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Cafe Press

from: Modern Prose And Poetry; For Secondary Schools
Edited With Notes, Study Helps, And Reading Lists by Margaret Ashmun, M.A.
Houghton Mifflin Company. 1914.



(Dramatized from Victor Hugo's Les Misérables)

note: Scene I is not included in this collection

Scene II

Time: Evening.

Place: Village of D——; dining room of the Bishop's house.

[The room is poorly furnished, but orderly. A door at the back opens on the street. At one side, a window overlooks the garden; at the other, curtains hang before an alcove. Mademoiselle, the Bishop's Sister, a sweet-faced lady, sits by the fire, knitting. Madame, his Housekeeper, is laying the table for supper.]

Mlle. Has the Bishop returned from the service?

Madame. Yes, Mademoiselle. He is in his room, reading. Shall I call him?

Mlle. No, do not disturb him—he will come in good time—when supper is ready.

Madame. Dear me—I forgot to get bread when I went out to-day.

Mlle. Go to the baker's, then; we will wait.

[Exit Madame. Pause.]

[Enter the Bishop. He is an old man, gentle and kindly.]

Bishop. I hope I have not kept you waiting, sister.

Mlle. No, brother, Madame has just gone out for bread. She forgot it this morning.

Bishop (having seated himself by the fire). The wind blows cold from the mountains to-night.[Pg 53]

Mlle. (nodding). All day it has been growing colder.

Bishop. 'Twill bring great suffering to the poor.

Mlle. Who suffer too much already.

Bishop. I would I could help them more than I do!

Mlle. You give all you have, my brother. You keep nothing for yourself—you have only bare necessities.

Bishop. Well, I have sent in a bill for carriage hire in making pastoral visits.

Mlle. Carriage hire! I did not know you ever rode. Now I am glad to hear that. A bishop should go in state sometimes. I venture to say your bill is small.

Bishop. Three thousand francs.

Mlle. Three thousand francs! Why, I cannot believe it!

Bishop. Here is the bill.

Mlle. (reading bill). What is this!

Expenses of Carriage
For furnishing soup to hospital1500 francs
For charitable society of D——500    "
For foundlings500    "
For orphans500    "
Total3000 francs

So! that is your carriage hire! Ha, ha! I might have known it!

[They laugh together.]

[Enter Madame, excited, with bread.]

Madame. Such news as I have heard! The whole town is talking about it! We should have locks put on our doors at once!

Mlle. What is it, Madame? What have you heard?[Pg 54]

Madame. They say there is a suspicious vagabond in the town. The inn-keeper refused to take him in. They say he is a released convict who once committed an awful crime.

[The Bishop is looking into the fire, paying no attention to Madame.]

Mlle. Do you hear what Madame is saying, brother?

Bishop. Only a little. Are we in danger, Madame?

Madame. There is a convict in town, your Reverence!

Bishop. Do you fear we shall be robbed?

Madame. I do, indeed!

Bishop. Of what?

Madame. There are the six silver plates and the silver soup-ladle and the two silver candlesticks.

Bishop. All of which we could do without.

Madame. Do without!

Mlle. 'Twould be a great loss, brother. We could not treat a guest as is our wont.

Bishop. Ah, there you have me, sister. I love to see the silver laid out for every guest who comes here. And I like the candles lighted, too; it makes a brighter welcome.

Mlle. A bishop's house should show some state.

Bishop. Aye—to every stranger! Henceforth, I should like every one of our six plates on the table whenever we have a guest here.

Mlle. All of them?

Madame. For one guest?

Bishop. Yes—we have no right to hide treasures. Each guest shall enjoy all that we have.

Madame. Then 'tis time we should look to the locks on the doors, if we would keep our silver. I'll go for the locksmith now—[Pg 55]

Bishop. Stay! This house shall not be locked against any man! Would you have me lock out my brothers?

[A loud knock is heard at street door.]

Come in!

[Enter Jean Valjean, with his knapsack and cudgel. The women are frightened.]

