Read CHAPTER IV of Three Young Knights, free online book, by Annie Hamilton Donnell, on

Jot turned in his narrow seat there in the church gallery as he heard a sound that made him think his brothers were waking.  But Old Tilly had only stirred in his sleep and struck out a little jarringly against the back of the narrow gallery pew.  Jot turned back and scanned the place they had so innocently taken for their quarters the night before.  The gallery pew they were in was like a tiny half-walled room, with seats running around three sides and up to the queer door on the fourth side.  The walls of the pews were almost as high as Jot’s head if he had dared to stand up.

Kent stirred uneasily and threw out his arm with a smart rap against the side.  Jot crept across to him in terror.  “ShSh!  Keep quiet! don’t breathe!  You’re in meeting!” he whispered.  “The minister’s down there preaching now!  Oh, sh!”

“Lemme-” But Jot’s hand cut off the rest.  The other hand gently shook Kent’s arm.

“I tell you we’re in meeting; don’t make a sound!”

“Who’s making a sound?” whispered Kent, now thoroughly awake.  Was Jot taken suddenly crazy?  Hark! who was that talking?

“If you don’t believe me, raise your eye over that wall and sec what!” whispered Jot eagerly.  He drew Kent up beside him and they peeped carefully over.  Kent dropped back, as Jot had done, in sheer surprise.  The two boys gazed at each other silently.  It was too much for Kent, though, and, to suppress a laugh, he stuffed his handkerchief in his mouth.

Kent pointed to Old Tilly and smiled broadly.

“He promised mother he’d take us to meeting,” he whispered, “and he’s done it!”

“Yes, but she wouldn’t like to see him asleep in church!” Jot whispered hack.

Below them the minister’s deep voice tolled on solemnly.  They could not catch all the words.

“Come on!  I’m going to sit up like folks.  I want to hear what he’s saying,” Jot whispered after awhile.

They smoothed their hair and tried to straighten collars and ties, and then suddenly some of the people down below in the body of the church glanced up and saw two boyish faces, side by side, in the gallery.  The puzzle was beyond unraveling.  The women prodded each other gently with their parasol tips and raised their eyebrows.  The men looked blank.  When had those youngsters got up there in that pew?  One of the deacons scowled a little, but the two quiet brown faces allayed his suspicions.  It wasn’t mischief-it was mystery.

The sight that had met Jot’s astonished eyes in the beginning was a quaint one.  This was a new kind of a church!  At home there were rows upon rows of red-cushioned seats, with the hymn books and fans in the racks making the only break to the monotony.  Here the pews were all little square rooms with high partitions and doors.  The hard board seats ran ’way round them all, so that in some of them people were sitting directly “back to” the minister!  Rows on rows of the little rooms, like cells, jutted against each other and filled up the entire space below save the aisles and the pulpit.

And the pulpit!  Jot’s eyes returned to it constantly in wondering admiration.  There was a steep flight of stairs leading up to it on each side, and an enormous umbrella-like sounding-board was poised heavily above it.  The pulpit itself was round and tail and hung above the heads of the congregation, making the practice of looking up at the good old minister a neck-aching process.  Directly beneath the pulpit was a seat facing the people.  It was empty now, but a hundred years ago, had the lads but known it, the deacons had sat there and the “tithing-man,” whose duty it was to go about waking up the dozers with his long wand.  It was called the Deacon’s Seat, and if sometimes the deacons themselves had dropped off into peaceful naps-what then?  Did the “tithing-man” nudge them sharply with his stick, or was he dozing, too?

There are still a few of these old landmarks left in the country.  Now and then we run across them and get a distinct flavor of old times, and it is worth going a good many miles to see the inside of one of them.  By just shutting one’s eyes and “making believe” a little, how easy it would be to conjure up our dear old grandmothers in their great scoop bonnets, and grandfathers with their high coat collars coming nearly to their bald crowns!  And the Deacon’s Seat under the pulpit-how easy to make believe the deacons in claw-hammer coats and queer frilled shirt bosoms!

The people Jot and Kent saw were ordinary, modern people, and their modern clothes looked oddly out of date against the quaint old setting.  Jot thought with a twinge of sympathy how hard the seats must feel, and how shoulders must ache against the perfectly straight-up-and-down backs.  He felt a sudden pity for his great-grandmother and great-uncles and aunts.

This especial old church, box-like and unchurchly without and ancient within, was rarely used for worship except in the summer months.  Then there were services in it as often as a minister could be found to conduct them.  The three young adventurers had stumbled upon it in the dark and overslept out of sheer physical weariness.  It was up in one of the old choir pews in the high gallery they had wakened-or Jot had wakened-to the strains of the beautiful hymn his mother loved.

The whole explanation was simple enough when it was explained.  Kent and Jot worked it out slowly in their own minds.

Meanwhile Old Tilly slept on, and the sermon came to an end.  There was another hymn and then the benediction.  The people dispersed slowly, and once more the big house was deserted.

Then Jot woke Old Tilly.  “I say,” he cried, “I say, old fellow, wake up!”

“Yes, I’m coming in a minute!” muttered Old Tilly.

“You’ll be late for church,” remarked Kent dryly, with a wink at Jot.

Old Tilly stirred and rose on his elbow.  Then he gave a bewildered look around him.

“You’re in church.  Didn’t you promise mother you’d take us to church?”


“But you slept all through the service,” said Kent, “and I shall tell mother so!”

“Kent Eddy, what are you trying to get at?  How did we get here, anyhow?” said Old Tilly, rising cautiously; and then, as he looked down on the empty room below, standing to his full height, he said.  “Well, if I ever!” a laugh breaking through his white teeth.  “I should say we had been in church!” he added.  “Why didn’t you fellows wake me up?  What did the folks think?”

“Oh, they only saw the two good boys sitting on the seat facing them!  We didn’t say we had another one smuggled in under beside us.  But my!  You did rap the seat awfully once with your elbow!”

“Well, I know one thing:  my shoulder aches from lying on that narrow seat so long,” said Old Tilly.  “I say, let’s go down to the wheels and the grub.  I’m half starved!”

“All right,” said Kent in rather a subdued way.  The morning service had stolen pleasingly through him, and somehow it seemed to the little lad as though their ship had been guided into a wonderfully quiet harbor.  And now he followed his brothers down the narrow stairs that they had so innocently groped their way up in darkness the night before.  The three had agreed to leave the church and partake of the lunch that was in the baskets on the wheels, but now they found doing so not as easy of accomplishment as they had at first thought.  When they tried the outer door they found to their dismay that it was locked.  Old Tilly would not believe Kent, and he pushed the latter’s hand off the door knob rather impatiently.  “Let me get hold of it!”

But, rattle the door as he might, he could not stir the rusty lock.

“Well, we’re locked in, that’s sure!” said Kent, looking almost dismayed.