Daffy-down-dilly was so called because in his nature he resembled a flower, and loved to do only what was beautiful and agreeable, and took no delight in labor of any kind. But, while Daffy-down-dilly was yet a little boy, his mother sent him away from his pleasant home, and put him under the care of a very strict schoolmaster, who went by the name of Mr. Toil. Those who knew him best, affirmed that this Mr. Toil was a very worthy character, and that he had done more good, both to children and grown people, than anybody else in the world. Nevertheless, Mr. Toil had a severe countenance; his voice, too, was harsh; and all his ways seemed very disagreeable to our friend Daffy-down-dilly.
The whole day long, this terrible old schoolmaster sat at his desk, overlooking the pupils, or stalked about the room with a certain awful birch rod in his hand. Now came a rap over the shoulders of a boy whom Mr. Toil had caught at play; now he punished a whole class who were behindhand with their lessons; and, in short, unless a lad chose to attend constantly to his book, he had no chance of enjoying a quiet moment in the schoolroom of Mr. Toil.
“I can’t bear it any longer,” said Daffy-down-dilly to himself, when he had been at school about a week. “I’ll run away, and try to find my dear mother; at any rate, I shall never find anybody half so disagreeable as this old Mr. Toil.” So, the very next morning, off started poor Daffy-down-dilly, and began his rambles about the world, with only some bread and cheese for his breakfast, and very little pocket money to pay his expenses. But he had gone only a short distance, when he overtook a man of grave and sedate appearance, who was trudging along the road at a moderate pace.
“Good-morning, my fine little lad,” said the stranger; “whence do you come so early, and whither are you going?” Daffy-down-dilly hesitated a moment or two, but finally confessed that he had run away from school, on account of his great dislike to Mr. Toil; and that he was resolved to find some place in the world where he should never see nor hear of the old schoolmaster again. “Very well, my little friend,” answered the stranger, “we will go together; for I, also, have had a great deal to do with Mr. Toil, and should be glad to find some place where his name was never heard.”
They had not gone far, when they passed a field where some haymakers were at work, mowing down the tall grass, and spreading it out in the sun to dry. Daffy-down-dilly was delighted with the sweet smell of the new-mown grass, and thought how much pleasanter it must be to make hay in the sunshine, under the blue sky, and with the birds singing sweetly in the neighboring trees and bushes, than to be shut up in a dismal schoolroom, learning lessons all day long, and continually scolded by Mr. Toil.
But, in the midst of these thoughts, while he was stopping to peep over the stone wall, he started back, caught hold of his companion’s hand, and cried, “Quick, quick! Let us run away, or he will catch us!”