I heard the wailings of the women, the soft, distraught groans of the men. They sounded baleful, and my step quickened. Decimus, a young Greek slave who stood guard, admitting those who knew Christos and established this with the fish, and I stooped silently, traced in the dust, the thin-lined fish as Decimus held up his lantern, and then he nodded assent. I tarried a moment before moving on, leaned forward and whispered, looking into his black, shadowed eyes, “Why do the others mourn, Decimus?”
He shook his head, dolor furrowing his brow. “Young Helen—she was….she was killed to-day.”
A chill rushed through me and I stared, unblinkingly. “Killed?” I sounded dubious.
“Ay. Killed. By the stone; by Jewish slaves of the home of Macineas.”
That bright-haired girl with the smile and the blue eyes, and a silvery laugh, who brought joy to everyone hereabout. When we gathered she would sing with the harp. Anger surged in Decimus’ face. He knew Helen, and had a fondness for her. Empathy rankled through me but I knew better than to show pity for such a man as Decimus, this Greek with ineffaceable pride. He took no pity; a hard lot, so strode into the passage, hollow and echoing. I followed the sounds of keening till I came to the meeting cavern, where many stayed in the refuge of these cavernous ducts; our burial grounds. Recessions had been dug here quite a time ago, where those of us passed on were laid to rest, either by a peaceful means or with a heartrending violence. And now the smiling, bright Helen was laid in one of them. Stoned to death by the hostile Jews.
“…..And she did not say a word against them in her last moments,” said an old man gravely, his head drooped. This was Helen’s father, and I stood still behind those who listened, speechless at the account, this terrible ending to one so sweet and lovely. “They defiled her with cruelty, called her a gentile, but she merely repeated the Christ’s words, ‘Forgive them, Father.’ And she was gone,” The man’s voice broke and he began to weep. His cries were united with those of his wife and soon the entire cavern resounded with them. It was all so moving. Together we joined in a common sorrow for one who was absent, now absent but not eternally.