The Maid Of The Masque
The past life of Mrs. Monte Irvin, in which at this time three distinct groups of
investigators became interested--namely, those of Whitehall, Scotland Yard, and
Fleet Street--was of a character to have horrified the prudish, but to have excited
the compassion of the wise.
Daughter of a struggling suburban solicitor, Rita Esden, at the age of seventeen,
from a delicate and rather commonplace child began to develop into a singularly
pretty girl of an elusive and fascinating type of beauty, almost ethereal in her dainty
coloring, and possessed of large and remarkably fine eyes, together with a wealth
of copper- red hair, a crown which seemed too heavy for her slender neck to
support. Her father viewed her increasing charms and ever-growing list of admirers
with the gloomy apprehension of a disappointed man who had come to look upon
each gift of the gods as a new sorrow cunningly disguised. Her mother, on the
contrary, fanned the girl's natural vanity and ambition with a success which rarely
attended the enterprises of this foolish old woman, and Rita proving to be endowed
with a moderately good voice, a stage career was determined upon without
reference to the contrary wishes of Mr. Esden.
Following the usual brief "training" which is counted sufficient for an aspirant to
musical comedy honors, Rita, by the prefixing of two letters to her name, set out to
conquer the play-going world as Rita Dresden.
Two years of hard work and disappointment served to dispel the girl's illusions.
She learned to appreciate at its true value that masculine admiration which, in an
unusual degree, she had the power to excite. Those of her admirers who were in a
position to assist her professionally were only prepared to use their influence upon
terms which she was unprepared to accept. Those whose intentions were strictly
creditable, by some malignancy of fate, possessed no influence whatever. She
came to regard herself as a peculiarly unlucky girl, being ignorant of the fact that
Fortune, an impish hierophant, imposes identical tests upon every candidate who
aspires to the throne of a limelight princess.
Matters stood thus when a new suitor appeared in the person of Sir Lucien Pyne.
When his card was brought up to Rita, her heart leaped because of a mingled
emotion of triumph and fear which the sight of the baronet's name had occasioned.
He was a director of the syndicate in whose production she was playing--a man
referred to with awe by every girl in the company as having it in his power to make
or mar a professional reputation. Not that he took any active part in the affairs of
the concern; on the contrary, he was an aristocrat who held himself aloof from all
matters smacking of commerce, but at the same time one who invested his money
shrewdly. Sir Lucien's protegee of today was London's idol of tomorrow, and even
before Rita had spoken to him she had fought and won a spiritual battle between
her true self and that vain, admiration-loving Rita Dresden who favored
She knew that Sir Lucien's card represented a signpost at the cross-roads where
many a girl, pretty but not exceptionally talented, had hesitated with beating heart.