood
sideboard upon which is a pair of antique silver
candlesticks. There is another door R. which
leads to the other rooms of the house. The time is


evening and a cheerful fire is burning in the
large open fireplace L., before which MDLLE.
BAPTISTINE, the Bishop’s sister, is seated. When
the curtain rises she is dozing, but awakes with a
start as MME. MAGLOIRE, who is carrying a small
basket containing a few purchases she has been
making for the frugal supper, enters.

MDLLE. BAPTISTINE. Good-evening, madame.
MME. MAGLOIEE. Good-evening, mademoiselle.

(She takes off her shawl and begins to unpack the basket,
placing its contents with great care, upon the table.)

MME. MAGLOIRE. Has Monseigneur not returned yet,
mademoiselle ?

MDLLE. BAPTISTINE. No. Why do you ask ? Is any-
thing the matter ?

MME. MAGLOIRE. Yes, mademoiselle, there is. See

(She crosses to the door, B., and pulls it open. The
front door is on the latch.)

MDLLE. BAPTISTINE (surprised). Well, and what of
that ? You know very well it is my brother’s invariable
custom never to bolt that door.

MME. MAGLOIRE. Yes, mademoiselle, I do know.
But listen. Just now, as I was making my way down
to the market, I heard people talking of an ill-looking
fellow, who is wandering about the town, and they
were saying, mademoiselle, that it would be unpleasant
for any one out late to meet such a suspicious-looking
vagabond. And, mademoiselle, you know how badly
managed the police are in our town; therefore, folks
were saying it would be wise to be one’s own police
and to lock one’s doors.


(During her speech the BISHOP has entered, unseen by
the two women, and now stands watching them in
an abstracted manner. MDLLE. BAPTISTINE turns
towards MME MAGLOIRE, and seeing the BISHOP,
gives a little cry.}

MDLLE. BAPTISTINE. Brother, did you hear what
Mme. Magloire was saying ?

THE BISHOP (walking to the fire, where he stands warm-
ing his hands at the blaze). I heard vaguely something
about a dangerous fellow wandering about the town.
Who is he ?

MME. MAGLOIRE (volubly}. Oh, Monseigneur, I cannot
tell you that. I only know that he is evidently some
gallows-bird, for he has a frightful face. Indeed he
has been refused a lodging at both the inns.

THE BISHOP. Is he so bad as that ?

MME. MAGLOIRE (with growing confidence}. Yes,
indeed, Monseigneur, and depend upon it, some mis-
fortune will happen in the town to-night. Everybody
says so, and what else can one expect with such a
police ? Fancy living in a mountain town and not
having lanthorns in the streets at nights ! Now, I
say, Monseigneur, and mademoiselle says

MDLLE. BAPTISTINE. No, no, I say nothing. What-
ever my brother does is right.

MME. MAGLOIRE (impatiently ignoring her}. We say,
Monseigneur, that with the door unbolted, the house is
not safe, and if Monseigneur will allow me, I will shoot
the bolts this very moment, for a house door which can
be opened by the first passer-by is most terrible ; besides
which Monseigneur is always accustomed to say ” Come
in,” and in the middle of the night, oh, mon Dieu, there
is no occasion even to ask for that permission.


(A loud knock upon door is heard. MME. MAGLOIRE

THE BISHOP (calmly.) Come in.

( The door is thrown open and JEAN VALJEAN enters. In
his hand he grasps a stick and he looks round the
room with the savage, hunted look of a desperate

JEAN (harshly). My name is Jean Valjean. I am
a galley slave.

draw together.)

JEAN. I was liberated only four days ago. Since

then I have been walking Oh, my God, how I have

been walking! This evening I came into your town.
I went to the inn, but was sent away because of my
yellow passport, which I had been obliged to show at
the police office. I went to another inn, but there,
too, the landlord turned me out. Everywhere it was
the same. No one would have dealings with me. I
went to the prison, but the gaoler would not take me
in. I crept into a dog’s kennel, but the dog bit me,
and drove me out; it, too, seemed to know me. I
was lying upon the stones in the square when a good
woman pointed to your door and told me to knock
upon it. That is why I am here. What sort of a
house is this ? Do you keep an inn ? I can pay,
never fear, for I have money, 109 francs, do you hear ?
Can I stay here ? I am tired and famished. Will you
let me stay ?

