From that time up to the opening of the play, her career was a succession of brilliant coups in gaining the confidence and love, not to say the money, of men of all ages and all walks in life. Her fascination was as undeniable as her insincerity of purpose. She had never made an honest effort to be an honest woman, although she imagined herself always persecuted, the victim of circumstances,—and was always ready to excuse any viciousness of character which led her into her peculiar difficulties. While acknowledged to be a mistress of her business—that of acting—from a purely technical point of view, her lack of sympathy, her abuse of her dramatic temperament in her private affairs, had been such as to make it impossible for her sincerely to impress audiences with real emotional power, and, therefore, despite the influences which she always had at hand, she remained a mediocre artist.
At the time of the opening of our play, she has played a summer engagement with a stock company in Denver, which has just ended. She has met JOHN MADISON, a man of about twenty-seven years of age, whose position is that of a dramatic critic on one of the local papers. LAURA MURDOCH, with her usual wisdom, started to fascinate JOHN MADISON, but has found that, for once in her life, she has met her match.
JOHN MADISON is good to look at, frank, virile, but a man of broad experience, and not to be hoodwinked. For the first time LAURA MURDOCH feels that the shoe is pinching the other foot, and, without any possible indication of reciprocal affection, she has been slowly falling desperately, madly, honestly and decently in love with him. She has for the past two years been the special favourite and mistress of WILLARD BROCKTON. The understanding is one of pure friendship. He is a man who has a varied taste in the selection of his women; is honest in a general way, and perfectly frank about his amours. He has been most generous with LAURA MURDOCK, and his close relations with several very prominent theatrical managers have made it possible for him to secure her desirable engagements, generally in New York. With all her past experiences, tragic and otherwise, LAURA MURDOCH has found nothing equal to this sudden, this swiftly increasing, love for the young Western man. At first she attempted to deceive him. Her baby face, her masterful assumption of innocence and childlike devotion, made no impression upon him. He has let her know in no uncertain way that he knew her record from the day she stepped on American soil in San Francisco to the time when she had come to Denver, but still he liked her.