“I dunno, missus; I ’spec’s I done lost ’em, ’case heap of a while ago, ’fore you’re born, I reckon, they call me Leshie, but Mas’r Hugh done nickname me Muggins, and every folks do that now. You know Mas’r Hugh? He done rared when he read you’s comin’; do this way with his boot, ’By George, Ad will sell the old hut yet without ‘sultin’ me,’” and the little darky’s fist came down upon the window sill in apt imitation of her master.
A crimson flush overspread Alice’s face as she wondered if it were possible that the arrangements concerning her coming there had been made without reference to Hugh’s wishes.
“It may be, he was away,” she sighed; then feeling an intense desire to know more, and being only a woman and mortal, she said to Muggins walking around her in circles, with her fat arms folded upon her bosom. “Your master did not know I was coming till he returned from New Orleans and found his mother’s letter?”
“Who tole you dat ar?” and Muggins’ face was perfectly comical in its bewilderment at what she deemed Alice’s foreknowledge. “But dat’s so, dat is. I hear Aunt Chloe say so, and how’t was right mean in Miss ’Lina. I hate Miss ‘Lina! Phew-ew!” and Muggins’ face screwed itself into a look of such perfect disgust that Alice could not forbear laughing outright.
“You should not hate any one, my child,” she said, while Muggins rejoined:
“I can’t help it—none of us can; she’s so—mean—and so—so—you mustn’t never tell, ’case Aunt Chloe get my rags if you do—but she’s so low-flung, Claib say. She hain’t any bizzens orderin’ us around nuther, and I will hate her!”
“But, Muggins, the Bible teaches us to love those who treat us badly, who are mean, as you say.”
“Who’s he?” and Muggins looked up quickly. “I never hearn tell of him afore, or, yes I has. Thar’s an old wared-out book in Mas’r Hugh’s chest, what he reads in every night, and oncet when I axes him what was it, he say, ‘It’s a Bible, Mug.’ Dat’s what he calls me for short; Mug!”
“Well,” Alice said, “be a good girl, Muggins. God will love you if you do. Do you ever pray?”
“More times I do, and more times when I’se sleepy I don’t,” was Muggins’ reply.
Here was a spot where Alice might do good; this half-heathen, but sprightly, African child needed her, and she began already to get an inkling of her mission to Kentucky. She was pleased with Muggins, and suffered the little dusky hands to caress her curls as long as they pleased, while she questioned her of the bookcase and its contents, whose was it, ’Lina’s or Hugh’s?
“Mas’r Hugh’s, in course. Miss ‘Lina can’t read!” was Muggins’ reply, which Alice fully understood.
’Lina was no reader, while Hugh was, it might be, and she continued to speak of him. Did he read much, ever evenings to his mother, or did ’Lina play often to them?”
“More’n we wants, a heap!” and Muggins spoke scornfully. “We can’t bar them rang-tang-em-er-digs she thumps out. Now, we likes Mas’r Hugh’s the best—got good voice, sing Dixie, oh, splendid! Mas’r Hugh loves flowers, too. Tend all them in the garden.”