THE BISHOP (very quietly). Mme. Magloire, you will
lay another knife and fork.


JEAN (advancing a few steps). Wait a minute. Did
you not hear me say I was a convict, a galley slave ?
(He takes a large yellow paper from his pocket and holds
it out to the BISHOP.) See, here is my passport.
Yellow, do you see, yellow ? The cursed thing turns
me out wherever I go. Well, will you not read it ?
(The BISHOP shakes his head.) No. Very well, I will
tell you what it says : listen. It says that Jean Valjean,
a liberated convict, has remained nineteen years at the
galleys. Five years for robbery and fourteen for trying
to escape four times. He is very dangerous. (He gives
a hoarse laugh.) Well, what do you say now ? Are
you still willing to let me stay ?

THE BISHOP. Mme. Magloire, kindly go and prepare
the guest chamber.

(She nods and exits door R., looking fearfully at

THE BISHOP (speaking very kindly and laying his hand
upon JEAN’S shoulder). Come to the fire and warm
yourself, monsieur. We shall sup directly.

JEAN (hardly able to realise that he is not to be turned
away). Is this true ? Do you mean you will let me
stay me, a convict ? You called me monsieur ; the
others always say, ” Get out, you dog.” Does it mean
that I shall have supper and a bed with mattresses and
sheets like every one else ? For nineteen years I have
not slept in a bed My God !

(He covers his face with his hands.)

JEAN (suffering the BISHOP to take away his knapsack
and stick). Who are you ?

THE BISHOP. I am a priest.

JEAN. A priest ! Why, of course. What a fool I was
not to have noticed your cassock. But one’s mind goes


dull after nineteen years at the galleys. (He pauses for
a moment and then removes his cap.) Monsieur, you are
a very humane man not to feel contempt. Shall you
want me to pay ?

THE BISHOP. No, keep your money. How long did
it take you to earn those 109 francs ?

JEAN. Nineteen years.

THE BISHOP (with a sigh and regarding him with intense
pity). Nineteen years !

Enter MME. MAGLOIBE. She carries a tray upon which
is a dish of cold meats, some bread, a bottle of
wine, and some knives and forks, all of which she
places upon the table. JEAN watches her the while
with hungry, eager eyes.

THE BISHOP. Come, monsieur, to supper. Come,

( He leads MDLLE. BAPTISTINE to the table, JEAN following
them. The BISHOP says a grace.)

THE BISHOP (pouring some wine into a glass and hand-
ing it to JEAN). Drink this, monsieur. The night winds
are sharp on the Alps, and you must need warmth.

(JEAN drains the glass and then falls voraciously upon
the bread and meat that MME. MAGLOIRE has set before

THE BISHOP. Surely, madame, this lamp is giving a
very bad light. Will you have the goodness to light
the candles ?

(She does so and sets the candlesticks on the table.)

JEAN. Monsieur le Cure, you are a good man, for
you do not despise me. You have received me as a


friend and light your wax candles for me although I have
not hidden from you who I am or from where I came.

THE BISHOP (gently). My son, you need not have
told me who you were. This is not my house but the
house of Christ. This door does not ask a man who
enters whether he has a name, but if he has a sorrow.
You are suffering, hungry, and alone, and so you are
welcome. Do not thank me or say I am receiving you
at my house, for I tell you, who are a passer-by, that
you are more at home here than I, for you are in need
of shelter. Why should I have wanted to know your
name ? Besides, before you told it me, you had one
which I already knew.

JEAN (amazed). What, you knew me ?

THE BISHOP. Yes, you are my brother, and I know
that you have suffered.

