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[One year is supposed to have elapsed. A room in the palace of Nina. Enter Adrian disguised.]
Adrian. Here last I saw her one long year ago. How the wild, sweet voice still rings in my ear imploring me to stay. I can find no rest save here; and thus do I seek my home, worn out by my long wandering, and trusting to learn tidings of poor Nina. If she be true and love me still I will cast away my pride, my coldness, and all vain hopes of wealth, and let the sunlight of that pure, young life brighten my life henceforth. I hear a step, and will hide here, perchance I may thus see her [hides behind curtain].
Nina. No rest for thee poor heart, ever whispering that dear name, ever sorrowing for those hard words that gave so deep a wound. All is dark and lonely, for he is gone. Only these withered flowers, dearer by far than my most costly gems, for his hand hath touched them, and he smiled on me when they were given. Oh, Adrian, wilt thou never give one tender thought to her who still loves and prays for thee? Death will soon free thee from thy hated wife.
Adrian [stealing forth]. And this is she, whose pure young love I have cast away, the fond, trusting bride I left alone and friendless. She still loves on, and offers up her prayers for one who sought to break that tender heart so cruelly. I will watch well and guard thee, Nina; and if thou art truly mine thou shalt find a happy home with him thy patient love hath won.
[Exit Adrian and re-enter Nina.
Nina [with Adrian's picture]. Ah, these cold eyes smile kindly on me here, and the lips seem speaking tender words. Other faces are perchance more fair, but none so dear to me. Oh, husband, thou hast cast me off; and yet, though lonely and forsaken, I still can cherish loving thoughts of thee, and round thy image gather all the tender feelings that a woman's heart can know. Thy cruel words I can forgive, and the trusting love I gave thee glows as warmly now as when thou didst cast it by and left me broken-hearted [weeps; enter Don Felix]. My lord, what seekest thou with me? Thou dost smile. Ah, hast thou tidings of my husband? Tell me quickly, I beseech thee.
Don Felix. Nay, dear lady—But sit thee down and let me tell thee why I came. [He leads her to a sofa.] Thou knowest I have been with thee from a child. I stood beside thee at the altar, and was the first to cheer and comfort thee when thou wast left deserted and alone. Let me now ask thee, Wouldst thou not gladly change thy sad lot here for a gay and joyous life with one who loves thee fondly?
Nina. It were indeed a happy lot to be so loved and cherished; but where, alas, is he who could thus feel for one so lonely and forsaken?
Don Felix [kneeling]. Here at thy feet, dear Nina. Nay, do not turn away, but let me tell thee of the love that hath grown within my heart. [Nina starts up.] Thy wedded lord hath cast thee off. The law can free thee. Ah, then be mine, and let me win and wear the lovely flower which he hath cast away.
Nina. Lord Felix, as the wife of him thou dost so wrong, I answer thee. Dost thou not know the more a woman's heart is crushed and wounded the more tenderly it clings where first it loved; and though deserted, ay, though hated, I had rather be the slighted wife of him, than the honored bride of the false Costella. Now leave me—I would be alone.
Don Felix. A time will come, proud woman, when thou shalt bend the knee to him whom now thou dost so scorn. Beware, for I will have a fierce revenge for the proud words thou hast spoken.
Nina. I am strong in mine own heart and fear thee not. Work thy will and thou shalt find the wife of Adrian de Mortemar needs no protector save her own fearless hand.
Don Felix. Now, by my faith, thou shalt bow that haughty head, and sue to me for mercy, and I will deny it. I'll win her yet, she shall not idly brave my anger. Now to my work,—revenge.
[Exit Don Felix.
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