Leonella and her niece, Antonia, have joined a crowd at the Capuchin church to hear the sermon of the celebrated priest. Leonella tells her niece's story to two young men, Don Lorenzo and Don Christoval.
Antonia is the child of the son of the marquis de las Cisternas, who was unhappy with his son’s marriage. The couple had left for the Indies, leaving their young son behind to be cared for by his unwilling grandfather, who later reports the child has died. Leonella has come to Spain to convince the marquis’ son, Raymond de las Cisternas, to resume their pension, which has been cut off.
As the story is told, Lorenzo finds himself falling in love with Antonia. In due time, the priest comes forth to deliver the sermon. His history is unknown, since he was left at the abbey’s doorstep as a foundling. Who his family is has never been discovered. Antonia is at once intrigued and fascinated with the priest.
Lorenzo vows to win the hand of Antonia, but must visit his sister, who is a nun at the nearby abbey. Having fallen asleep in the church, he awakens to find someone delivering a letter at the foot of the statue of St. Francis. He discovers that the letter is for his sister from Raymond de las Cisternas.
On the way home, Leonella and Antonia stop to have their fortunes read by a gypsy. The gypsy warns Antonia that she will soon depart from this earth, driven by the lust and evil of someone who appears to be honorable.