In the 21 years of Cynthia Herbig's life, she received honors and accolades at a Montana high school, mastered the cello, won a scholarship to Radcliffe College and finally, came to Washington to work as a $50-a-trick prostitute.

Her life ended early last Wednesday morning when she was stabbed and fatally injured in a parking lot near 22nd and N streets NW.

"Cindy shouldn't be dead. She had too many tlalents and too many brains," said one childhood friend.

Herbig knew she was taking risks working as a prostitute on the streets, this friend said, "but she was taking every precaution... She just was never stupid... not a day in her life was she ever stupid."

Herbig used to talk freely about her work, telling an acquaintance at a party here recently, "I'm a prostitute."

Whe told that acquaintance that she had done research for a Radcliffe sociology course by working in a sex-oriented massage parlor in the Boston area. That experience, unconfirmed by any other sources, ultimately led her to the streets of Washington, she said.

Some friends in Montana, Boston and here say that Herbig dropped out of Radcliffe because she was put off by both the pressure and the people there. After that, she went back to her home in Missoula, Mont., and one night in a small bar met a man who encouraged her to come to Washington.

Two sources in Missoula say the man came into town in a white Lincoln Continental. They also contend, along with D.C. police, that he was there recruiting young woman for prostitution, which he has vigorously denied.

Herbig lived in an apartment building in the 1300 block of 22nd Street NW, at times with a man police say was her pimp.

She had told man she met at a party here that she liked the money she was earning as a prostitute and was comfortable with the life style.

She had left Radcliffe, according to Janice Marshall, a friend here, not "because of her grades or anything. She couldn't take the whole Ivy League system... She didn't like to put up with what she had to put up with to make it in the Ivy League."

Marshall recalled Herbig complaining that, when she played bridge at Radcliffe, she was disturbed by how seriously the other players took the game, analyzing their play card by card. "Those are the kind of people she had to deal with at school there," Marshall said.

After moving here, Herbig did not lose her love for music. The man she had met at the party here recalled that she talked about the nuances of Dvorak's Cello Concerto, finally deciding that a 1933 version by Pablo Casals is the best.

Herbig was found about 4 a.m. last Wednesday lying in the parking lot behind her building, police said. The male friend who found her took her to George Washington University Hospital where she died within an hour from deep stab wounds in the chest and abdomen.

When found, she was wearing a skirt, one boot and a rabbit's fur jacket. Her other boot, her purse and its contents were found strewn in the parking lot. What appeared to be bloodstains were found on the sidewalk in front of the apartment building.

Police said that there was no evidency of robbery and that they have no suspects.

Herbig was buried in Missoula on Monday after a church funeral service that overflowed with family and friends. Her father read a poem that he had written for his daughter -- "a spiritual type poem," one friend said -- describing how "Cindy could never have been theirs to keep."

In high school, "she was your basic model student," said one close friend who asked not to be identified. But Herbig did not hesitate to express herself, the friend said.

The only daughter of the director of the Missoula Youth Symphony, Cynthia Herbig took cello lessons from the age of 7 and was a member of the All-State Orchestra. She was selected to play with other symphonies and spent her summers with the Missoula Civic Symphony, where her father is an assistand director.

"I had the highest regard for her -- I was a great admirer of her music ability," said retired high school teacher John Forssen, who had known Herbig since childhood.

"She was a highly intelligent person who was well liked... and level-headed," Forssen said.

In high school, Herbig was on the honor roll for four years, joined the staffs of the yearbook and literary magazine, served on the student government for three years and was elected to the National Honor Society.

"She wanted to go to Radcliffe and she went for it," said one friend. She graduated third in her class of 400 students at Hellgate High School in Missoula.

At Radcliffe, her friends say, Cindy Herbig's life began to change.

"College was too much work... more than she expected," said Elizabeth Lawry, a Hellgate graduate who left Missoula for Radcliffe with Herbig.

She found Boston "unfriendly" and preferred her hometown "shere you walked down the street and said hello to everybody," said Bob Zielinski, a Harvard University student who knew Herbig during her sophomore year. She "couldn't handle the pressure," said a friend from Montana.

And "she had been switching majors a lot," Lawry remembered. At first she expressed interest in English literature and then later turned to Slavic languages, then biology, and then botany.

Lawry said Herbig "had worked pretty hard in high school and didn't have time to be social or attractive."

In college, Herbig began wearing contact lenses instead of glasses and, during a school break, had her hair styled in New York, Lawry said. She began taking an interest in fashion and bought new clothes with money she earned at a part-time job, Lawry said.

"I remember she would get dressed up," said one of Herbig's roommates at Radcliffe, "but she really wasn't into impressing everybody."

"She liked to live on just an everyday level... to me she was a normal girl," the roommate said.

Herbig left Radcliffe at Thanksgiving of 1976, went home to Missoula and talked about getting a job, Lawry said.

"She had a little apartment... a neat little place," said one friend there, and "she was on her own." Herbig took some courses at the University of Montana, in Missoula.

She did not seem satisfied with life in Missoula where, she told a friend, it was hard to find a job she liked. She talked about possibly returning to the Boston area, friends said.

But she came to Washington, where she was known on the street as "Mika Jenson." She looked "fairly nice," often wore dresses and "wasn't the least bit flamboyant," a source said.

Several women interviewed Monday night near 15th and K streets NW, where police said Herbig worked, described her as a bright young woman whose dress was "conservative" and whose manner with customers was "very sweet." She charged the going rate of $50, they said.

A police officer who knew Herbig said he once remarked to her that "she didn't seem like the type to be working out on the street." She responded with a giggle, he said.

Police who came in contact with Herbig considered her intelligent. They said she had the sense to keep a book of regular customers, men she thought she could trust.

"She was a pretty nice girl," said Officer Geary Scott, who arrested Herbig under the name Mika Jenson, and charged her with soliciting for prostitution on Nov. 9, 1977. She was convicted the following December.

"She said she was from out of state and had just gotten into town before I locked her up," Scott said.

A male acquaintance who met Herbig at a party last year and visited her apartment said Herbig promised to fix a parking ticket he had received. Two months later, the acquaintance met Herbig on the street and mentioned that he had not received a summons.

"You see, you didn't believe that I worked the street, and now you know that I'm a pro," said Herbig.