But this is a narrative, and not a disquisition.
From without and from within.
There were not wanting people who accused Dudley Venner of weakness and bad judgment in his treatment of his daughter. Some were of opinion that the great mistake was in not “breaking her will” when she was a little child. There was nothing the matter with her, they said, but that she had been spoiled by indulgence. If they had had the charge of her, they’d have brought her down. She’d got the upperhand of her father now; but if he’d only taken hold of her in season! There are people who think that everything may be done, if the doer, be he educator or physician, be only called “in season.” No doubt,—but in season would often be a hundred or two years before the child was born; and people never send so early as that.
The father of Elsie Veneer knew his duties and his difficulties too well to trouble himself about anything others might think or say. So soon as he found that he could not govern his child, he gave his life up to following her and protecting her as far as he could. It was a stern and terrible trial for a man of acute sensibility, and not without force of intellect and will, and the manly ambition for himself and his family-name which belonged to his endowments and his position. Passive endurance is the hardest trial to persons of such a nature.
What made it still more a long martyrdom was the necessity for bearing his cross in utter loneliness. He could not tell his griefs. He could not talk of them even with those who knew their secret spring. His minister had the unsympathetic nature which is common in the meaner sort of devotees,—persons who mistake spiritual selfishness for sanctity, and grab at the infinite prize of the great Future and Elsewhere with the egotism they excommunicate in its hardly more odious forms of avarice and self-indulgence. How could he speak with the old physician and the old black woman about a sorrow and a terror which but to name was to strike dumb the lips of Consolation?