Gabrielle May Robinson was quite distraught. It was February 15th, 1878 and surely this was the worst day of the 16 year old girl’s life. Despondent, the thin, well-complexioned girl dropped most unladylike onto one of the many benches that adorned Auburn Park.
It was a beautiful day in all respects, unless you had the particularly terrible outlook on life as one certain lass had at the moment. But the physical setting of this nice country village was absolutely wonderful; the gorgeous oak trees surrounding the small lake, the snow-capped mountains in the distance, the gentle breeze blowing on those that decided to partake of the most enjoyable atmosphere. But Gabrielle cared not.
As she pondered over her situation in life; which is what was the cause of her present failing attitude, the girl slumped down even more, giving her a very sloppy and dejected appearance to anyone who happened to be walking by. And at this exact moment there was someone strolling past. In contrast to our lady of the story, Gabrielle, this woman was quite up in years; at least sixty of them would be the average man’s guess, and she was pleasant to say the least. In fact the aged woman seemed to have a glow about her entire countenance. So evident was this, that poor Gabrielle nearly sighed aloud with remorse when the lady took up the vacant place on the bench right next to her! Disgruntled, the young girl desired to be left alone to wallow in her own self pity. Well, certainly this grandmother type would not interrupt Gabrielle’s plans of doting on her troubles and tribulations? The young girl felt more at ease when the stranger took out a book and quietly began to read.
For long minutes the two of them sat side by side; one becoming more discouraged and discontent with life as the time passed, the other silently taking in the pages of what was before her. Then the old woman folded the book closed and joined Gabrielle in staring at the countryside. But whereas the girl’s eyes were shallow and uninterested, the others’ was enjoying all around her; the birds, the beautiful trees, the family by the lake enjoying a picnic lunch. And as the reader of this story would expect, the woman of years broke the silence with a question. “What is your name, young lady?” Not at all desiring to give it, as the woman may be looking for conversation (as many older women seem to be out of sheer lonliness), but realizing that to not do so would be rude in manners, Gabrielle supplied the woman with her full name, and added on “Ma’am” at the end, of course, as only the worst of children did not display such respect for their elders. “Pretty name” said the stranger. “Is it Gabrielle with an “e”?” Gabrielle nodded. “Yes ma’am.” Looking at the scenery, Gabrielle was surprised by the next question offered by the one next to her. “You are not here to enjoy and relax, are you Gabrielle?” Glancing in the other’s direction, she was almost startled by her pointed inquiry. Then the young lady honestly answered, “No, ma’am, I am here to take a momentary break from my life...and...to dream of a different one.” Shocked at her own bluntness, Gabrielle looked out into the picturesque landscape. Who was this woman and how could she have so easily guessed that Gabrielle was troubled? Now the aged woman turned and with a truly compassionate face asked, “What ails you lass? Is it the death of a loved one, or is someone sick?” Gabrielle shook her head. “No, nothing like that...it’s just...” The girl ceased speaking and stared again glassy eyed at the terrain. The bespectacled lady; this was the first time that Gabrielle noticed that the woman wore eyeglasses, looked at her more directly this time. Very personal...very sincere...the woman spoke.
“You can tell me Gabrielle, I will listen. And Gabrielle did. “It is my life,” she started. “I have four brothers and two sisters and I am the oldest. I am forever doing chores; cleaning the home, caring for the little ones, teaching the older ones...” With a sigh, she wiped a tear from her eye and glanced upward at the clear blue sky. “I will never have a different life. Years will go by and I will still be burdened with tasks not meant for me.” Wide-eyed, Gabrielle was dreaming out loud. “I was meant to marry into a well-to-do family; ask any of my aunts, they will tell you so, where I could hire a body to help with the children and another body to tend to the necessary responsibilities.” Taking a breath, Gabrielle felt better now. So glad to have another to sympathize with her frustrating role in life that was given to her, to have someone else’s pity and understanding would be a great comfort. “How do you know, Gabrielle, that these tasks were not meant for you?” What? Gabrielle’s mind raced. “What do you mean, ma’am?” she inquired. “Do you not see my situation, how wearied I am with labor and responsibility?” Face to face, the other spoke. They were kind words, yet they were true and piercing to Gabrielle’s heart. “Perhaps the Master has called you to this life.” Gabrielle’s countenance fell instantly! Her head dropped as if in shame. The very words that she never wanted to hear! Anything but those words! Tenderly the old woman leaned over. “Gabrielle...do you know the Savior?” As if frozen, the young girl sat there unmoving. Then finally, “Yes ma’am...I do...five years ago I became one of His children...but...” The other finished the sentence. “You do not live for the Master, do you Gabrielle?” Quickly the young girl turned to this stranger that had so easily ventured on the truth. “You must remember the words of Jesus, my child. In Matthew 16:24 our Lord said to those already His, ‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.’ If this is where the Lord has placed you, then take it as your cross. Deny yourself Gabrielle and in serving...you will be following Him.” Gabrielle said just then, slowly and carefully choosing her words, “And I knew that the solution was giving my life to Him but it is so hard.” Intently now, the older woman spoke. “You must do it though. You will have no peace at all until you submit to His will,,,until you take up your cross and follow Him.” Gabrielle broke down and cried. And oh, did she cry! The stranger gently put her arms around her. The young girl wept for many minutes. “Oh, I have been such a fool!” she exclaimed. Soon the emotion subsided and the older woman spoke once more. “I will leave you now, my .friend, so you can talk to the Master alone.” Regaining her composure, Gabrielle smiled: something she had not done in a while. “Yes,” she stated, “I will talk to Him now, without delay...and thank you.” The glowing elderly woman smiled a genuine smile. “We shall meet again Gabrielle. If not on this earth, it will be at the Saviour’s feet on the other side. Goodbye my friend.” As she turned to go, it was Gabrielle’s turn for a question. “By the way ma’am, what is your name? I never received it.” The wise old woman responded faintly, “Isabella, my dear...Isabella Alden. But believe it or not my friends call me Pansy.” And with those words, she went on her way.
Pansy was the pen name for Isabella Alden, a wonderful Christian author who penned many godly fiction books in the late 1800's and early 1900's. Pansy was the aunt of another famous writer, Grace Livingston Hill