JEAN. Suffered ! My God, yes, I have suffered. The
red jacket, the cannon ball on your foot, a plank to
sleep on, heat, cold, labour, blows ; the dungeon for a
word, the chain even when you were ill. Suffered !
Why the very dogs were happier! Nineteen years of
it ! And I nm forty-six ! ( He laughs wildly and begins
to eat again.)

THE BISHOP (earnestly). Listen to me, my son. You
have come from a place of sorrow, and if now you have
left that mournful place your heart is filled with anger
and hatred of your fellow-beings, you are still worthy
of great pity. But if you leave it with thoughts of
kindliness, gentleness, and peace, you are worth more
than any of us.

(JEAN makes no reply, but pushes away his plate.)

THE BISHOP. But now, monsieur, the hour is late
and you need rest.


(He rises and murmurs a grace. MME. MAGLOIRE
begins hastily to remove the silver plate from the table,
depositing it in a basket which she places upon the
sideboard, JEAN watching her furtively meanwhile.)

THE BISHOP (kissing MDLLE. BAPTISTINE). Good-night,
MDLLE. BAPTISTINE. Good-night, brother.


THE BISHOP (to JEAN, who is still watching MME.
MAGLOIRE). And now, monsieur, let me lead you to
your room. Come.

Exeunt the BISHOP and JEAN.

MME. MAGLOIRE (piling up the remainder of the supper
things on a tray}. Mon Dieu, mon Dieu ! What will
Monseigneur do next ? We shall be fortunate if we
are not murdered in our beds, I vow. (She blows out
the candles.) Well, well, I for one shall put my
bed against the door. (She blows out the lamp.) Even
then I doubt whether I shall close an eye.

(She takes up the tray but leaves the basket upon the side-
board. Exit. The stage is now only lit by the fitful
firelight and a shaft of moonlight that penetrates
through the window. There is a pause of several
moments and the door R. is opened stealthily and
JEAN VALJEAN tiptoes into the room. He stops
about the middle and stands listening, then hearing
nothing continues his way across to the sideboard.
As he sees the plate-basket is still there he utters a
short exclamation and takes it up, and is about to
remove its contents when his conscience pricks him.
He hesitates for a moment and lays the basket down,


but then with an impatient ejaculation lifts it up
again and pours out’ the silver upon the table C.,
letting the basket fall upon the floor. He then looks
round the room in search of his knapsack and stick,
and perceives they are leaning against the wall in the
full glow of the firelight. He crosses quickly and
fetches them, returns to table and crams the plate in
the knapsack. He takes a last look round, opens the
door, and disappears into the night, closing the door
after him with a slight noise. There is another short
pause and then MDLLE. BAPTISTINE appears door
R. She is wrapped in a dressing-gown.)

MDLLE. BAPTISTINE. What is that ? Who is there ?
(Pause.) I thought I heard some one moving. Ah !
(She starts as the door B. opens again and MME.
MAGLOIRE, also attired in a dressing-gown, enters.)

MME. MAGLOIRE (perceiving a figure in the moonlight).
Oh, mon Dieu ! Help, help, who is that ?

MDLLE. BAPTISTINE (who is nearly as alarmed herself,
in a tone of relief). It is only me, madame. I came
down because I thought I heard some one, but it must
have been fancy. But what are you doing ? ( Nervously.)
Did you hear anything ?

MME. MAGLOIRE (greatly relieved). No, mademoiselle,
not I. Only I was so flurried by the presence of that
terrible brigand that I quite forgot to take away the
plate-basket. I only remembered it as I was getting
into bed, so have come down to fetch it.

MDLLE. BAPTISTINE. Well, be quick, or we shall
disturb my brother.

(MME. MAGLOIRE crosses to the sideboard and perceiving
that the basket w not there, gives a loud shriek.)


MDLLE. BAPTISTINE. Why, whatever is the matter,

madame ?

MME. MAGLOIEE. Oh, mon Dieu ! it is gone, it is gone !
Help, help! Monseigneur, help! Thieves! Robbers!

