It was in the days of the first Russian revolution in 1905. The rebels swept through the country, burning homes and killing men wherever they came. Nothing was safe before them. At that time we lived in Southern Russia in a small colony of Mennonites.
One day a neighbor came running to my father: "Tell me, friend, what will you do when they come? Are you sufficiently armed? My six sons and I have guns, so we will be able to defend ourselves. We'll shoot them."
"We have no arms in the house," replied my father calmly. "I do not believe in this kind of defense; there is no certainty in it."
The neighbor left the house, shaking his bead over the foolishness of his friend. "Well, don't blame me for what will happen to you when they come!"
The next day news arrived that the neighbor and all his family were killed and that the band of rebels set fire to everything after sacking the house.
Now my parents thought that our home would be the next. We all were terribly afraid. Except my father. At noon he told mother to prepare a good rich supper because he was expecting guests. "What guests?" we asked ourselves, and were happy that someone would cheer us up. "And then," said father, "prepare couches for about ten people." After that he disappeared.
We children were running up and down the house, but in vain; we could not find him. At last, I discovered him when I looked through a key hole of a door -- he was kneeling and praying.
When the evening came, we all gathered around our mother in one room. We gazed through the window into the thickening twilight. There was silence everywhere. Nobody said a single word.
And then, at once, we heard it; steps, many heavy steps. And we saw them turning round the corner. They were awful looking, about twelve men with dark mean faces, torn clothes, blood-stained sticks in their :hands.
"Hands up and surrender," shouted a gross voice. Upon that we saw our father going out of the house and approaching the men. FearlessIy he came to the wildest looking man -- probably their leader-- and taking his hand, invited him mildly: "Come in. Everything that is ours is yours, but first of all come in and refresh yourselves. The supper is ready."
We saw them throwing threatening looks at our father and heard them murmur: "Let's not be cheated by that chap! We came to kill him and not to eat with him!" We were despairing.
"I know," said my father. "Come and eat first, then you can do ~vhatever you think is right to do."
Hesitatingly they followed my father. Again, being more curious than frightened, I silently came close to the door and watched them through the key hole. They were sitting already, after looking cautiously and suspiciously around, of course. My father sat with them. The nicely arranged food was seducing. They were evidently hungry and exhausted. They were starting to eat in a grand way. They sat there as immobile pieces of stone. They did not utter a single word. Now they looked so strange, almost funny. What will happen? Our father encouraged them kindly: "Eat, eat, everything is yours. Your beds are prepared in'the next room. You certainly need a good rest."
They really did go to`sleep after supper. Then father came to us. We were sleeping all together in one room. Fear had exhausted us too and so we managed somehow to sleep.
At once we heard some noises. Fear overwhelmed us again. The door opened and the wild hairy head of the leader appeared to us, smiling! "We have to go. We came to kill you, but we can't."