“Oh, have I got three kinds of corn?” asked Hal, clapping his hands in delight.
“We’ll see when we come to harvest it,” said Daddy Blake.
“Maybe I’ll win the prize with that!” exclaimed the little boy. “Come on, Mab! Let’s go in and look at the ten dollar gold piece. I hope I win it!”
“I hope you do, too, Hal,” said his sister. “But I’d like it myself, and I’ve got a awful lot of beans. My vines are covered with them—I mean dried ones, in pods like peas.”
“I wish we could both have the prize,” said Hal. “But if I win I’ll give you half, Mab.”
“So will I to you!” exclaimed the little girl.
As they ran toward the house they saw a farmer, from whom their mother often bought things, standing on the porch. In his hand he held what looked to be a big whip. There was a long wooden handle and fast to it was a shorter stick of wood.
“There’s the flail I told Mr. Blake I’d bring him,” said the farmer to Aunt Lolly, who had come to the door when he rang the bell.
“A flail,” she repeated. “What is it for?”
“Well, I think Mr. Blake wants to whip some beans with it,” and the farmer laughed, while Hal and Mab looked at him curiously.
“Oh, Hal!” murmured Mab, as she looked at the queer sticks the farmer had brought. “It does seem like a whip! I wonder if Daddy is going to whip Roly-Poly for getting in the mole trap?”
“Of course not!” laughed Hal. “Daddy never whips Roly anyhow, except sometimes to tap him on the nose with his finger when our poodle does something a little bad. Daddy would never use this big wooden whip, anyhow.”
“The farmer-man said he was bringing it to Daddy to whip my beans,” went on Mab. “I wonder what he means?”
Just then Daddy Blake himself came on the front stoop.
“Ah, so you have brought the flail?” he asked the farmer.
“Yes, and your little boy and girl here were afraid it was to use on their pet dog!” laughed the farmer, “I guess they never saw a flail before.”
“I hardly think they did,” said Mr. Blake. “But next year I intend to take them to a farm where they will learn many more things than I could teach them from just a garden.”
“Daddy, but what is a flail?” asked Mab.
“A flail,” said Mr. Blake, “is what the farmers used to use before threshing machines were invented. And I had Mr. Henderson bring this one from his farm to thresh out your beans, Mab, as we haven’t enough to need a machine, even if we could get one.”
“What does thresh mean?” asked Hal.
“It means to beat, or pound out,” his father explained. “You see wheat, oats, barley, rye and other grains, when they grow on the stalks in the field, are shut up in a sort of envelope, or husk, just as a letter is sealed in an envelope. To get out the letter we have to tear or break the envelope. To get at the good part of grain—the part that is good to eat—we have to break the outer husk. It is the same way with peas or beans.