The story starts off in Santiago, Chile in 1647 with the main character Jeronim Rugera where he is preparing to hang himself while he is in prison. Jeronimo was a tutor at the Don Asteron household in till it was discovered that Jeronimo was having an illicit relationship with Josephe, the daughter of Don Henrico Asteron, by her brother. Josephe was then promptly sent to the convent of Our Lady of the Mountain but she was still able to keep up the illicit relationship with Jeronimo in till Josephe gave birth on the steps of the cathedral during the feast of Corpus Christi. She was then taken straight to prison but was then taken to stand trial by order of the Bishop. She was sentenced to death for her actions and instead of being burnt
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Josephe agrees to breast feed Don Fernando son and in return he offers for the new family to join his family in their travels. The young family is greeted as friends by Don Fernado’s family, and they exchange stories and rumors of what is happening in Santiago due to the earthquake. After hearing about what was going on they decided to go to Concepcion and instead of leaving to go to Spain decides to stay and write a letter to the Viceroy of Santiago and ask permission if they could stay in Chile. Later that afternoon a service was to be held in the only surviving church in Santiago, the traveling party decide to attend the service but Donna Elvira and her father Don Pedro both decided not to go to the service. Donna Elvira expresses her concern for the safety of the young couples and asks them to stay with her but Don Pedro feels that her concerns are not needed. With that concern having been put to rest the party decided to attend the service.
The sermon compares the earthquake to God’s destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and speaks specifically of the sin that Josephe and Jeronimo’s committed. Don Fernando’s sister in-law, Donna Costanza, commits and suggest that the group should leave. The party unfortunately was unable to get out before Josephe was identified by someone as the adulteress in the story and then accuse