THE ANGELIC AVENGERS by Pierre Andrezel
Lucan was an orphan who was employed as governess by a widower with three children. When the employer became romantically inclined toward Lucan and asked her to become his wife, she fled and found shelter at the home of her boarding-school friend, Zosine. Just at that time Zosine’s father was forced to leave the country to escape his creditors and Zosine found herself penniless and alone except for her friend, Lucan. As she herself said, Lucan was used to being poor and when Zosine almost gave up, she encouraged and sustained her. They finally decided to seek employment as governesses at an employment agency. At the employment office, they were informed that a wonderful place was open for them. A certain pious and learned gentleman, the Reverend Pennhallow and his wife, wished to receive, free of charge, two well bred girls into their home to teach them higher learning and the classics. After an interview with the minister and his wife, the two girls consented to become “their adopted daughters” and go with them to France. The two old people seemed to be pathetically eager to please their charges and the girls were especially won over by the winning ways of the tender old minister, who was indeed learned and taught them many things. Gradually however, through a chain of queer happenings, the girls began to suspect that things at the Pennhallow estate were not all that they were supposed to be and finally it became definitely clear to both girls that they were actually prisoners of the fictitious minister and his wife, who were holding the girls for white slavery. Escape was impossible and until almost the very end of the story it appears that the two girls will suffer either persecution or death at the hands of the merciless and cruel pair. But rescue comes and in the end both Lucan and Zosine fine romance and happiness.
On the surface, this appears to be a rather refreshing romantic and idealistic novel, rather Victorian, clean and altogether different from the present-day novel. The story, however, is symbolic, as the Norwegian author very definitely meant it to be and as the readers in the suppressed countries immediately realized. The minister and his wife are a picture of the fascist oppressors, cruel, merciless and unrelenting. The two girls represent the small conquered nations who have first been cheated into serving the relentless Nazis and then are prisoners. As one of the girls says, “You serious people must not be too hard on human beings for what they choose to amuse themselves with when they are shut up as in prison and are not even allowed to say that they are prisoners.” The symbolism is very easy to trace throughout the story. In the end the forces of “good” triumph and the forces of evil are overthrown: besides the author pictures a bright and happy future.
Idealistic this novel is, but the Christian ideals are entirely missing, it must be remembered. The ideals of the world—victory and lasting peace—are the ideals of Pierre Andrezel. On condition that the reader does not lose sight of that fact, I think this story can be recommended above many other modern novels.