Script: New Cousins

By Mavis Thorpe Clark

Radio play - adapted from a short story of the same name by the author, 1950.

This is a play about three country brothers, Peter, aged 12, James, nicknamed Pie, aged 10, and Chris, nicknamed Possum, aged 7. They are waiting with the horse and buggy by the river while their parents have gone to meet the Melbourne train which is bringing two orphan girl cousins, Mary Ann, aged 11, and Francelle, aged 6, to live with them for keeps.

Pie. (Gloomily) "Well, these are about the last few moments we’ll have in peace, fellahs. A couple of girls about the place are going to spoil things."

Possum. (Very baby voice.) "What about muvver, Pie – she’s a girl, isn’t she?"

Pie. "Yes – but she’s different, somehow, Possum. We’ve got used to her and don’t really notice that she’s a girl."

Peter. (Unhappily) "Gee, it’s funny how you get all your troubles at once. As well as telling us about these girls last night, Dad said he’d made up his mind that I couldn’t come into the township for the ‘Learn-to-Swim’ drive, after all. He says it’s too far."

Pie. "Well, of course, it’s eight miles, Pete."

Peter. (Gloomily) "Yes, but it’s the only hope I’ve got of ever learning to swim – there isn’t a water-hole within miles of our place that is fit to swim in. And I was sure that when the ‘Learn-to-Swim’ campaign started here on the river that Dad would let me learn."

Pie. "Well, if you did learn, what good would it do you? As you just said, there’s nowhere within miles of our place where you could swim."

Peter. "Yes, I know, but I think everybody ought to be able to swim – even a chap who lives on a farm all his life."

Possum. (Crossly.) "Stop talking about the swimming – what are we going to do about these awful girls?"

Pie. "Yes, that’s more important. Gosh! we can’t have them living with us forever. A joke’s a joke, I say."

Possum. (Shrewdly.) "What we’ve got to do is make it too hot for them – so that they won’t like us and will go and live with some other aunt and uncle."

Pie. "Yes – but what?"

Possum. (With enthusiasm.) "Well, we could put a snake in their bed."

Pie. "Yes – and get bitten while we’re putting it in."

Possum. "I meant a dead one, silly. Or we could let Jimmy the bull chase them. Gee! that’d make them run!"

Pie. (Warningly.) "Well, come back from the edge of the river-bank now or you’ll be running with the current – and you won’t like that."

Peter. (In quick whisper.) "Here they come with Dad and Mother. And gosh! – Mary Ann wears specs!"

Pie. (Also whispering.) "Look at those pig-tails, too – stiff as pokers!"

Possum. (Horror-struck.) "An’ look at Francelle! She’s as round as she’s long an’ she’s hugging a doll, and’ a teddy-bear and’ some furry thing that look likes a toy rabbit. I – I think she’ll want me to play tea-parties with her. Oh dear-r –!"

Peter. "It’s ghastly! That’s what it is – just ghastly!"

Possum. (Whispering.) "What does that mean, Pete? Quick! Tell me ’fore they come."

Peter. "It means – it means that life’s going to be one long nightmare."

(Enter parents and girls.)

Father. (Cheerily.) "Well, boys, here we are at last. I daresay you were beginning to wonder whether your new cousins had missed the train."

Pie. (Aside.) "If only they had!"

Mother. "Well, haven’t you got anything to say, boys? Peter – welcome your cousins."

Peter. "Yes-s, Mother. Hello – hello, Mary Ann."

M.Anne. "Hello Peter. I suppose you’re Peter because you’re the biggest. It’s going to be fun knowing you. We didn’t have any boy cousins in town."

Peter. (Swallowing hard.) "Yes-s – It’s – it’s going to be fun all right."

Possum. (Suddenly dancing about excitedly as Francelle advances towards him.) "I knew it would happen! I knew it would happen! She – she – Francelle wants to kiss me!"

Fran. "Don’t move away like that, Possum – I’m not going to hurt you."

Possum. "No, I know you’re not – I’m not going to give you the chance."

Mother. "Reproachfully.) "Now – Possum."

(In swift alarm.) "Oh – be careful – you’re near the edge of the river bank. Possum!"

(Splashing noise.)

Peter. (Peter runs forward as though looking over river’s edge.) "He’s fallen in the river! He was backing out of Francelle’s reach – and he’s fallen in!"

Mother. "Quick – Dad – quick – do something! The current’s so strong, it’s carrying him away. Oh – do something!"

Dad. "I can’t swim!"

Peter. "None of us can!"

Dad. "But I must go in after him – we can’t see him drown before our eyes. Possum! I’m coming!"

Mother. "You’ll both be drowned!"

M.Anne. (In calm voice.) "I’ll get him, Auntie May – don’t worry."

Mother. (Amazed.) "Why – Mary Ann! Spectacles, shoes, coat and socks already off! What are you doing, child?"

M.Anne. (Brightly.) "I can swim – be ready to take him when I bring him out."

Mother. "But – but, Mary Ann! Are you sure? Oh dear – she’s dived in!"

Peter. (Straining his eyes over the river.) "And what a dive. She looked like a bird.”

Mother. "But how can she get him – he’s already in mid-stream!"

Peter. "But, mother, look how she’s striking out – look at her. She’s only a little thing but she’s got a powerful stroke."

Pie. "She’s got him – she’s got him!"

Mother. (Anxiously.) "He’s struggling with her – he’s got his arms around her neck. They’ll both go under. They’ve disappeared!"

Dad. "No – no – there they are. Look – she’s got him under the arm-pits – she’s pushing him ahead of her."

Pie. "She’s coming in!"

Peter. (With enthusiasm.) "Oh, good work, Mary Ann – good work!"

Dad. "Here, lend a hand with Possum, Mother – he’s dazed. Run and get all the rugs out of the buggy, Pie, we must get these wet things off them."

Mother. (Anxiously.) "Are you all right, Possum – my baby –? And you – Mary Ann?"

Possum. (Gulping a bit.) "Yes-s – I’m a bit wet-t – but I’m – all right."

M.Anne. (Rather breathless.) "Me, too – I’m all right."

Peter. "You were wonderful, Mary Ann."

M.Anne. "Nothing wonderful about that, Peter. I used to live at the sea-side and I’ve always been able to swim. I did the life-saving course last summer."

Peter. "I wish I could swim – but Dad won’t –."

See also short story of New Cousins.

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Typed manuscript of script.

New Cousins - page 1

Typed manuscript.

New Cousins - page 2

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New Cousins - page 3

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New Cousins - page 4

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New Cousins - page 5

Dad. "Don’t say it, my boy – because I will. After this event – which could so nearly have been a tragedy – I can’t say ‘no’. In fact, we’ll all learn."

Peter. "Oh, Dad – that’s great. Mary Ann, I’ve got you to thank for this!"

Possum. (In a little voice.) "We were going to put a dead snake in your bed, Mary Ann – so’s you would leave us quickly – but I guess we’ll be doing everything we can now to make you stay."

Pie. "We certainly will! You’ll make a great sister Mary Ann!"

Possum. "You – you can even kiss me, Francelle – if – if you still want to."

Fran. (Loftily.) "I don’t want to kiss you. I was only going to give you one of my chocolate frogs."

Possum. "Were you really! That was nice of you!"

Peter. (Rather ashamed.) "I was pretty interested in the dead snake idea, myself, Mary Ann. But I hope, now, that we’re all going to be great pals."

M.Anne. "I know we are, Peter. It’s going to be just wonderful to have three brothers!"