The Treasure of Atlantis, by J. Allan Dunn, , at sacred-texts.com
Long after the orchid hunter had gone to bed, Morse held the vase in his hands, turning it over and over while the ruddy firelight played upon the repousse surface, speculating upon its history. Had he known what the cup held for him of perilous adventure upon the very rim of death, it is possible that he would have resisted the spell it gradually wound about him.
It was untarnished and undented, despite the softness of the beaten surface of unalloyed metal, and it was of the most exquisite workmanship. Finally he set it upon the table beneath the glow of his lamp. The vase was an oval container, exquisitely symmetrical, supported by four serpents of solid gold whose heads met with forked tongues touching beneath the center of the bowl.
Its main surface was divided into two panels by the duplicated design of a double ax. On one side a superbly
modeled bull was being baited by a youth and a maid, clad in garments apparently Grecian. The figures were lithe in action, beautiful in pose. Darts clung to the snorting, wounded bull that pawed the ground with lowered head. The other panel was filled with ancient writings above which, in raised letters, was the word minos that Morse easily deciphered, though the characters were ancient Greek.
Here was a riddle: a golden vase brought back from the heart of Brazil, yet eminently Grecian! He turned to his bookshelves, the word "Minos" stirring his recollections. Far into the night he read of the great Minoan dynasty established on the isle of Crete, in the Mediterranean, of its wonderful empire and powerful fleet, houses that possessed ventilating and sanitary systems far ahead of their time, and of the civilization that produced both pictorial and linear writing two thousand years beyond Phoenician culture, for long credited as leader in such matters.
He read of Minos, the Sun God, son of Zeus, and of his wife, Pasiphae, the "all-shining Moon Goddess," of the cruel sports in the Minoan bull rings, the tragic death of Minos, killed by a king's daughter, who poured boiling water over him in a bath. Of Minos’ children, Daedalus and Ariadne, noted names of Greek mythology. Of the victims tortured by being enclosed in the belly of a red-hot brazen bull, and of the invasion of the kingdom of Crete two thousand years before Christ, and its final destruction, four hundred years later, in the Dorian Conquest, by the rude tribes of northern Europe.
It was a curious tale, half legend, half history, fancy and fact interwoven in a web of fascination; but what had Crete, the little island empire south of Greece, in common with the tale of Murdock, the orchid hunter, and of Tagua the tribal chieftain over a thousand leagues away, separated by the length of the Mediterranean Sea and the breadth of the Atlantic Ocean?
The puzzle was too great for him to solve. He left it for the time, set back the glowing embers of the fire, placed the vase of Minos in a wall safe, and switched off the lights. On his way to his bedroom, he passed the room set aside for Murdock and smiled at the open door. He knew the sign of the traveler, fresh from months in
the open air, to whom closed doors and windows seem to create a stifling prison. As he tiptoed past, he paused to listen to the orchid hunter's breathing. That the man would never travel again the Flowing Road he was assured, and he wondered if his guest was resting easily.
There was no sound. As Morse stood in the doorway, listening, the street lights faintly illumined the room and the prone figure on the bed, fully dressed. It held a rigidity of pose that alarmed him. He entered and bent above his guest, shook him lightly by the shoulder, then raised his arm. The pulse was irresponsive, and the hand fell heavily upon the quilt.
Morse turned on the lights. There was no need for a second glance. Murdock had found his last orchid, had departed on his final trek. Morse telephoned for a physician and sympathetically arranged the wasted form, hardly more than an articulated skeleton.
The orchid hunter had been writing. There was a folded paper beneath a book on the desk that was a part of the room's well-chosen furnishings. This was addressed to his host. It read:
I have neither kith nor kin. I leave no one to be sorrowful about me save the orchid dealers who made their desk-chair profits from my risks. It was a great game while it lasted, and the Flowing Road is the trail of trails. Good night, good friend; goodby, perhaps, and, if so, remember, when you enter the city of Dor, your grateful visitor,
The physician confirmed Morse's idea that Murdock's death was not to have been put off.
"Strychnine could hardly have prolonged it," he said after an examination. "It does not need an autopsy to tell that the man's heart was rotten. Valve muscles flabby. He was a strong man once. Urari, you say? Humph! That's a local name for curare, extract of resinous South American barks. Has several alkaloids in its active principle. We really know very little about it save that it is one of the deadliest of poisons. Defies analysis to a certain extent. It must have been a diluted or weakened extract and the slightest of incisions. A friend of yours, Mr. Morse? I am sorry. It was a peaceful death. I will attend to the certificate."
"And I to his funeral," Morse promised himself. A sudden idea struck him, and he registered it as a vow to make a fitting burial of the sturdy Scotchman.