I'm currently working on a radio play. The following is an experiment with an old favourite;
INFLUENCED BY TURGENEV’s ‘A MONTH IN THE COUNTRY’
ADDITIONAL SCENE – TX: VERA IS ALONE IN THE GARDEN
I can’t quite order my thoughts. I have been running about the garden, making kites with Kolya and Aleksey, never thinking of it being wrong to play so. What has Natalya made me say? I am sure I meant no such thing. She says I love Aleksey, and, for a moment, I thought it must be so, because she is a woman, and she must know about love. Yet I think she does not. Is laughter and play love? It is certainly happiness.
The doctor told Michel that Bolshintsov wishes to marry me. I had no more thoughts of marriage than a goose. Michel asked me very seriously to consider the proposal, yet it seemed so strange to me.
But what has happened here, when yesterday began the same as any other? Today, all the certainties have vanished. Nothing is as I thought it. Natalya deceived me, and I burn with shame to have been duped so, and she is so strong. So strong that she toys with her husband, and would toy with Aleksey too. I will not be her plaything. I have decided. I will marry Bolshintsov.
I was just walking by. I didn’t mean to overhear your thoughts. How can you consider marrying that old farmer, so old he could be your father? You are just seventeen, with your whole life ahead of you.
He is old Aleksey, but he has promised to treat me kindly, and he has genuine affection for me. As to my youth, I was indeed young yesterday, but, the veil of childhood ignorance has been lifted from my eyes. Today I see more clearly. I see that to be loved, and treated with kindness, is a blessing, and one that I welcome.
How can you welcome the love, as you call it, of an uneducated old oaf? You, who have such talent for music, such sensitivity when you play? You, who have read so widely, read so many books written by masters of eloquence, power and feeling?
My piano is everything to me, it is true, but Bolshintsov will delight in hearing me play. I will always have my music. I will also have my books, and the promise of more besides. I have a lifetime ahead of me to read to my heart’s content. Bolshintsov’s lack of education will not trouble me. I can read to him. Remember, I have lived with educated people, and to be educated is not necessarily to be principled. Bolshintsov is honest and decent, in his simple way. I long for simplicity and honesty. Sophisticated thinking can lead to manipulation and treachery. I have no fear of that from Bolshintsov.
I blush at your allusion. You and I have been such good friends. I wish that it could remain so. Do you mean to imply that Natalya has forced you to come to this decision, and that you do not make it freely?
I make it freely Aleksey. Please spare me your concern. I had thought that Natalya cared for me, and I was happy here, and so happy that you and I have been friends together, as long as I was a child in this house. Being a child seemed to be so free, that I never gave thought to any other way. But, being a child is also to be governed. A child is ordered in, or out, of the room, to bed, or to play. If I remain here, as a child, I remain under the jurisdiction of Natalya, to be chidden and scolded, and fooled. I go to Bolshintsov willingly, and exchange my state of supposed childhood freedom for that of Bolshintsov’s wife, mistress of my own house, head of his household of servants. He has vast tracts of land you know. I am not going to live in a hovel with a paddock.
I am sorry. I have provoked you to coarseness. Have I been responsible for your bitterness and disillusionment?
I did not mean to be coarse Aleksey. I mean to be practical. I own that I care for you very much. I was persuaded that my warm regard for you meant something which it did not. I am young, Aleksey. I know nothing yet of love, but I have known much happiness and laughter, and for that I will always cherish the memory of our friendship. Natalya is mistress here, and I no longer wish to play the child under her roof, but to become mistress of my own house. I can arrange things around me so I will be comfortable, with my piano and my books, and I know I will be gently treated, with kindness, and respect. I have decided. I will marry Bolshintsov.