The Gentleman from San Francisco (Bunin)

From Translated Summaries
Disclaimer: This summary is automatically translated from Russian. It can contain silly mistakes.
Mister from San Francisco
1915 Wikidata.svg
Summary of a book
Microsummary: An American millionaire planned a long journey. He sailed to Europe in the luxury suite of a steamboat, but died suddenly. The millionaire sailed home in the deep black hold of the same steamboat.

The division of the retelling into chapters is conditional.

Plans of the Mister from San Francisco

The gentleman from San Francisco decided to travel and went to Europe for two years, taking his wife and daughter with him.

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Monsieur de San Francisco — American millionaire whose name is not mentioned in the story, 58 years old, bald, "lean, short, ill-constructed, but sturdily sewn," imperious and arrogant.

The gentleman was sure that he was entitled to a long and comfortable rest, for he had worked all his life, though not himself, but by the hands of the Chinese, whom he brought to America by the thousands. Having equaled his fortune with the powerful, he decided to rest the way they rest.

The gentleman was happy for his wife and daughter, too. His wife was "not noted for her impressionability," but like all older American women, was a keen traveler. The San Francisco gentleman's daughter was a pale and sickly "age girl. The gentleman hoped she would find a mate on the road.

...Not to mention the health benefits, aren't there happy encounters on the road? There's sometimes sitting at a table or looking at frescoes next to a billionaire.

The gentleman from San Francisco had worked out a big itinerary. He wanted to spend December in Southern Italy, enjoying the sun, the sights, and the love of pretty Italian women. In Nice and Monte Carlo he was going to be at carnival: all the influential people of the world were going there at that time.

In March he wanted to visit Florence and Rome, then Venice and Paris, see the bullfights in Seville and swim in the English islands. His plans included Athens, Constantinople, Palestine, Egypt, and even Japan.

Life on the steamer Atlantis

In the beginning, everything was going great. The gentleman from San Francisco reached Gibraltar on the steamboat "Atlantis," which looked like a floating city with a night bar, oriental baths and its own newspaper.

Life on the steamship was measured. Early in the morning the passengers were awakened by a "trumpet sound," they drank coffee, cocoa or chocolate, took a bath, did exercises to whet their appetite, and went to their first breakfast. Then they walked the decks and played outdoor games, at eleven o'clock they snacked on broth sandwiches and waited for the second breakfast, nutritious and varied.

The next two hours passengers rested on deck chairs under warm plaids. At five o'clock they were served tea and cookies. At seven o'clock the trumpet signal gathered the passengers for dinner, the crowning moment of the day, and the gentleman from San Francisco went to dress.

In the evenings the windows of the Atlantis shone like innumerable eyes of fire. Overboard the steamship rumbled the terrible ocean, but the passengers were not afraid, firmly believing in the captain - red-haired, monstrously fat, always as if sleepy, looking like "a huge idol. A string orchestra played in the huge marble hall. The dinner was served by a host of servants.

The gentleman from San Francisco looked youthful in his tailcoat and starched linen, his large teeth gleaming with gold fillings. The gentleman's wife, "large, broad and quiet," was dressed expensively but for her age, the tall and slender daughter "with innocent frankness."

While the daughter was amusing herself, and the gentleman was smoking cigars and drinking liquor, the sailors on deck were freezing "and shambling with the undue attention" of the watchmen. In the steamer's heated womb, like the ninth circle of hell, the stokers fed coal to the insatiable furnaces. And upstairs, graceful couples waltzed. A pair of honeymooners in love was especially eye-catching. No one knew that this pair of actors playing love had been hired to entertain the passengers.

At Gibraltar, the sun peeked out. There was a new passenger on the steamer, an Asian prince traveling incognito. This small, broad-faced and narrow-eyed man, wearing gold spectacles and a European suit, was a little unpleasant: his black mustache was sparse, with thick hair through which his skin could be seen. But on the whole he was nice and modest.

The gentleman arrives in Italy

The Mediterranean Sea "smelled of winter again." The gentleman's daughter was introduced to the Asian prince; she was fascinated by his otherness and now stood beside him, gazing at the coast of Italy. The gentleman from San Francisco was glancing at the famous beauty standing nearby, and his daughter was embarrassed for him.

