Page:Cartoon portraits and biographical sketches of men of the day.djvu/103

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Henry Irving.

But as he writes his name to the parchment, the bells ring in his ears, each chime a fiendish voice to rack his soul.

The deed is signed, and witnessed by half the village. They dance a dance of joy. Mathias, leaping up, joins in it, and shouts and sings with a mad glee.

In the third act the guests depart, and Mathias resolves to sleep alone; for he talks in his sleep. He locks the door of his chamber, and retires to his bed—to dream; and, in his dream, to live again through all his night of crime. But with a new horror. A prisoner at the bar, he fancies the mesmerist makes him sleep, and tell his judges, with his own lips, the secret story of his guilt.

Day comes. His wife and Christian break open the door of his chamber. They lift Mathias from his bed of horrors, in a dying state. He breathes his last in their arms.

Such is the plot of 'The Bells.'

Of Mr. Irving's character of Mathias, it is impossible to speak too highly. It is the finest impersonation seen on the English stage for years. It is a work of the highest art. The actor is lost in his creation. You see only Mathias, the terror-stricken murderer. The acting in the dream scene can only be charged with one fault. It is too real, too terrible. And at the end, the presentment of death is perfect.

Mr. Irving appeared first on the London stage, nearly six years ago, in a play called 'The Belles' Stratagem,' at the Theatre Royal, St. James's.