It's 1862, and Spain is a little rueful about letting Peru have their independence. Or, more importantly, letting Peru have the guano - "white gold" - on the Chincha Islands. Simón is the ship's recorder on a scientific - okay, military - expedition when he meets, in Callao, the mysterious Montse. She asks of him only that he write her letters. Which he utterly fails to do. As military tensions escalate, so does Simón's unabated lust for Montse - even if he can't bring himself to do anything about it.