Enter tlie BISHOP. He is still fully dressed and
carries a lamp.

THE BISHOP. Why, what is this ?

MME. MAGLOIRE. Oh, Monseigneur, the plate-basket
is gone do you know where it is ?

THE BISHOP (pointing to where it is lying). Yes, there.

MME. MAGLOIRE. Ah! But see, it is empty. Oh,
Monseigneur, that terrible man who came to-night was
a robber. Oh, the villain, the villain! He has gone
away and stolen our plate.

THE BISHOP (very sadly). Are you so sure the plate
was ours ?

MME. MAGLOIRE. Oh, Monseigneur !

THE BISHOP. Mine. Magloire, perhaps I had wrong-
fully held back the silver from the poor. This man
was evidently poor.

MME. MAGLOIRE. But, good gracious me! With
what will Monseigneur eat now ?

THE BISHOP. Are there no pewter forks to be had ?

MME. MAGLOIRE (deprecatingly). But, Monseigneur,
pewter smells.

THE BISHOP (smiling). Iron, then.

MME. MAGLOIRE. Iron tastes.

THE BISHOP. Very well, then, wood.

MME. MAGLOIRE (resignedly). Eh bien, I suppose
Monseigneur will have it his own way. Mon Dieu, but
we must be thankful that the villain only stole, and
that we were not murdered in our beds.


(Footsteps are heard in the garden followed by a loud

knock on the door.)
MME. MAGLOIBE. Ah ! what is that ?
MDLLE. BAPTISTINE (peeping through the window).
It is the police.
THE BISHOP. Go now, please, both of you and leave me.


(The door is thrown open and enter a Sergeant of the
Gendarmes. He carries in his hand the knapsack.
He is followed by two other gendarmes, who hold between

THE SERGEANT (saluting). Monseigneur!

JEAN (in a crushed, stupefied manner). Monseigneur!
Then he is not the Cure.

THE SERGEANT. Be silent, dog. This is Monseigneur,
the Bishop. (To the BISHOP.) Do you know this
man, Monseigneur ?

THE BISHOP (who has been standing wrapped in deep
thought). I do. (He advances towards JEAN.) I am
very glad to see you back again, my son. Why did
you not take away the candlesticks which I gave you,
which are of silver, and which will fetch 200 francs ?

(JEAN VALJEAN stares at him with a dazed expression.)

THE SERGEANT. Then, Monseigneur, can it be that
what this man told us was true ? We met him
running away from your house, so we arrested him.
He had this plate in his knapsack and he

THE BISHOP. And he told you that it had been given
him by an old priest. I see it all. And so, as you
did not believe him, you brought him back here. But
you have made a mistake.


THE SERGEANT. Then in that case we can let him

THE BISHOP. Certainly.
THE SERGEANT (to his men). Release the prisoner.

(The Gendarmes let go their hold of JEAN VALJEAN, who
totters forward and is only saved from falling by the

JEAN (in a low voice). Am I then free ?

THE SERGEANT. Yes, don’t you understand ?

THE BISHOP. Gentlemen, you may retire.

(The Sergeant hands the knapsack to JEAN VALJEAN.)

THE SERGEANT (saluting the BISHOP). Monseigneur!
(He turns to his men.) March.

Exeunt Sergeant and Gendarmes.

(The BISHOP walks slowly to the sideboard, and taking up
the candlesticks, holds them out to JEAN VALJEAN.)

THE BISHOP. My friend, take your candlesticks.
(He takes them mechanically).

THE BISHOP. And now go in peace, but first promise
me to employ this money in becoming an honest man.

JEAN (in a broken voice). I promise.

THE BISHOP (earnestly). Jean Valjean, my brother,
remember that from this hour forth you no longer
belong to evil but to good. I have bought your soul of
you. I give it now to God.

(JEAN VALJEAN stands a moment silent, then overcome
with intense emotion, gives an inarticulate cry, sei; ts
the BISHOP’S hand, kisses it, and rushes out through
the open door.)


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