Short Stories » Johnny Layton Kills a Bear
Johnny Layton Kills a Bear
ONCE when traveling, we were " snowed in," and as there were prospects of bad roads for weeks yet, we rented a room in a nice little rock house, in which lived a small family. Of the three children, Johnny, who was next to the baby, was a robust little fellow three years old, and he was such a chatter-box that we found great entertainment in listening to him, and al- ways found him truthful, too, which is a rare quality in "story-telling."
Johnny used to come in to see us very early in the morning, and we were fond of having him take break- fast with us, it was such a novelty to watch his energetic way of speaking and gesticulating.
Sometimes his mother hastened after him, fearing that we were becoming annoyed, but it was not so. One morning, after another heavy snowfall, a tap was heard, and, opening the door, there stood Johnny, in great haste to tell us something. "Well, Johnny, sit down with us to breakfast, and tell us while we eat."
Johnny climbed upon the pillow which sister placed on the chair for his benefit, and began, " I killed a bear ! " " You didn't do anything of the kind! " said sister, but Johnny looked as dead in ear- nest as a boy could look, and answered quietly and firmly, ''I did."
"Tell us all about it," said ma, who always believed in giving children a chance. "Was it a toy bear?" I asked. "No, it wasn't; it was a true bear, as big as a big calf, and you ought to have heard it roar ! My ! " And Johnny stood up on the round of the chair and held up his arms. "You'd better sit down ; you'll lose your balance," said sister. Johnny sat down and proceeded to fill his cheeks with a piece of pie. His eyes roamed from one to the other, and when he had managed to swallow the greater portion, so that breathing became less difficult, he was going to resume, but his mother knocked and came in. "O Johnny, what makes you do like this? I'm ashamed of you ! " " Never mind, he's welcome, and he was just going to tell us something very wonderful," said ma. "That bear I killed "he began. "Johnny Layton," interrupted his mother, "what do you mean by talking like that ? " "I ain't talking like that ; that bear I killed " "Oh, you little story-teller ! sticking to it when you know we all know better. You never saw a bear; you don't know what they're like." "I do! I've seen their pictures, lots of 'em." The laugh which followed this speech did not disconcert Johnny; he had proved that he knew what a bear looked like, and it would be easy enough to prove the rest. Ma looked kindly at Johnny, and he resumed: "That bear I killed " "Johnny, don't tell any more, or I'll have to whip you for story -telling; it's time to quit now."
"I think we had better hear the story. I think it will come out all right," said ma, and Johnny began again and rushed right through. "That bear I killed was up in Pine Valley, where I went with my pa to get a load of wood. [The auditors glanced at each other.] My pa had gone for the horses to bring home the wood, and that bear came right out behind a tree and jumped at our wagon, and when I hollered at him he stopped!" Johnny took no discouragement from his mother's mortified expression, my amazement, nor sister's look, which said plainly enough, "You little fibber !" but went on : "Then he come! a- jumping, and I climbed on the load, and jumped on him and killed him ! " There was no mistaking his earnestness; he fairly glowed with excitement. " He's going to be sick with brain fever," said the mother tremulously.
"Was it after you had the molasses candy, Johnny? " inquired ma. " Yes, I went off and left my candy, and I want it now," and Johnny began to slide down, and was soon out of the room. "It was all a dream! I wouldn't scold him; he believes it every bit." "O Sister J., perhaps he did dream that ; he awoke with a scream, and, as soon as he dressed, he ran in here," said Johnny's mother, smiling in relief. By this time he was back with his candy, and no one made any further effort to induce him to retract his statement. Johnny appeared satisfied at having finished the narrative, and at our having been unable to deprive him of the honor of the occasion.
When Johnny grew older, of course he was able to understand the wide difference between dreams and realities.