This disappearance of the chief personages, little as it seemed to be noticed, gave, however, the signal for
general leave-taking. The dancing became drowsy; it stopped all at once, as if by appointment. That noisy
confusion now began which always attends so merry a wedding-party. Half-drunken voices could be heard
still intermingled with a last, hearty laugh over a joke of the fool from Prague echoing across the table. Here
and there some one, not quite sure of his balance, was fumbling for the arm of his chair or the edge of the
table. This resulted in his overturning a dish that had been forgotten, or in spilling a beer-glass. While this, in
turn, set up a new hubbub, some one else, in his eagerness to betake himself from the scene, fell flat into the
very dbris. But all this tumult was really hushed the moment they all pressed to the door, for at that very
instant shrieks, cries of pain, were heard issuing from the entrance below. In an instant the entire outpouring
crowd with all possible force pushed back into the room, but it was a long time before the stream was pressed
back again. Meanwhile, painful cries were again heard from below, so painful, indeed, that they restored even
the most drunken to a state of consciousness.
'By the living God!' they cried to each other, 'what is the matter down there? Is the house on fire?'
'She is gone! she is gone!' shrieked a woman's voice from the entry below.
'Who? who?' groaned the wedding-guests, seized, as it were, with an icy horror.
'Gone! gone!' cried the woman from the entry, and hurrying up the stairs came Selde Klattaner, the mother of
the bride, pale as death, her eyes dilated with most awful fright, convulsively grasping a candle in her hand.
'For God's sake, what has happened?' was heard on every side of her.
The sight of so many people about her, and the confusion of voices, seemed to release the poor woman from a
kind of stupor. She glanced shyly about her then, as if overcome with a sense of shame stronger than her
terror, and said, in a suppressed tone:
'Nothing, nothing, good people. In God's name, I ask, what was there to happen?'
Dissimulation, however, was too evident to suffice to deceive them.
'Why, then, did you shriek so, Selde,' called out one of the guests to her, 'if nothing happened?'
'Yes, she has gone,' Selde now moaned in heart-rending tones, 'and she has certainly done herself some
The cause of this strange scene was now first discovered. The bride has disappeared from the wedding-feast.
Soon after that she had vanished in such a mysterious way, the bridegroom went below to the dimly-lighted
room to find her, but in vain. At first thought this seemed to him to be a sort of bashful jest; but not finding
her here, a mysterious foreboding seized him. He called to the mother of the bride:
'Woe to me! This woman has gone!'
Presently this party, that had so admirably controlled itself, was again thrown into commotion. 'There was
nothing to do,' was said on all sides, 'but to ransack every nook and corner. Remarkable instances of such
disappearances of brides had been known. Evil spirits were wont to lurk about such nights and to inflict
mankind with all sorts of sorceries.' Strange as this explanation may seem, there were many who believed it
at this very moment, and, most of all, Selde Klattaner herself. But it was only for a moment, for she at once
'No, no, my good people, she is gone; I know she is gone!'
Now for the first time many of them, especially the mothers, felt particularly uneasy, and anxiously called
their daughters to them. Only a few showed courage, and urged that they must search and search, even if they
had to turn aside the river Iser a hundred times. They urgently pressed on, called for torches and lanterns, and
started forth. The cowardly ran after them up and down the stairs. Before any one perceived it the room was
Ruben Klattaner stood in the hall entry below, and let the people hurry past him without exchanging a word
with any. Bitter disappointment and fear had almost crazed him. One of the last to stay in the room above with
Selde was, strange to say, Leb Narr, of Prague. After all had departed, he approached the miserable mother,
and, in a tone least becoming his general manner, inquired:
'Tell me, now, Mrs. Selde, did she not wish to have 'him'?'
'Whom? whom?' cried Selde, with renewed alarm, when she found herself alone with the fool.
'I mean,' said Leb, in a most sympathetic manner, approaching still nearer to Selde, 'that maybe you had to
make your daughter marry him.'