Jean (roughly). See here! My name is Jean Valjean. I am a convict from the galleys. I was set free four days ago, and I am looking for work. I hoped to find a lodging here, but no one will have me. It was the same way yesterday and the day before. To-night a good woman told me to knock at your door. I have knocked. Is this an inn?

Bishop. Madame, put on another plate.

Jean. Stop! You do not understand, I think. Here is my passport—see what it says: "Jean Valjean, discharged convict, has been nineteen years in the galleys; five years for theft; fourteen years for having attempted to escape. He is a very dangerous man." There! you know it all. I ask only for straw in your stable.

Bishop. Madame, you will put white sheets on the bed in the alcove.

[Exit Madame. The Bishop turns to Jean.]

We shall dine presently. Sit here by the fire, sir.

Jean. What! You will keep me? You call me "sir"! Oh! I am going to dine! I am to have a bed with sheets like the rest of the world—a bed! It is nineteen years since I have slept in a bed! I will pay anything you ask. You are a fine man. You are an innkeeper, are you not?

Bishop. I am a priest who lives here.

Jean. A priest! Ah, yes—I ask your pardon—I didn't notice your cap and gown.[Pg 56]

Bishop. Be seated near the fire, sir.

[Jean deposits his knapsack, repeating to himself with delight.]

Jean. He calls me sirsir. (Aloud.) You will require me to pay, will you not?

Bishop. No, keep your money. How much have you?

Jean. One hundred and nine francs.

Bishop. How long did it take you to earn it?

Jean. Nineteen years.

Bishop (sadly). Nineteen years—the best part of your life!

Jean. Aye, the best part—I am now forty-six. A beast of burden would have earned more.

Bishop. This lamp gives a very bad light, sister.

[Mlle. gets the two silver candlesticks from the mantel, lights them, and places them on the table.]

Jean. Ah, but you are good! You don't despise me. You light your candles for me,—you treat me as a guest,—and I've told you where I come from, who I am!

Bishop. This house does not demand of him who enters whether he has a name, but whether he has a grief. You suffer—you are hungry—you are welcome.

Jean. I cannot understand it—

Bishop. This house is home to the man who needs a refuge. So, sir, this is your house now more than it is mine. Whatever is here is yours. What need have I to know your name? Besides, before you told me, I knew it.

Jean. What! You knew my name!

Bishop. Yes, your name is—Brother.[Pg 57]

Jean. Stop! I cannot bear it—you are so good—

[He buries his face in his hands.]

[Enter Madame with dishes for the table; she continues passing in and out, preparing supper.]

Bishop. You have suffered much, sir—

Jean (nodding). The red shirt, the ball on the ankle, a plank to sleep on, heat, cold, toil, the whip, the double chain for nothing, the cell for one word—even when sick in bed, still the chain! Dogs, dogs are happier! Nineteen years! and now the yellow passport!

Bishop. Yes, you have suffered.

Jean (with violence). I hate this world of laws and courts! I hate the men who rule it! For nineteen years my soul has had only thoughts of hate. For nineteen years I've planned revenge. Do you hear? Revenge—revenge!

Bishop. It is not strange that you should feel so. And if you continue to harbor those thoughts, you are only deserving of pity. But listen, my brother; if, in spite of all you have passed through, your thoughts could be of peace and love, you would be better than any one of us.

[Pause. Jean reflects.]

Jean (speaking violently). No, no! I do not belong to your world of men. I am apart—a different creature from you all. The galleys made me different. I'll have nothing to do with any of you!

Madame. The supper, your Reverence.

[The Bishop glances at the table.]

Bishop. It strikes me there is something missing from this table.

[Madame hesitates.]

Mlle. Madame, do you not understand?

[Madame steps to a cupboard, gets the remaining silver plates, and places them on the table.][Pg 58]

Bishop (gayly, turning to Jean). To table then, my friend! To table!

[Jean remains for a moment, standing doggedly apart; then he steps over to the chair awaiting him, jerks it back, and sinks into it, without looking up.]

Scene III

Time: Daybreak the next morning.

Place: The Bishop's dining room.

