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The Errand Boy; or, How Phil Brent Won Success, a fiction by Horatio Alger

Chapter 33. A Terrible Situation

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Phil tried the door, but now it was locked on the outside, and he found that he was securely trapped. He went to the window, but here, too, there was no chance of escape. Even if he had been able to get safely out, he would have landed in a back-yard from which there was no egress except through the house, which was occupied by his enemies.

"What shall I do?" Phil asked himself, despairingly. "Mr. Carter will be anxious about me, and perhaps he may think I have gone off with the money!"

This to Phil was the worst of his troubles. He prized a good reputation and the possession of an honorable name, and to be thought a thief would distress him exceedingly.

"What a fool I was to walk into such a trap!" he said to himself. "I might have known Mr. Carter would not be in such a neighborhood."

Phil was too severe upon himself. I suspect that most of my boy readers, even those who account themselves sharp, might have been deceived as easily. The fact is, rogues are usually plausible, and they are so trained in deception that it is no reflection upon their victims that they allow themselves to be taken in.

Hours passed, and still Phil found himself a prisoner. Each moment he became more anxious and troubled.

"How long will they keep me?" he asked himself. "They can't keep me here forever."

About six o'clock the door was opened slightly, and a plate of bread and butter was thrust in, together with a glass of cold water. Who brought it up Phil did not know, for the person did not show himself or herself.

Phil ate and drank what was provided, not that he was particularly hungry, but he felt that he must keep up his strength.

"They don't mean to starve me, at any rate," he reflected. "That is some consolation. While there is life, there is hope."

A little over an hour passed. It became dark in Phil's prison, but he had no means of lighting the gas. There was a small bed in the room, and he made up his mind that he must sleep there.

All at once there was a confused noise and disturbance. He could not make out what it meant, till above all other sounds he heard the terrible cry of "Fire!"

"Fire! Where is it?" thought Phil.

It was not long before he made a terrible discovery. It was the very house in which he was confined! There was a trampling of feet and a chorus of screams. The smoke penetrated into the room.

"Heavens! Am I to be burned alive!" thought our poor hero.

He jumped up and down on the floor, pounded frantically on the door, and at last the door was broken open by a stalwart fireman, and Phil made his way out, half-suffocated.

Once in the street, he made his way as fast as possible homeward. _

Read next: Chapter 34. Phil's Friends And His Enemies

Read previous: Chapter 32. Phil Is Robbed

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