The play opens with a scene in the kitchen of Bishop’s cottage. Bishop’s younger sister Persome and maid servant, Marie are busy in conversation while soup is being cooked on the stove. Persome is worried that her brother has gone out in extreme cold. When she learns that her brother has gone to see Marie’s ailing mother, she bursts out in anger at the selfishness of the people, who went about troubling him. Persome’s anger is genuine because her brother has already sold off his estate, furniture and other valuables to help the poor and the needy. Persome is shocked to discover further that the Bishop has even sold off his silver salt-cellars to help another ailing lady, to pay her rent.
The Bishop promptly arrives and dispatches Marie to tend to her mother. He gives away his comforter to her to ward off the cold outside. Persome gets furious and says, “You’ll sell your candlesticks next.” The Bishop thanks her for giving him the idea, although he admits that the candlesticks were his proud possessions, a gift from his dying mother and he would not like to part with them. Persome takes leave and the Bishop settles down to read. It is already midnight. A convict enters the room stealthily, seizes the Bishop from behind and demands something to eat. He threatens to kill the Bishop if he raises an alarm. The Bishop is unflustered. He calls the convict ‘son’ and wakes his sister to serve some food and wine to the convict. He also calms down Persome who was frightened to see the knife in the convict’s hand.
The convict pounces on the food greedily. After eating, the convict warms up to the Bishop and relates his sad story. He tells the Bishop that he was once a normal man. He had a wife and a home, but no work. So he stole to feed his sick wife. He was caught and sentenced to serve ten years in prison. He was chained like an animal and beaten mercilessly. The Bishop consoles him and arranges for him to rest there for the night.
The next morning Persome finds that the convict and the silver candlesticks are missing. She raises an alarm and informs the Bishop about the theft. The Bishop is upset, but he refuses to report to the police.
Soon a Sergeant appears with two soldiers and the convict in chains. They had arrested the convict on the suspicion of stealing the Bishop’s candlesticks. The Bishop tells the police that the convict was his friend and he had gifted the candlesticks to him. The police free the convict and go away. The convict is thunderstruck by such kindness. He promises to reform himself and begin his life in a new manner. The Bishop blesses him and gifts the candlesticks to him. He shows him a secret path to Paris, where the convict could lead a safe and respectable life.