The Seven Chairs

The fifth one ended up in France. Chairs one through four were never found or even heard about again. Number seven was located several years later in an old abandoned castle in the hills of Scotland, but it is chair number six that our story is about.

Before we can examine its fate, however, we must begin in a carpenter’s workshop in a small village in Germany, where a man named Sven has just completed his latest commission: a large dining table with eight chairs to go along with it. The man who had ordered this particular dining set was named Otto von Heemstra, and he was the richest man in the country. He lived on a large hill in a tall and elegant house, and he promised his wife that he would obtain for her the most exquisite and fashionable new furniture for her birthday. Otto was planning a dinner party to show off the newly decorated dining room to his family and the couple’s richest friends from near and far, so he paid Sven–the best carpenter in town–an incredibly large sum of money to ensure that the work he did on these chairs was the very best he had ever done.

Sven worked hard on the table and chairs for many long weeks, but the night before he was to deliver them to the Heemstra family, he heard a knock at the door. As the hour was late, he did not know who could possibly have such an urgent desire to see him. Curious, he opened it.

On his doorstep was an extremely thin woman with a strikingly beautiful face and large, doe-like eyes. Her clear white sin gleamed in the moonlight, and her voice was an urgent whisper.

“You are Sven the carpenter, yes?” she asked.

He nodded.

“May I come in?”

He assented and the woman wasted no time in ducking her head down and hurrying inside. Once Sven had her sitting at his table and a warm pot of coffee brewing, she introduced herself as Edda von Heemstra, Otto’s wife, and explained that although Otto lavished her with fine gifts and parties, he was also the cruelest and most abusive of husbands when no one else was around to witness. She begged Sven to help her. He listened and tried to comfort her, but he didn’t know what he could do. Still, he promised Edda that he would try and find a way to help.

“Thank you,” she said.  “I didn’t know who else to turn to.” She left, crying softly, and Sven felt his heart break when he thought about the home that she was returning to.

That night he stayed up and did not sleep a wink. He thought and thought and thought and finally came up with a way to help the poor woman escape.

He finished his modifications at the same moment the sun’s first rays fell through his window.

Later that morning, Sven brought the chairs and the table to the von Heemstra manor. He unloaded them from the truck, set them up in the dining room, and hurried on his way. He had to be as far away from the town as possible by the time the dinner party started.

Edda von Heemstra dried her tears and descended the stairs to greet her guests. She had all but given up hope on Sven saving her and could not believe she had been so indiscreet as to pour her heart out to him and ask for his help. Suddenly she felt embarrassed. Otto must never find out.

“Sister Harmony!” she said brightly, trying her best to hide her sadness and her fear. “Marian! Mr. von Eddelburg! Mrs. von Eddelburg! How are the children? Delightful! Just delightful… Claudia, welcome! I am so glad you could make it. Your son–my husband–will be joining us shortly.”

“I’m getting too old for these social functions,” the elder Mr. von Heemstra said. “Where’s Otto?”

“Right here!” Otto said from the top of the stairs. “Let’s eat!” He was the picture of charm, but Edda shuddered when she thought about the events of last night that caused her to seek Sven’s help.

The guests took their seats at the eight chairs, all marveling at the excellent craftsmanship with which they were made.

The start of the meal was uneventful; Edda chatted away with everyone as usual.

Then, halfway through the second course, an awkward silence fell. Otto had made an offhand remark and everyone wished they were somewhere else.

It will never be known exactly what was said, but it was probably something very rude toward his wife, and the fact remains that everyone suddenly did not want to be at the party at all.

And for once, their wishes astonishingly came true. Sven’s chairs began to hover above the ground and–as Otto watched in horror–the seven other chairs lifted off and flew slowly away. Everyone was paralyzed with disbelief, some with fear, but Edda felt nothing but delight. Sven had come through for her!

She was finally leaving.

As Otto watched, struggling to grab the fleeing chairs, the pieces of furniture lifted off, each heading toward the subconscious desired destination of its rider.

No one knew where Marian, Mr. von Eddelb, Mrs. von Eddelburg, or Claudia went, but it was presumed they vanished to tropical islands or cities in America to start new, exciting lives. Mr. von Heemstra began his new life in a castle in Scotland. Edda’s chair brought her to a small road far from the village where she saw Sven’s face light up at the sight of her, safe and unharmed. Edda stepped gracefully off the chair and on to the road. He loaded the piece of furniture into the back then opened the passenger door and helped her in. Together they sped off and never looked back or thought about Otto again, and of course, Sister Harmony ended up in France; her chair descended slowly into the main cathedral of Notre Dame Church.

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