[The room is dark, except for a faint light that comes in through window curtains. Jean Valjean creeps in from the alcove. He carries his knapsack and cudgel in one hand; in the other, his shoes. He opens the window overlooking the garden; the room becomes lighter. Jean steps to the mantel and lifts a silver candlestick.]

Jean (whispering). Two hundred francs—double what I have earned in nineteen years!

[He puts it in his knapsack; takes up the other candlestick; shudders, and sets it down again.]

No, no, he is good—he called me "sir"—

[He stands still, staring before him, his hand still gripping the candlestick. Suddenly he straightens up; speaks bitterly.]

Why not? 'Tis easy to give a bed and food! Why doesn't he keep men from the galleys? Nineteen years for a loaf of bread!

[Pauses a moment, then resolutely puts both candlesticks into his bag; steps to the cupboard and takes out the silver plates and the ladle, and slips them into the bag.]

All solid—I should gain at least one thousand francs. 'Tis due me—due me for all these years!

[Closes the bag. Pause.][Pg 59]

No, not the candles—I owe him that much—

[He puts the candlesticks on mantel; takes up cudgel, knapsack, and shoes; jumps out window and disappears. Pause.]

[Enter Madame. She shivers; discovers the open window.]

Madame. Why is that window open? I closed it last night myself. Oh! Could it be possible?

[Crosses and looks at open cupboard.]

It is gone!

[Enter the Bishop from his room.]

Bishop. Good morning, Madame!

Madame. Your Reverence! The silver is gone! Where is that man?

Bishop. In the alcove sleeping, I suppose.

[Madame runs to curtains of alcove and looks in. Enter Mademoiselle. Madame turns.]

He is gone!

Mlle. Gone?

Madame. Aye, gone—gone! He has stolen our silver, the beautiful plates and the ladle! I'll inform the police at once!

[Starts off. The Bishop stops her.]

Bishop. Wait!—Let me ask you this—was that silver ours?

Madame. Why—why not?

Bishop. Because it has always belonged to the poor. I have withheld it wrongfully.

Mlle. Its loss makes no difference to Madame or me.

Madame. Oh, no! But what is your Reverence to eat from now?

Bishop. Are there no pewter plates?

Madame. Pewter has an odor.

Bishop. Iron ones, then.[Pg 60]

Madame. Iron has a taste.

Bishop. Well, then, wooden plates.

[A knock is heard at street door.]

Come in.

[Enter an Officer and two Soldiers, dragging in Jean Valjean.]

Officer. Your Reverence, we found your silver on this man.

Bishop. Why not? I gave it to him. I am glad to see you again, Jean. Why did you not take the candlesticks, too?

Jean (trembling). Your Reverence—

Bishop. I told you everything in this house was yours, my brother.

Officer. Ah, then what he said was true. But, of course, we did not believe him. We saw him creeping from your garden—

Bishop. It is all right, I assure you. This man is a friend of mine.

Officer. Then we can let him go?

Bishop. Certainly.

[Soldiers step back.]

Jean (trembling). I am free?

Officer. Yes! You can go. Do you not understand?

[Steps back.]

Bishop (to Jean). My friend, before you go away—here are your candlesticks (going to the mantel and bringing the candlesticks); take them.

[Jean takes the candlesticks, seeming not to know what he is doing.]

By the way, my friend, when you come again you need not come through the garden. The front door is closed only with a latch, day or night. (To the Officer and Soldiers.) Gentlemen, you may withdraw.

[Exit Officer and Soldiers.][Pg 61]

Jean (recoiling and holding out the candlesticks). No—no—I—I—

Bishop. Say no more; I understand. You felt that they were all owing to you from a world that had used you ill. Keep them, my friend, keep them. I would I had more to give you. It is small recompense for nineteen years.

[Jean stands bewildered, looking down at the candlesticks in his hands.]

They will add something to your hundred francs. But do not forget, never forget, that you have promised to use the money in becoming an honest man.

Jean. I—promised—?

Bishop (not heeding). Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to evil, but to good. It is your soul that I am buying for you: I withdraw it from thoughts of hatred and revenge—I give it to peace and hope and God.

[Jean stands as if stunned, staring at the Bishop, then turns and walks unsteadily from the room.]


