After helping Mrs. Levi harvest her garden and apple trees, we sat down to hot chocolate and cookies, and she shared the story about how she and her husband, William, met.

“My father had one brother, and my mother had no siblings,” she said. “My father and my uncle were about as different as could be for two brothers. My uncle was lazy, and my father worked hard. Unfortunately, when my grandparents died, my uncle inherited the farm. My father worked hard and bought a farm of his own.

“My parents wanted children but couldn’t have any for many years. They were really excited when I came along. Life was good for me. My dad made sure we spent lots of time together, fishing, camping, or doing other fun things.

“But when I was around ten, my parents were killed in an accident. My uncle was my only relative, so I went there to live. Both he and my aunt made it clear they didn’t want me, but my uncle accepted me because I was to inherit the sale of my parent’s farm. I never saw a penny of it, and they made me work like a servant in their home. I had to clean, do laundry, cook all the meals, and do a myriad of other chores.

“My uncle was too lazy to work his farm, so he rented it out for half the profit of whatever was grown. He often lost much of that gambling. My cousins treated me like a servant, too, all except Leah. She was about five years younger than me, and she liked to help me cook. She also liked me to read to her.

“When my cousins went to school, I wanted to go, too, but my aunt and uncle wouldn’t let me. They said I had chores to do. There were only two things I enjoyed: cookies that I baked, and reading. There were few books around their home, so Leah would bring some home from school.

“Through the years, Leah and I became best friends, but I was still lonely for others my age. Then, when I was sixteen, the farmer that rented my uncle’s farm was William’s father. That’s how I met William. I thought he was the kindest, most handsome man I had ever met. I would take extra time gathering eggs, picking raspberries, or whatever I could find outside to do in hopes I would run into him. He started helping with my chores so we could spend time together. Sometimes we would take a break, sit by the stream, and talk.

“My uncle didn’t like that for two reasons. He said I had chores to do and was not getting them done. But I think more than anything, he was afraid I’d leave, and he wouldn’t have free help. He forbade me from seeing William, but I ignored him.

“I told him that he didn’t own me, and I could visit with William if I wanted to. That angered him, and he slapped me. He had threatened to before, but that was the first time he had. But that wasn’t the last time. He started locking me in my room, but I would find ways to escape. Sometimes it was with Leah’s help. But I always kept that secret because I didn’t want her to get her in trouble.

“Then came the day that William came to ask me to marry him. My uncle was furious and said I couldn’t get married without his permission because I was barely seventeen, and he was my guardian. But that was not about to stop William. He was as determined as anyone I’ve ever known.

“I cried, worried that I’d lose William. But William told me not to worry. He said he would find a way. And that’s what he set out to do.

(To be continued.)