BERTHA (with a shriek, seeing BOURGOGNINOenter). Cover me, walls, beneath your ruins!--My Scipio!
BOURG. (with ardour). Rejoice, my love! I bring good tidings. Noble Verrina, my heaven now depends upon a word from you. I have long loved your daughter, but never dared to ask her hand, because my whole fortune was entrusted to the treacherous sea. My ships have just now reached the harbour laden with valuable cargoes--Now I am rich--Bestow your Bertha on me--I will make her happy.
(BERTHA hides her face--a profound pause.)
VERRINA. What, youth! Wouldst thou mix thy heart's pure tide with a polluted stream?
BOURG. (claps his hand to his sword, but suddenly draws it back). 'Twas her father said it.
VERRINA. No--every rascal in Italy will say it. Are you contented with the leavings of other men's repasts?
BOURG. Old man, do not make me desperate.
CALCAGNO. Bourgognino! he speaks the truth.
BOURG. (enraged, rushing towards BERTHA). The truth? Has the girl then mocked me?
CALCAGNO. No! no! Bourgognino. The girl is spotless as an angel.
BOURG. (astonished). By my soul's happiness, I comprehend it not!--Spotless, yet dishonoured!--They look in silence on each other. Some horrid crime hangs on their trembling tongues. I conjure you, friends, mock not thus my reason. Is she pure? Is she truly so? Who answers for her?
VERRINA. My child is guiltless.
BOURG. What! Violence!--(Snatches the sword from the ground.) Be all the sins of earth upon my head, if I avenge her not! Where is the spoiler?
VERRINA. Seek him, in the plunderer of Genoa! -- ( BOURG. struck with astonishment--VERRINAwalks up and down the room in deep thought, then stops.) If rightly I can trace thy counsels, O eternal Providence! it is thy will to make my daughter the instrument of Genoa's deliverance. (Approaching her slowly, takes the mourning crape from his