Edmund Storm was a Norseman by birth, but had emigrated some five or six years before I made his acquaintance. Our first meeting was brought about in rather a singular manner. I had written an article in one of our leading newspapers, commenting upon the characteristics of our Scandinavian immigrants and indulging some fine theories, highly eulogistic of the women of my native land. A few days after the publication of this article, my pride was seriously shocked by the receipt of a letter which told me in almost so many words that I was a conceited fool, with opinions worthy of a bedlam. The writer, who professed to be better informed, added his name and address, and invited me to call upon him at a specified hour, promising to furnish me with valuable material for future treatises on the same subject. My curiosity naturally piqued, and, swallowing my humiliation I determined to obey the summons. I found some satisfaction in the thought that my unknown critic resided in a very unfashionable neighborhood, and mentally put him down as one of those half-civilized boors whom the first breath of our republican air had inflated a good deal beyond their natural dimensions. I was therefore somewhat disconcerted when, after having climbed half a dozen long staircases, I was confronted with a pale, thin man, of calm, gentlemanly bearing, with the unmistakable stamp of culture upon his brow. He shook my hand with grave politeness, and pointing to a huge arm-chair of antediluvian make, invited me to be seated. The large, low-ceiled room was filled with furniture of the most fantastic styles;—tables and chairs with twisted legs and scrolls of tarnished gilt; a solid-looking, elaborately carved chiffonier, exhibiting Adam and Eve in airy dishabille, sowing the seeds of mischief for an unborn world; a long mirror in broad gilt frame of the most deliciously quaint rococo, calling up the images of slim, long-waisted ladies and powdered gentlemen with wristbands of ancient lace, silk stockings, and gorgeous coats, a la Louis XV. The very air seemed to be filled with the vague musty odor of by-gone times, and the impression grew upon me that I had unawares stepped into a lumber-room, where the eighteenth century was stowed away for safe-keeping.
“You see I have a weakness for old furniture,” explained my host, while his rigid features labored for an instant to adjust themselves into something resembling a smile. I imagined I could hear them creaking faintly in the effort like tissue-paper when crumpled by an unwary hand. I almost regretted my rudeness in having subjected him to the effort. I noticed that he spoke with a slow, laborious enunciation, as if he were fashioning the words carefully in his mouth before making up his mind to emit them. His thin, flexible lips seemed admirably adapted for this purpose.
“It is the only luxury I allow myself,” he continued, seeing that I was yet ill at ease. “My assortment, as you will observe, is as yet a very miscellaneous one, and I do not know that I ever shall be able to complete it.”