Book VI, Chapter XXXIX
Of two notable things about Margarita de Vergara, wife of the historian of these subjects; the first is that she never spit, and the second is that one night her hair turned gray, being a blonde and beautiful woman of twenty-six or twenty-seven years of age.
Translated by Jessica Marasco
Reading Silvia de varia leçion, written by the noble and learned gentleman, Pedro Mexía, an honorable man to his nation and homeland, of true and generous blood, from the very noble city of Seville, who also inspired my works (and although his works may be in the past, they cannot leave my memory as long as my soul lies within my weak and sinful body), and these were revitalized when I read chapter XXVIII of his treatise, the topic being how Antonia, the daughter of Druso Romano, never spit in her whole life. Although forty-five years have passed since I first read it, and many times later in Pliny, I never took it to be so true until after I married Margarita Vergara, of whom I dare speak of because there are many living today who knew her, and in her time she was one of the most beautiful women in the kingdom of Toledo and in our Madrid. Other than her physical beauty, she also had many other virtues, such that her lesser virtue was her outward beauty, a beauty that surpassed that of all her neighbors while she lived. And God chose her for his glory, in which, by his mercy, I trust that she is for her merits, and for a lack of such merits of my own he took her to the afterlife so that I would remain in this life without her; the causes of which I will discuss below, a case of which I cannot speak without tears, nor fail to be overcome by for as long as I live.
As Pedro Mexía says in his treatise, which I take to be confirmed by Pliny, just as Octavia never spat neither did my Margarita. And because it was her father and others who told me this, I still had my doubts, until I noticed that in all the time that God let me spend with her, which was slightly longer than three years, neither I nor any other person of my household ever witnessed her spit. Let us now move on to my misfortune and hers, the end that she met and the sudden graying of her hair that it brought on. This has also happened to other people; I especially remember when Diego Osorio was imprisoned in Seville and placed in the Tower of Gold. He was told, or he believed, that he was to be beheaded by order of the Catholic Queen Isabella; and though he was young and his hair was not yet graying, in one night his hair and beard turned as white as ermine fur. This was notorious, and I saw it myself, because I knew him before he was arrested, when I was a young court page. I later saw him released and gray-haired, and he would put on a wig and shave his beard often. He died not long ago serving the Empress, our lady of glorious memory, as her chief steward or taster, and he was very highly esteemed as a wise and good gentleman. After we were married, my Margarita became pregnant, and after nine months she gave birth to our son. It was such a birth that it lasted three days and nights, and the child was taken out of her already dead; and in order to have a place from where to pull, for only the top of the creature’s head was showing, they had to break the skull and empty the brains, so that fingers might grasp him, and he came out corrupt and foul, and the mother was near death. The fact is that she lived, although she was bedridden for six or seven months, dying and grieving. But during that difficult night, at the end of that terrible birth, her hair turned so white that what had before seemed like the finest gold became the finest silver. And truly my eyes have not seen such hair in any woman in this life, for it was so thick and so long that she always wore it in a folded braid to avoid dragging it on the ground, and it was a palm longer than her person, for she was not a small woman, but of medium height, the height of a well-proportioned woman with such a beauty as hers. And because I would not be able to praise her enough, nor would it be important to the purpose of our history, let us move on to other topics that pertain to this book VI.
Image: Figure 10 from Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo’s Caribalte (1519)
 Silva de varia leçion, 1st part.
 Pliny, Book VII, Chapter 29