A wealthy gentleman with his family sets out on a luxury steamer on a trip to Europe, but suddenly dies in one of the hotels. On the same ship, where an endless feast continues, his corpse is taken back to the hold.
A gentleman from San Francisco who, in the story, has never been named by name, since, the author notes, his name is not remembered either by anyone in Naples or Capri, he goes with his wife and daughter to the Old World for two whole years, to have fun and travel. He worked hard and is now rich enough to afford such a vacation.
In late November, the famous “Atlantis”, similar to a huge hotel with all amenities, goes on a voyage. Life on the steamer is measured: early get up, drink coffee, cocoa, chocolate, take a bath, do gymnastics, walk on the deck to whet the appetite; then they go to the first breakfast; after breakfast they read newspapers and calmly wait for a second breakfast; the next two hours are devoted to rest – all the decks are
made up by long reed armchairs, on which travelers, covered in plaids, lie looking at the cloudy sky; then – tea with biscuits, and in the evening – what is the main goal of this entire existence – dinner.
The beautiful orchestra is exquisitely and relentlessly playing in a huge hall, outside the walls of which the waves of the terrible ocean go with a rumble, but do not think of decollete ladies and men in tailcoats and tuxedos. After dinner, dancing starts in the ballroom, men in the bar smoke cigars, drink liqueurs, and they are served by negroes in red coats.
Finally the steamer comes to Naples, the family of the gentleman from San Francisco stops at an expensive hotel, and here their life also flows according to routine: early in the morning – breakfast, after – visiting museums and cathedrals, lunch, tea, then – cooking for dinner and in the evening – a rich dinner. However, December in Naples was outrageous this year: wind, rain, mud in the streets. And the family of a gentleman from San Francisco decides to go to the island of Capri, where, as everyone assures
them, the sun is warm, the lemons are blooming.
A small steamer, rolling on the waves from side to side, carries a gentleman from San Francisco with his family, suffering from seasickness, to Capri. Funicular brings them to a small stone town on top of the mountain, they are located in a hotel where they are all cordially greeted, and are preparing for dinner, having already fully recovered from seasickness. Having dressed before his wife and daughter, the gentleman from San Francisco goes to the cozy, quiet reading room of the hotel, opens the newspaper – and suddenly the lines break out before his eyes, the pince-nez flies off his nose, and his body, wriggling, slides to the floor. The other guest of the hotel who was present with a scream runs into the dining room, everyone jumps up from the seats, the owner tries to calm the guests, but the evening is irreparably corrupted.
The gentleman from San Francisco is transferred to the smallest and poorest room; wife, daughter, servants stand and look at him, and that’s what they were expecting and were afraid of, it’s done – he’s dying. The wife of the gentleman from San Francisco asks the owner to allow the body to be moved to their apartments, but the owner refuses: he values these numbers too much, and tourists would start to avoid them, since the incident would have immediately become known to the whole of Capri. The coffin can not be got here either – the landlord can offer a long box of bottles with soda water.
At dawn, the driver takes the gentleman’s body from San Francisco to the pier, the steamer carries it across the Bay of Naples, and the same Atlantis, on which he arrived with honor in the Old World, now carries him, dead, in a tarred coffin hidden from the living deep down, in a black hold. Meanwhile, on the decks, the same life continues as before, just as everyone is having breakfast and lunch, and the ocean is still frightened by the windows of the portholes.