Liza and the Lost Letter
by Bruce Lansky

From Girls to the Rescue Book # 2

In order to return a letter to Princess Margaret, Liza Higgins outwits two greedy royal attendants and teaches them a lesson.

 
       

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Characters in Order of Appearance
Narrator(s)*
Liza
Princess Margaret
Queen
Gatekeeper
Guard
Appointments Secretary

*You may want to divide the narrator's longer passages among several reader


Narrator: If you ever go to London to attend a festive royal event, a wedding perhaps, you'll have to wade through throngs of cheering, waving people to catch a glimpse of royalty. But it's not like that when the royal family is staying in Balmoral Castle, their summer palace nestled in the rolling green hills of our Scottish countryside. There, you often see them riding through town in a horse-drawn carriage surrounded by guards clad in bright red and black.

Every Sunday morning at nine o'clock, the royal family rides past Liza Higgins' house, and Liza is always waiting on the sidewalk in front of her house, waving a little British flag-a one-girl welcoming committee. The first time Liza ever saw the royal carriage, Princess Margaret waved at her. Since then, Liza had come out to watch the royal family ride by every summer Sunday, rain or shine.

One Sunday morning in June, as the royal carriage rolled towards her, Liza noticed that Princess Margaret was reading a letter. Suddenly, the letter flew out of the princess' hand into the air. The carriage jerked to a stop. The guards dismounted and began searching the street. Liza watched the wind blow the letter into a small alley. She noticed how anxious the princess looked.

But the queen seemed impatient. She spoke to the driver, and just as suddenly as the procession had stopped, the guards mounted and the carriage resumed moving down the street.

Liza waited until the carriage and guards were out of sight. Curious, she walked down the cobblestone street to where she had seen the carriage stop. No one else was out on the street yet-most people were still eating breakfast or dressing for church. Liza walked up the alley where she had seen the letter blow.

There, behind a trash barrel, was a handwritten letter on fine stationery imprinted with the seal of the king of France. As she glanced briefly at the letter, Liza noticed that it was written in French. Liza folded the letter carefully and put it in her pocket. She tried to stay calm as she strolled back to her house.

Liza didn't tell a soul about what she had found. All through breakfast she wondered what to do. If she were the princess, she would want the letter back, unread, and the entire matter kept in the strictest confidence. At church that day, a sermon on the golden rule strengthened Liza's resolve to return the letter as soon as possible.

Once the service was over, Liza told her parents that she wanted to take a walk and set off at a brisk pace for the summer palace, which was about a mile from church. The gate to the palace was guarded by a gatekeeper who was wearing a tall, bushy, black hat and standing still as a statue.

Liza: Excuse me,

Narrator: said Liza,

Liza: but I must see Princess Margaret.

Gatekeeper: May I see your pass?

Narrator: inquired the guard brusquely.

Liza: I don't have a pass.

Narrator: answered Liza.

Gatekeeper: I'm sorry. No one can get through the gate without a pass.

Narrator: responded the guard without moving a single body part other than his jaw.

Liza: But you don't understand.

Narrator: insisted Liza.

Liza: I've found something that belongs to the princess. I'm sure she'll want it back.

Gatekeeper: And, no doubt, you'll be wanting a reward for your service.

Liza: No. I just want to return to the princess what is hers.

Gatekeeper: In that case you'll have to have a pass.

Narrator: he said, avoiding her glance.

Liza: But how will I ever get a pass?

Narrator: asked Liza, who was growing frustrated by the delay.

Gatekeeper: I'll be happy to arrange it-for just half of the reward.

Narrator: he answered. Puzzled, Liza asked,

Liza: Are you serious?

Narrator: Without even looking at Liza, the gatekeeper simply said,

Gatekeeper: Good day.

Narrator: Liza didn't move. She was angered by the gatekeeper's greed, but the thought of a reward hadn't even occurred to her. So she reconsidered and said,

Liza: Perhaps I will give you half of the reward.

Narrator: For the first time the gatekeeper smiled. He took a piece of paper out of his pocket and signed it.

Gatekeeper: Here,

Narrator: he said as he opened the gate for Liza and let her in.

Gatekeeper: Now remember-this pass will cost you half the reward.

Liza: How can I ever forget your kindness?

Narrator: Liza responded sarcastically. Another guard escorted Liza to the foyer, where the appointments secretary, who was seated at an ornate wooden desk, was idly turning the pages of a huge appointment book.

Secretary: Who is this urchin?

Narrator: The secretary called out scornfully to the guard.

Guard: Just another beggar looking for a royal reward.

Narrator: answered the guard.

Guard: She claims she is returning something to the princess.

Secretary: I'm sorry, but Her Majesty's calendar is completely full-for weeks. She has no time to meet with you. But, if you'll just give whatever it is to me, I'll see that it is returned to the princess.

Narrator: Liza shook her head.

Liza: You don't understand, this is a personal matter. I must return it to the princess myself.

Secretary: In that case, come back in September and I'll see what I can do. Good day!

Liza: That's ridiculous!

Narrator: protested Liza.

Liza: The royal family will have moved back to Buckingham Palace by then.

