The Drover’s Wife (Adaptation)
Adapted from Henry Lawson’s short story
Out here there is only bush all round.
Bush with no horizon, for the country is flat.
Out here it is nineteen miles to the nearest sign of civilisation.
Out here, we find a woman and her four children all alone in the Australian bush.
The DROVER’S WIFE sweeps the house. Four ragged children, TOMMY, JACKY, RUTH & BESSIE, chase each other inside and outside the house.
Her husband, the drover, is away with his sheep.
The family live in a two-roomed house built of round timber, slabs, and stringy-bark, and floored with split slabs.
It is a lonely life, and a hard one.
The Australian bush can be a dangerous place for a woman on her own with four children.
Suddenly one of the children stops outside the house and points to the ground.
Snake! Mother, here’s a snake!
DROVER’S WIFE comes outside and picks up a stick.
Where is it?
Here! Gone into the wood-heap!
Stop there, mother! I’ll have him. Stand back! I’ll have the beggar!
Tommy, come here, or you’ll be bit. Come here at once when I tell you, you little wretch!
There it goes! Under the house!
He runs after it, stick raised. The big, black dog, Alligator, breaks his chain and rushes after the snake.
His nose reaches the crack in the slabs just as the end of the snake’s tail disappears.
Come over here, children! Stand near the dog-house while I watch for it.
The Drover’s Wife gets two small dishes of milk and puts them near the wall to tempt the snake out; but an hour goes by and it does not show itself.
Come into the kitchen, children, and climb up here. The table will be your bed tonight.
TOMMY (hiding his stick under the blanket)
I’ll lie awake all night and smash that blinded snake.
Tommy, how many times have I told you not to swear!
Mummy! Tommy’s skinnin’ me alive with his club. Make him take it out.
Shet up, Jacky! D’yer want to be bit with the snake?
If yer bit you’ll swell up, an’ smell, an’ turn red an’ green an’ blue all over till yer bust. Won’t he, mother?”
Now then, don’t frighten the child. Go to sleep.
Tommy, move over and make more room for your brother.
Mother! listen to them blank little possums. I’d like to screw their blanky necks.
But they don’t hurt us, the little blanks!
DROVER’S WIFE (turning to Tommy)
There, I told you you’d teach Jacky to swear.
Mother! Do you think they’ll ever extricate the blank kangaroo?
Lord! How am I to know, child? Go to sleep.
Will you wake me if the snake comes out?
Yes. Go to sleep.
It is near midnight. The children are asleep and the Drover’s Wife sits there still, sewing and reading the Young Ladies Journal.
Whenever she hears a noise she reaches for the stick.
She is not a coward, but recent events have shaken her nerves.
End of Excerpt
(c) Fiona Harris 2016← Back to Children’s Theatre