Father Adrien had taken the vows of eternal silence, prayer and, of course, celibacy, when he entered the Trappist Monastry of Notre Dame d'Afrique in Algeria. One day, he chopped down a tree that blocked a part of the Monastery wall, but as it fell it knocked a young girl senseless. As Father Adrien bathes her face she regains consciousness and in a mischievous mood embraces him. The embrace was seen by another monk but the Monastic discipline imposed is as nothing compared to the torturing penances of mind and body which the contrite Father Adrien has imposed upon himself. In the end it is all too much for poor Father Adrien and he abandons his vows and escapes into the desert, resuming his secular name Androvsky. On the way to the oasis of Beni-Mora he encounters Domini Enfilden who has been brought up as a Catholic. Androvsky rescues Domini from a rioting crowd and she finds herself deeply attracted to him.