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The Reverend T. Lawrence Shannon, a defrocked clergyman working in Mexico as a guide for Blake's Tours, is leading a group of lady schoolteachers headed by Judith Fellowes through the country. The youngest of the group, 18-year-old Charlotte, becomes attracted to Shannon and goes to his hotel room. They are discovered by Miss Fellowes, who has been making Shannon's life miserable because she is jealous of Charlotte's interest in him; and she threatens to have Shannon fired. Although they are scheduled to stay at an air-conditioned hotel, Shannon leads the group past it and into the jungle to the Coste Verde, a crumbling hotel owned by his old friend, Maxine, whose husband has recently died. To make sure the teachers remain at Maxine's, which is closed for the season, Shannon disables the tour bus. The fever-racked Shannon tells Maxine of Miss Fellowes' plan to have him dismissed, and Maxine blocks her attempts to telephone Shannon's boss. Meanwhile, artist Hannah Jelkes and her poet grandfather, Nonno, arrive at the hotel after wandering across Mexico meagerly subsisting on the sale of their sketches and poems. Hank, the bus driver, takes up with Charlotte, repairs the bus, proclaims himself tour leader, and drives away with the teachers leaving Hannah, Nonno, Shannon and Maxine at the hotel. The frustrations of his life lead Shannon to the brink of madness, but he is comforted and calmed by Hannah. Noticing that his ravings held a note of sympathy and love for Hannah, Maxine offers her hotel to Hannah and Shannon, despite her own love for Shannon. Nonno dies after completing his final poem, and Hannah leaves the hotel alone. Shannon and Maxine remain together at the Coste Verde.