An eastern theatrical company was coming back from a tour of San Francisco and had a vacancy in the cast, so Maude Adams was hired for this play. There are no printed copies of the play, though. Maude Adams played the part of Monya Sullivan.
The basic plot is that a Colonel and a Lieutenant in Queen Victoria's army are in love with the heroine. She prefers the Lieutenant which causes the Colonel to detest him. Complicating this is that the Colonel is British and the Lieutenant Irish.
The Colonel steals the Paymaster's pay for the troops and accuses the Lieutenant and jails him. The Lieutenant escapes, ended up jumping into a tank of water which was used to stand for an imaginary river. The Colonel pushes the heroine into the river, thus the second dunking in the tank during the play. The Lieutenant, though, rescues her.
“She played the part of a maid, Moyna Sullivan, in the Paymaster, which opened at Niblo's Garden on August 10, 1888.” (Maude Adams, an American Idol: True Womanhood Triumphant in the Late-Nineteenth and Early-Twentieth Century Theatre, doctoral thesis, 1984, Eileen Karen Kuehnl)
Maude Adams played a maidservant and again received good critical notice: "Maude Adams, a very neat and natty little Irish girl."
"Miss Maude Adams, natural and fresh, and winning a great deal of praise for her simplicity and beauty."
Maude Adams in Moyna, the soubrette character, was daintily and cleverly vivacious and intelligent."
From the the Acton Davies book:
At last there came a bitter, never-to-be-forgotten day when 'Little Maudie'-literally 'little' no longer - was too big to play children's parts any more. Her mother sent her to school, and I never laid eyes on I Little Maudie' again until some six or seven years
later. I had started on my career in New York then, and dropped into a theatre one night to see Duncan B. Harrison. in The Paymaster. And there, sure enough, was 'Little Maudie' now developed into a charming young girl and billed as 'Miss Maude Adams.'
Her part in the play was rather an important one, and I saw at once that there was the making of a charming actress in her. If I remember right, Charles Frohman saw her in this same performance and felt as I did. At all events, some time later, when he was organizing a a stock company to play Men and Women, we both thought of her for one of the ingnues. But then, that wasn't so much credit to us, either, for by that time Miss Adams had already been discovered and engaged by Charles Hoyt, and had played with great success at the Bijou in A Midnight Bell."
"But to return for just one moment to that performance of The Paymaster. There was one scene in the play where Miss Adams was thrown into a tank of real water and had to be rescued by the hero. I should explain that Maude was now quite as tall as her mother, and that they looked remarkably alike. When I saw that tank scene coming along I said to myself, 'I'll bet you Annie Adams will never let Maudie jump into that tank.' And sure enough, when the climax came, I, being up to all the tricks of the stage, saw that it was Mrs. Adams who took the plunge, not Maude. Ah! ' said I to myself, that's the same old Annie Adams; and afterwards, when I went behind to say ' how de do' to them both, Mrs. Adams exclaimed at once, "Why, of course it was me that jumped in the tank; do you think for an instant that I would allow Maudie to run the risk of catching her death of cold ?"
From the book Hear the Distant Applause! Six Great Ladies of the American Theatre by Marguerite Vance, 1963
Then an eastern company playing The Paymaster came to San Francisco, and on its return to New York, by what strange misjudgment in casting one can only wonder, Maude was given the part of the heroine. So Annie Adams and her daughter, aged fifteen, left for New York. There were one-night performances along the way, and by the time the company finally arrived in New York management realized that its young leading lady was not quite adequate to act her part before a cosmopolitan audience. Maude found herself demoted to a very minor role.