Lhe house at 2129 Wyoming Avenue, NW, stood in all its substantial splendor, its gray stone facade handsomely carved and richly ornate, embellished with a large gold crest and adorned with the French flag, billowing softly in a breeze that had come up just that afternoon. It was perhaps the last breeze Washington, D.C., would feel for several months as the summer got under way. It was already June. June of 1939. And the last five years had gone all too quickly for Armand de Villiers, Ambassador of France.
He sat in his office, overlooking the elegant garden, ab-sentmindedly staring at the fountain for a moment, and then dragged his attention back to the mountain of papers on his desk. Despite the rich scent of lilac in the air, there was work to do, too much of it. Especially now. He already knew that he would sit in his office until late that night, as he had for two months now, preparing to return to France. He had known the request to return was coming, and yet when he had been told in April, something inside him had ached for a moment. Even now, there were mixed emotions each time he thought of going home. He had felt the same way when he had left Vienna, London, and San Francisco before that, and other posts previously. But the bond was even stronger here. Armand had a way of establishing roots, of making friends, of falling in love with the places he was assigned to.
That made it difficult to move on. And yet this time he wasn't moving on, he was going home.
Home. It had been so long since he had lived there, and' they needed him so badly now. There was tension all overj Europe, things were changing everywhere. He often felt thal| he lived for the daily reports from Paris, which gave hini^ some sense of what was going on. Washington seemed light-years removed from the problems that besieged Europe, from the fears that trembled in the heart of France. They had nothing to fear in this sacred country. But in Europe now, no one felt quite as sure.
Only a year before, everyone in France had been certain war was imminent, although now from what Armand heard, there were many who had buried their fears. But there was no hiding from the truth forever. He had said as much to Liane. When the civil war ended in Spain four months before, it became clear that the Germans were approaching, and their airfield just below Inin brought them within only miles of France. But even with that realization, Armand was aware that there were those who didn't want to see what was going on. In the past six months Paris had been infinitely more relaxed than before, on the surface at least. He had been aware of it himself when he had gone home for Easter, for secret meetings with the Bureau Central, when they told him that his assignment in Washington was at an end.
He had been invited to a constant round of glittering parties, in sharp contrast to the previous summer, before the Munich Accord with Hitler. There had been unbearable tension before that. But then, suddenly it was gone, and in its place was a kind of frenzied animation, and Paris was in her finest form. There were parties, balls, operas, art shows, and galas, as though by keeping busy, and continuing their laughter and their dancing, war would never come for the French. Armand had been annoyed at the frivolous gaiety he had seen among his friends at Easter, and yet he understood that it was their way of hiding from their fears. When he had returned, he and Liane had spoken about it.