The central character of Ivan Bunin’s story has never been mentioned for the entire story by name. On the ship, in Capri and in Naples, he is called the gentleman from San Francisco. In the described time period he is 58 years old, and he goes on a two-year tour of the Old World, accompanied by his wife and daughter.
His life this elderly gentleman put on the altar of the “American dream” – he diligently increased capital, and now decided that it’s time to please yourself from traveling through Southern Italy. He crosses the ocean on a luxury cruise liner with the talking name “Atlantis”. In the plans of the financial magnate – a visit to Nice, Monte Carlo, Florence and Paris. He dreamed of playing in a casino, sailing and car racing, seeing the legendary bullfight in Seville, looking to Athens and Constantinople, and on the way back to pay a visit to Japan.
Before the money of the master all the doors open. The servants carry his suitcases, fulfills all desires. “Atlantis” – a real floating hotel, a comfortable paradise for the cream of society. Outside the water mountains move, and in the cabins it’s warm and cozy. And this is despite the end of November. The ship rips through the midnight darkness of Gibraltar, making its way through a storm with wet snow.
The daughter of the main character flirts with some oriental prince, floating on the ship incognito. The gentleman himself has laid eyes on the famous European beauty, dressed and painted over the Parisian fashion. The schedule of the day for passengers of “Atlantis” was not burdensome and monotonous. People get up early, solder coffee, chocolate and cocoa, put themselves in order, take hot baths and do gymnastics. Until eleven here it’s got to walk along the decks and contemplate the sea. Aroused appetite, the rich are accepted for the first breakfast. Then – reading newspapers and breakfast number two.
Another favorite occupation of travelers – lying on deck in armchairs, covered in blankets. The apotheosis of the day is dinner. In the refined hall the orchestra plays. Men prefer to wear tuxedos and evening... dresses, women – neckline. In the evening, the program is intertwined with dances. Men drink expensive alcohol in a bar and smoke cigars. No one is afraid of the ocean, everyone believes in a heavy red captain, who rarely shows up in public.
Downstairs, on the contrary, the gigantic furnaces rumbled, the steam coursed through the pipes. There was mechanized hell, safely hidden under the deck and not distracting the attention of passengers. Attracted attention and a couple, specially hired by the ship-building company in order to imitate the perfect love.
The gentleman living in San Francisco was generous with the servants and hoped for her diligence. He, like everyone else, believed that it was for him music rattles, it was the commander who greeted him, only he needed the boys who advertise various services.
In the established rhythm, the Naples life also proceeded. The lord’s family lives in an expensive hotel. Early breakfast, guides in the lobby, view of Vesuvius, excursions to cathedrals and museums. The only thing that darkens rest is a rainy December, mixed in snow and rain, and dirt on the streets.
Sitting on a small steamer, the family moves to Capri. There, at the top of the mountain, where they were taken by the funicular, they rent a room in the next luxury hotel. In a quiet hotel reading room, a gentleman from San Francisco overtakes death.
The attitude towards it is radically changing. The body of the rich man is transferred to a disgusting cheap room. Instead of a coffin, he is placed in a wooden box, in which soda bottles were once stored. At dawn, the body is taken out of the hotel and delivered to the port.
At the end of the story, the gentleman is going home to the States, but he does it differently. He is in a tarred coffin, among the roaring mechanisms, in the blackness of the hold. From the honor with which he was taken to the Old World, there was no trace left. Life, however, continues. Passengers of “Atlantis” are engaged in ordinary affairs, and the couple, hired by the company, is spinning in dance to portray feelings.