It was on the following Tuesday evening that Mrs. Sin came to the theatre,
accompanied by Mollie Gretna. Rita instructed that she should be shown up to the
dressing-room. The personality of this singular woman interested her keenly. Mrs.
Sin was well known in certain Bohemian quarters, but was always spoken of as
one speaks of a pet vice. Not to know Mrs. Sin was to be outside the magic circle
which embraced the exclusively smart people who practiced the latest absurdities.
The so-called artistic temperament is compounded of great strength and great
weakness; its virtues are whiter than those of ordinary people and its vices blacker.
For such a personality Mrs. Sin embodied the idea of secret pleasure. Her bold
good looks repelled Rita, but the knowledge in her dark eyes was alluring.
"I arrange for you for Saturday night," she said. "Cy Kilfane is coming with Mollie,
and you bring--"
"Oh," replied Rita hesitatingly, "I am sorry you have gone to so much trouble."
"No trouble, my dear," Mrs. Sin assured her. "Just a little matter of business, and
you can pay the bill when it suits you."
"I am frightfully excited!" cried Mollie Gretna. "It is so nice of you to have asked me
to join your party. Of course Cy goes practically every week, but I have always
wanted another girl to go with. Oh, I shall be in a perfectly delicious panic when I
find myself all among funny Chinamen and things! I think there is something so
magnificently wicked-looking about a pigtail--and the very name of Limehouse
thrills me to the soul!"
That fixity of purpose which had enabled Rita to avoid the cunning snares set for
her feet and to snatch triumph from the very cauldron of shame without burning her
fingers availed her not at all in dealing with Mrs. Sin. The image of Monte receded
before this appeal to the secret pleasure-loving woman, of insatiable curiosity,
primitive and unmoral, who dwells, according to a modern cynic philosopher, within
every daughter of Eve touched by the fire of genius.
She accepted the arrangement for Saturday, and before her visitors had left the
dressing-room her mind was busy with plausible deceits to cover the sojourn in
Chinatown. Something of Mollie Gretna's foolish enthusiasm had communicated
itself to Rita.
Later in the evening Sir Lucien called, and on hearing of the scheme grew silent.
Rita glancing at his reflection in the mirror, detected a black and angry look upon
his face. She turned to him.
"Why, Lucy," she said, "don't you want me to go?"
He smiled in his sardonic fashion.
"Your wishes are mine, Rita," he replied.
She was watching him closely.
"But you don't seem keen," she persisted. "Are you angry with me?"
"We are still friends, aren't we?"
"Of course. Do you doubt my friendship?"