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Madariaga, an 80-year-old patriarch, has built a fabulous empire on the Argentine pampas, a haven from the turmoil and tension of the 1930's. As the decade ends, however, he sees with horror that his German-fathered grandson, Heinrich, has returned from Berlin filled with fanatical Nazi ideas. The situation precipitates a violent family quarrel in which Madariaga predicts that the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Conquest, War, Pestilence, and Death) will soon devastate the earth. The emotional strain proves too much for the old man, and he dies in the arms of his favorite grandson, Julio, a reckless playboy. In 1939 Julio goes to Paris with his French father, Marcelo, and is immediately drawn into the social circle of Etienne Laurier, an idealist who opposes the Nazis. Julio falls in love with Laurier's wife, Marguerite, and then becomes her lover when Laurier is sent to a concentration camp. Gradually Julio becomes involved with the French Resistance, in which his sister, Chi-Chi, is already active. Laurier is released from prison a sick and broken man, and Marguerite leaves Julio to return to her husband. Julio then becomes more and more involved in the daring raids of the French partisans against the occupying forces. Because of his family connection with two top Nazis, his Uncle Karl and cousin Heinrich, Julio is considered above suspicion by German officials, but he is unable to prevent the deaths of both Laurier and Chi-Chi. Finally, Julio decides to risk his life in a daring operation: the destruction by British bombers of the Nazi headquarters in Normandy. Since it is imperative that someone guide the planes to their target, Julio gains entry to the headquarters and accomplishes that mission. As the bombs begin falling, he is confronted by Heinrich. Knowing they are doomed, the two cousins drink a final toast to the happiness their families once shared.