It was now fifteen minutes to seven o’clock. In less than half an hour Alfonso was to meet his father, mother, and sisters, and after a few days in the metropolis, join them in an extended journey over the British Isles, and possibly through portions of Europe.
Alfonso was the only son of Reuben Harris, a rich manufacturer of iron and steel. His father, a man naturally of very firm will, had earnestly longed that his only son might succeed him in business, and so increase and perpetuate a fortune already colossal. It was a terrible struggle for Harris senior to yield to his son’s strong inclination to study art, but once the father had been won over, no doubt in part by the mother’s strong love for her only boy, he assured Alfonso that he would be loyal to him, so long as his son was loyal to his profession. This had given the boy courage, and he had improved every opportunity while in New York to acquaint himself with art, and his application to study had been such that he was not only popular with his fellow artists, but they recognized that he possessed great capacity for painstaking work.
Alfonso jumped into a coupe, having ordered a carriage to follow him to the Grand Central Station. It was ten minutes yet before the express was due. Nervously he puffed at his unlighted cigar, wishing he had a match; in fact, his nerves were never more unstrung. It was a happy surprise, and no doubt his youthful vanity was elated, that his father should have named his new palace car “Alfonso.” At least it convinced him that his father was loyal.
As the coupe stopped, he rushed into the station, just in time to see the famous engine No. 999 pull in. She was on time to a second, as indicated by the great depot clock. A ponderous thing of life; the steam and air valves closed, yet her heavy breathing told of tremendous reserve power. What a record she had made, 436-1/2 miles in 425-3/4 minutes! Truly, man’s most useful handiwork, to be surpassed only by the practical dynamo on wheels! It was not strange that the multitude on the platform gazed in wonder.
There at the rear of the train was the “Alfonso,” and young Harris in company with his artist friend, Leo, who by appointment had also hastened to the station, stepped quickly back to meet the occupants of the new car.
First to alight was Jean, valet to the Harris family. Jean was born near Paris and could speak French, German, and several other languages. His hands and arms were full to overflowing of valises, hat boxes, shawls, canes, etc., that told of a full purse, but which are the very things that make traveling a burden.
By this time Alfonso had climbed the car steps and was in his mother’s arms. Mrs. Harris was more fond, if possible, of her only son than of her beautiful daughters. She was a handsome woman herself, loved dress and was proud of the Harris achievements. Alfonso kissed his sisters, Lucille and Gertrude, and shook hands warmly with his father, who was busy giving instructions to his car conductor.