The gentleman from San Francisco had been generous during the voyage and thought he deserved the care with which he was surrounded. He expected the same from the Italians.

...how many porters and their assistants ... how many commission agents ... and big ragamuffins with bundles of colored cards in their hands rushed toward him offering their services!

The gentleman checked into a hotel overlooking Vesuvius, where the prince could stay, and his life "flowed as usual." He got up early, had breakfast, went sightseeing: museums, temples, and had breakfast again on Mount San Martino in the company of his own kind. A couple of times the lord's daughter thought she saw a prince in the crowd. Then there was five hours of tea at the hotel and lunch.

December was cold and snowy in Italy that year. The gentleman from San Francisco was depressed by the weather, quarreled with his wife, and his daughter had a constant headache. Everyone said the weather was very different on the island of Capri, so the gentleman and his family went there on a small steamboat.

Death of the gentleman from San Francisco

The sea was rough that day, and the San Francisco family was thoroughly seasick. The gentleman felt like an old man and thought angrily "of those greedy, garlic-smelling people called Italians. Already at dusk the family reached Capri and checked into a hotel.

Seeing the hotel owner, an elegant, sleekly coiffed young man, the gentleman remembered that he had dreamed about the exact same gentleman the previous night. The gentleman's "mystical feelings" were long gone, and he jokingly told his wife and daughter about the dream. The daughter's heart clenched with longing and terrible loneliness.

The family from San Francisco was lodged in the best apartments, given the most beautiful and dexterous maid, the most prominent footman and bellhop Luigi.

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Luigi — corridor boy, small, fat, very quick-tempered and cunning, great joker.

After recovering from his rocking, the gentleman got dressed, struggled to button up his tight collar, and went out to dinner. A famous dancer was to perform at the hotel in the evening, and the gentleman anticipated a pleasant dinner and a fiery tarantella.

Before dinner the gentleman decided to smoke a cigar in the cozy reading room. He was reading a newspaper when suddenly lines flashed before his eyes.

He... wanted to take a breath of air - and wheezed wildly; his lower jaw fell off, lighting his mouth with gold fillings, his head sank upon his shoulder... and his whole body, wriggling... crawled to the floor, struggling desperately against something.

If there were no witnesses, the case could have been hushed up, but the German sitting in the reading room raised the alarm. Lunch was spoiled, and the dancer's performance failed. When the footmen carried the gentleman out of the reading room, he was still alive.

The gentleman was dying in the cheapest hotel room, on an iron bed, surrounded by his wife, daughter, doctor, and servants. The owner of the hotel did not allow the deceased to be taken to an apartment: it would have been bad for business. There were no ready-made coffins in Capri, and the hotelier suggested putting the gentleman from San Francisco in a long water box.

Return home

The same steamboat carried the box to the continent. Peace and warm weather prevailed on Capri, and the old fisherman Lorenzo sold his catch to the hotel where the gentleman from San Francisco had died.

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Lorenzo — A tall old boatman, carefree and handsome, a model for many painters, with a clay pipe and a red woolen beret pulled down over one ear.

The gentleman's body was returning to America on the steamboat Atlantis, but this time not in a luxurious cabin, but in a deep black hold. In the evenings the steamboat once again hosted balls, and blizzards raged around the ship. The devil, sitting on the rocks of Gibraltar, saw the fiery eyes of "Atlantis."

The Devil was as huge as a cliff, but even bigger than that was the ship, multi-tiered, multi-tubular, created by the pride of the New Man with an old heart.

The captain in his cabin listened to the howling sirens, the enormous boilers boiled in the womb of the steamer, and the gigantic propeller revolved. In the middle of "Atlantis" was warm and beautiful, there danced graceful couples and among them a beautiful flexible pair of hired lovers, who had long been bored with the job. And no one knew about the coffin standing in the bowels of the steamer.


The retelling is based on edition of the story, prepared by A. K. Baboreko (M.: Art Literature, 1988).