In 1890, Gus Sascher joins the Austrian Army and romances the impoverished girl Elsa Hofner. Elsa instead marries the wealthier officer Franz von Renner, in an attempt at social climbing. Both Gus and Elsa later have unhappy marriages. They attempt an affair, but Vivienne terminates it quickly. In 1930, Barbara (Elsa's granddaughter) falls in love with Gus' grandson. The elderly Elsa helps them get married, shortly before her own death.