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MY FIRST APPLAUSE                            33
sites next in importance. Tall for my age, I was conscious of being extremely awkward. This defect was not so easily remedied, and for years, in spite of constant efforts to conquer it, remained one of my great drawbacks.
The parts of Richard the Third, Richelieu, Pauline, and Schiller's Joan of Arc were memorized and studied in detail. School-room lessons were also worked at with such good-will that in one month I had made more progress than during six at school. So satisfactory was the new system that it was allowed to continue. The real cause of this improvement no one guessed. My secret, however, consumed me. I longed to tell some one of my plans for the future, and, above all, to show how I could read and act, for as yet I had no proof that I was working in the right direction.
In the South most of the servants were negroes. Among ours was a little mulatto girl (" nut-brown maid," she called herself), whose chief attraction to me was her enthusiasm for the theatre. One night in desperation I went to her while she was washing dishes in the kitchen, and there unfolded all my hopes. It was to her I first acted, and it was she who gave me my first applause. The clapping of those soapy, steaming hands seemed to me a