The Fielding Ruth Helen and Ruth, stifling their amusement, heard and saw poor Tom put through a much more severe examination than the other boys, for the very reason that he had come dressed in his uniform. He was forced to endure a searching inquiry regarding his upbringing and private affairs, right within the delighted hearing of the wickedly giggling girls. And then a tall fellow started to put him through the manual of arms.
Poor Tom was all at sea in that, and the youth, with gravity, declared that he was insulting the uniform by his ignorance and caused him to remove his coat and turn it inside out; and so Helen and Ruth saw him marched away with his stern escort, in a most ridiculous red flannel garment (the lining of the coat) which made him conspicuous from every barrack window and, indeed, from every part of the academy hill.
"Oh, dear me!" sighed Helen, wiping her eyes and almost sobbing after her laughter. "And Tommy thought he would escape any form of hazing! He wasn't so cute as he thought he was."
But Ruth suddenly became serious. "Suppose we are greeted in any such way at Briarwood?" she exclaimed. "I believe some girls are horrid. They have hazing in some girls' schools, I've read. Of course, it won't hurt us, Helen―"
"It'll be just fun, I think!" cried the enthusiastic Helen and then she stopped with an explosive "Oh!"
There was being helped into the coach by the roughly dressed and bewhiskered driver, the little, doll–like, foreign woman whom they thought had been left behind at Portageton.
"There ye air, Ma'mzell!" this old fellow said. "An' here's yer bag—an' yer umbrella—an' yer parcel. All there, be ye? Wal, wal, wal! So I got two more gals fer Briarwood; hev I?"
He was a jovial, rough old fellow, with a wind–blown face and beard and hair enough to make his head look to be as big as a bushel basket. He was dressed in a long, faded "duster" over his other nondescript garments, and his battered hat was after the shape of those worn by Grand Army men. He limped, too, and was slow in his movements and deliberate in his speech.
"I s'pose ye be goin' ter Briarwood, gals?" he added, curiously.
"Yes," replied Ruth.
"Where's yer baggage?" he asked.