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Aunt Mary’s Suggestion
by [?]

“JOHN THOMAS!” Mr. Belknap spoke in a firm, rather authoritative voice. It was evident that he anticipated some reluctance on the boy’s part, and therefore, assumed, in the outset, a very decided manner.

John Thomas, a lad between twelve and thirteen years of age, was seated on the doorstep, reading. A slight movement of the body indicated that he heard; but he did not lift his eyes from the book, nor make any verbal response.

“John Thomas!” This time the voice of Mr. Belknap was loud, sharp, and imperative.

“Sir,” responded the boy, dropping the volume in his lap, and looking up with a slightly flushed, but sullen face.

“Did n’t you hear me when I first spoke?” said Mr. Belknap, angrily.

“Yes, sir.”

“Then, why did n’t you answer me? Always respond when you are spoken to. I’m tired of this ill-mannerd, disrespectful way of yours.”

The boy stood up, looking, now, dogged, as well as sullen.

“Go get your hat and jacket.” This was said in a tone of command, accompanied by a side toss of the head, by the way of enforcing the order.

“What for?” asked John Thomas, not moving a pace from where he stood.

“Go and do what I tell you. Get your hat and jacket.”

The boy moved slowly and with a very reluctant air from the room.

“Now, don’t be all day,” Mr. Belknap called after him, “I’m in a hurry. Move briskly.”

How powerless the father’s words died upon the air. The motions of John Thomas were not quickened in the slightest degree. Like a soulless automaton passed he out into the passage and up the stairs; while the impatient Mr. Belknap could with difficulty restrain an impulse to follow after, and hasten the sulky boy’s movements with blows. He controlled himself, however, and resumed the perusal of his newspaper. Five, ten minutes passed, and John Thomas had not yet appeared to do the errand upon which his father designed to send him. Suddenly Mr. Belknap dropped his paper, and going hastily to the bottom of the stairs, called out:

“You John! John Thomas!”

“Sir!” came a provokingly indifferent voice from one of the chambers.

“Did n’t I tell you to hurry–say?”

“I can’t find my jacket.”

“You don’t want to find it. Where did you lay it when you took it off last night?”

“I don’t know. I forget.”

“If you’re not down here, with your jacket on, in one minute, I’ll warm your shoulders well for you.”

Mr. Belknap was quite in earnest in this threat, a fact plainly enough apparent to John Thomas in the tone of his father’s voice. Not just wishing to have matters proceed to this extremity, the boy opened a closet, and, singularly enough, there hung his jacket in full view. At the expiration of the minute, he was standing before his disturbed father, with his jacket on, and buttoned up to the chin.

“Where’s your hat?” now asked Mr. Belknap.

“I don’t know, sir.”

“Well, find it, then.”

“I’ve looked everywhere.”

“Look again. There! What is that on the hat rack, just under my coat?”

The boy answered not, but walked moodily to the rack, and took his hat therefrom.

“Ready at last. I declare I’m out of all patience with your slow movements and sulky manner. What do you stand there for, knitting your brows and pouting your lips? Straighten out your face, sir! I won’t have a boy of mine put on such a countenance.”

The lad, thus angrily and insultingly rated, made a feeble effort to throw a few rays of sunshine into his face. But, the effort died fruitless. All was too dark, sullen, and rebellious within his bosom.

“See here.” Mr. Belknap still spoke in that peculiar tone of command which always stifles self-respect in the one to whom it is addressed.

“Do you go down to Leslie’s and tell him to send me a good claw hammer and three pounds of eightpenny nails. And go quickly.”

The boy turned off without a word of reply, and was slowly moving away, when his father said, sharply: