Monday, March 9, 2020

The jolliest laughter that could be imagined

We took an open barouche and drove two miles out of Milan to “see ze echo,” as the guide expressed it. The road was smooth, it was bordered by trees, fields, and grassy meadows, and the soft air was filled with the odor of flowers.

Troops of picturesque peasant girls, coming from work, hooted at us, shouted at us, made all manner of game of us, and entirely delighted me. My long-cherished judgment was confirmed. I always did think those frowsy, romantic, unwashed peasant girls I had read so much about in poetry were a glaring fraud.

We enjoyed our jaunt. It was an exhilarating relief from tiresome sight-seeing.

We distressed ourselves very little about the astonishing echo the guide talked so much about. We were growing accustomed to encomiums on wonders that too often proved no wonders at all.

And so we were most happily disappointed to find in the sequel that the guide had even failed to rise to the magnitude of his subject.

We arrived at a tumble-down old rookery called the Palazzo Simonetti—a massive hewn-stone affair occupied by a family of ragged Italians.

A good-looking young girl conducted us to a window on the second floor which looked out on a court walled on three sides by tall buildings.

She put her head out at the window and shouted.

The echo answered more times than we could count.

She took a speaking trumpet and through it she shouted, sharp and quick, a single “Ha!” The echo answered:

“Ha!--ha!----ha!--ha!--ha!-ha! ha! h-a-a-a-a-a!” and finally went off into a rollicking convulsion of the jolliest laughter that could be imagined.

It was so joyful—so long continued—so perfectly cordial and hearty, that every body was forced to join in. There was no resisting it.

Then the girl took a gun and fired it. We stood ready to count the astonishing clatter of reverberations.

We could not say one, two, three, fast enough, but we could dot our notebooks with our pencil points almost rapidly enough to take down a sort of short-hand report of the result. My page revealed the following account. I could not keep up, but I did as well as I could. I set down fifty-two distinct repetitions, and then the echo got the advantage of me. The doctor set down sixty-four, and thenceforth the echo moved too fast for him, also.

After the separate concussions could no longer be noted, the reverberations dwindled to a wild, long-sustained clatter of sounds such as a watchman's rattle produces.

It is likely that this is the most remarkable echo in the world.

The doctor, in jest, offered to kiss the young girl, and was taken a little aback when she said he might for a franc!

The commonest gallantry compelled him to stand by his offer, and so he paid the franc and took the kiss.

She was a philosopher. She said a franc was a good thing to have, and she did not care any thing for one paltry kiss, because she had a million left.
Source: The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain

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