Jean Valjean, as a young man, was sent to the galleys for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister's hungry children. From time to time, when he tried to escape, his sentence was increased, so that he spent nineteen years as a convict. Scene I of Miss Stevenson's dramatization shows Jean Valjean being turned away from the inn because he has been in prison.

What does the stage setting tell of the Bishop and his sister? Notice, as you read, why each of the items in the stage setting is mentioned. Why is Madame made to leave the room—how does her absence help the action of the play? What is the purpose of the conversation about the weather? About the carriage hire? Why is the Bishop not more excited at Madame's news? What is gained by the talk about the silver? Notice the dramatic [Pg 62]value of the Bishop's speech beginning "Stay!" Why does Jean Valjean speak so roughly when he enters? Why does he not try to conceal the fact that he is a convict? Why does not the Bishop reply directly to Jean Valjean's question? What would be the action of Mademoiselle and Madame while Jean is speaking? What is Madame's action as she goes out? What is gained by the conversation between Jean and the Bishop? Why does the Bishop not reproach Jean for saying he will have revenge? Why is the silver mentioned so many times?

While you are reading the first part of Scene III, think how it should be played. Note how much the stage directions add to the clearness of the scene. How long should the pause be, before Madame enters? What is gained by the calmness of the Bishop? How can he say that the silver was not his? What does the Bishop mean when he says, "I gave it to him"? What are Mademoiselle and Madame doing while the conversation with the officers and Jean Valjean is going on? Is it a good plan to let them drop so completely out of the conversation? Why does the Bishop say that Jean has promised? Why does the scene close without Jean's replying to the Bishop? How do you think the Bishop's kindness has affected Jean Valjean's attitude toward life?

Note how the action and the conversation increase in intensity as the play proceeds: Is this a good method? Notice the use of contrast in speech and action. Note how the chief characters are emphasized. Can you discover the quality called "restraint," in this fragment of a play? How is it gained, and what is its value?


Select a short passage from some book that you like, and try to put it into dramatic form, using this selection as a kind of model. Do not attempt too much at once, but think out carefully the setting, the stage directions, and the dialogue for a brief fragment of a play.

Make a series of dramatic scenes from the same book, so that a connected story is worked out.

Read a part of some modern drama, such as The Piper, or The Blue Bird, or one of Mr. Howells's little farces, and notice [Pg 63]how it makes use of setting and stage directions; how the conversation is broken up; how the situation is brought out in the dialogue; how each person is made to speak in his own character.

After you have done the reading suggested above, make another attempt at dramatizing a scene from a book, and see what improvement you can make upon the sort of thing you did at first.

It might be interesting for two or three persons to work on a bit of dramatization together, and then give the fragment of a play in simple fashion before the class. Or the whole class may work on the play, and then select some of their number to perform it.


[Pg 64]

A Dramatic Reader: Book FiveAugusta Stevenson
Plays for the Home     "          "
Jean Valjean (translated and abridged from Victor Hugo's Les Misérables)S.E. Wiltse (Ed.)
The Little Men Play (adapted from Louisa Alcott's Little Men)E.L. Gould
The Little Women Play "  "        "
The St. Nicholas Book of PlaysCentury Company
The Silver Thread and Other Folk PlaysConstance Mackay
Patriotic Plays and Pageants    "          "
Fairy Tale Plays and How to Act ThemMrs. Hugh Bell
Festival PlaysMarguerite Merington
Short Plays from DickensH.B. Browne
The PiperJosephine Preston Peabody
The Blue BirdMaurice Maeterlinck
Riders to the SeaJ.M. Synge
She Stoops to ConquerOliver Goldsmith
The RivalsRichard Brinsley Sheridan
Prince OttoR.L. Stevenson
The Canterbury PilgrimsPercy Mackaye
The ElevatorWilliam Dean Howells
The Mouse Trap     "        "        "
The Sleeping Car     "        "        "
The Register     "        "        "
The Story of WaterlooHenry Irving
The Children's TheatreA. Minnie Herts
The Art of Play-writingAlfred Hennequin