“La camisa de Margarita” tells the story of Margarita Pareja, the beautiful and spoiled daughter of don Raimundo, a nobleman of Lima. Margarita’s path crosses with that of Luis Alcazar, a poor young man from Madrid. Luis Alcazar’s uncle, don Honorato also lives in Lima. Don Honorato is wealthy and aristocratic, like don Raimundo, and also is known for being exceptionally arrogant.
Margarita and Luis meet at the procession of Saint Rose, and quickly fall in love. Luis asks don Raimundo for his daughter’s hand. He refuses, saying that Margarita is too young to be married. However, the real reason for his refusal is Luis’s poverty. He confides this story along with his true motivations to a group of his friends, one of whom is also a friend of don Honorato. This mutual friend quickly recounts the truth to don Honorato, who, in his arrogance, becomes furious.
In the mean time, Margarita is devastated by her father’s decision. She neglects her appearance, loses weight, and begins to discuss becoming a nun. She becomes rather sickly. Her father, in his alarm, consults various doctors and physicians, who tell him that she will contract tuberculosis and die if she does not return to a state of wellbeing. They also tell him that only the love of Luis or God’s love in the convent will cure her.
Don Raimundo rushes to speak with don Honorato, saying that Luis and Margarita should be married, or else his daughter will die. However don Honorato, in his pride, refuses. The two argue violently until Luis finally steps in, protesting that it is not Christian to kill the innocent. Don Honorato finally agrees that the two can be married, under one condition: Don Raimundo must swear in front of the holy Eucharist that he will never give his daughter any of his money or leave her anything is his will. Don Honorato even refuses Margarita’s dowry. Don Raimundo gets Don Honorato to agree to let him give Margarita a bridal shirt, but nothing else.
Don Raimundo keeps his oath to the letter. He gives Margarita only a bridal shirt. However, her shirt is adorned with Flemish lace, worth 2,700 duros. Also, the cord to adjust the neck of the shirt is strung with diamonds, worth 30,000 morlacos. However, the couple is careful never to let don Honorato discover the shirt’s true worth, or else he would force Luis to divorce Margarita.
The author begins with a brief introduction. He says that he is writing to explain the origin of a phrase he often heard as a child: “This is worth as much as the scorpion of Brother Gomez!”
In the first section, the author gives some background on Brother Gomez. He worked in the dining hall at the infirmary of the Seraphic Fathers. He was well known even during his life as being a miracle worker. The author gives two examples of his miracles.
The first occurs when a man is thrown from his horse and hits some rocks. It looks like he will die, and people are concerned that he be taken to the church to receive last rites. Brother Gomez pushes his way through the crowd surrounding the injured man. He touches the cord of his habit to the man’s mouth and gives him three blessings. The man instantly stands up, being perfectly restored. The people want to carry Brother Gomez in celebration. But he runs back to the friary and goes to his cell. Or, according to the friary’s version of the story, he rises in the air and flies back.
Another time, he goes to the infirmary and finds St. Francisco Solano suffering from a migraine. Brother Gomez insists that the saint should eat something, but Saint Francisco says he feels too ill to eat. Finally, to put an end to the dispute, the St. Francisco says the only thing he would eat is a pair of silversides, a type of fish impossible to procure in the present season. Brother Gomez reaches into his sleeve and pulls out two extremely fresh silversides. He cooks them, and St. Francisco eats them and is healed.
Until the present day, there is still a canvas with oil paintings depicting the two miracles and an inscription about Brother Gomez’s life and what was done with his body after his death. It is in the friary, hanging above the door to the infirmary.
The second part of the story recounts the specific instance of Brother Gomez’s life that lead to the expression regarding his scorpion. One day, a ragged looking peddler named Jeromo comes to visit Brother Gomez at his cell. Jeromo says that although he works hard and does his best to serve God in all aspects of his life, business has been extremely poor lately. He asks Brother Gomez to lend him 500 duros for six months. Brother Gomez pulls a page out of an old book and uses it to pick up a scorpion that is on his wall. He hands the scorpion to Jeromo, but the insect is miraculously transformed into a beautiful scorpion shaped gem. Brother Gomez instructs him to pawn it for 500 duros and then return it after the six months.
Although he is offered much more money for the jewel, Jeromo only accepts the 500 duros for six months. He returns the gem to Brother Gomez at the appointed time. Brother Gomez puts the animal on his windowsill, says a blessing, and tells the scorpion to walk. Instantly, it comes alive again and continues on its way.