Narrator: Liza didn't move. She stared into the eyes of the appointments secretary, so he would know she was serious.

Liza: Why don't you ask Princess Margaret if she's lost something. I think you'll find that she will want to see me immediately.

Narrator: The secretary looked down at his book again.

Secretary: I'll see. If it's that important, then perhaps I can accommodate you. But you'll have to compensate me for my efforts on your behalf. It will cost you half of your reward.

Narrator: Liza was quickly learning the ways of the royal court. She spoke through clenched teeth as she controlled her temper,

Liza: Agreed.

Narrator: Then she sat down to wait. In less than five minutes the appointments secretary returned.

Secretary: You're in luck!

Narrator: he smiled.

Secretary: The princess will see you. Remember-I get half of the reward.

Liza: I have an excellent memory. Narrator: Liza assured him.

Narrator: The secretary ushered Liza into Princess Margaret's chamber As they entered, the princess was pacing the floor. On her face was the same worried expression Liza had observed when the letter had blown out of her hands. When Liza entered, the princess paused in her pacing.

Princess Margaret: Thank you.

Narrator: she said to the appointments secretary.

Princess Margaret: That will be all.

Narrator: He left, closing the polished mahogany door behind him.

Princess Margaret: And who might you be?

Narrator: Princess Margaret inquired.

Liza: Liza Higgins, Your Majesty.

Narrator: Liza answered as she curtsied politely.

Princess Margaret: I am curious to know, what have you found?

Narrator: the princess asked Liza anxiously.

Liza: A letter, Your Majesty. I believe you lost it on the way to church this morning.

Narrator: Liza retrieved the letter from her jacket pocket as the princess approached her. Taking the letter that Liza held out for her, the princess opened it. A huge smile covered her face.

Princess Margaret: Thank God!

Narrator: she exclaimed. Then she looked at Liza.

Princess Margaret: Have you read it?

Liza: No.

Narrator: said Liza. The princess peered into Liza's eyes to see if she was telling the truth.

Narrator: You see,

Narrator: Liza continued,

Liza: I can't understand a word of French.

Narrator: The princess smiled.

Princess Margaret: Have you shown anyone?

Narrator: the princess inquired.

Liza: Not a soul, Your Majesty.

Narrator: The princess breathed a sigh of relief.

Princess Margaret: Thank you, Liza. This letter means a great deal to me. Is there anything I can do for you? Name your reward.

Narrator: Liza took a moment to think before answering.

Liza: I did not return your letter for a reward. I was just doing what I would have liked someone to do for me. But since you are so kind to offer a reward, I cannot refuse.

Narrator: She paused, still working out the details of her request.

Narrator: However, before I make my request, I wonder if you would summon the palace gatekeeper and your appointments secretary. They both helped me to gain an audience with you. I think they will be happy to know that you have granted me a reward.

Princess Margaret: Certainly.

Narrator: said the princess.

Princess Margaret: Guard!

Narrator: Instantly, the door opened and a guard appeared. Princess Margaret summoned the gatekeeper and her secretary. When they arrived, she repeated her offer,

Princess Margaret: Liza, you have done a great service to me by returning a prized possession. How can I reward you? Your wish is my command.

Narrator: The gatekeeper and the secretary smiled with anticipation.

Liza: Thank you for your generosity, Your Majesty.

Narrator: Liza began.

Liza: If you will grant my wish, I humbly request a sentence of two weeks in jail.

Narrator: The faces of the gatekeeper and the secretary turned white. Their jaws dropped open. The princess frowned.

Princess Margaret: I don't understand…

Liza: You see, although I did not seek a reward, the royal gatekeeper made me promise to give him half of my reward in return for letting me in through the palace gate. And your appointments secretary made me promise to give him half of my reward in return for letting me see you today-even though I told them both I was here to return something you had lost. I hope that you will grant my request, giving half of my reward to the gatekeeper and half to your secretary to fulfill my promise.

Princess Margaret: I cannot refuse your request.

Narrator: the princess said, smiling broadly.

Princess Margaret: Guards, take the prisoners away.

Narrator: Then, turning to Liza, she said,

Princess Margaret: Young lady, you have done two great services: one to me personally and one to the royal family. I have divided the reward for your first service as you requested. But as a reward for your second service-ridding the palace of greed-I would like to give you another reward.

Narrator: As the princess took a close look at Liza, she said,

Princess Margaret: You look vaguely familiar. Are you the girl who waves to me every Sunday morning as we drive to church?

Liza: Yes, your Majesty. I wait for you every Sunday. Once you even waved to me.

Princess Margaret: Well,

Narrator: answered Princess Margaret,

Princess Margaret: Next Sunday, instead of watching me drive by, how would you like to join me for a ride in the royal carriage-dressed in a brand-new gown?

Liza: I'd love to!

Narrator: gasped Liza. If you had been on Drury Lane that next Sunday morning at nine o'clock, you would have seen Liza, dressed in a beautiful lavender satin gown given to her by Princess Margaret, sitting next to the princess in the royal carriage, waving happily to a huge crowd of friends and family members who had, for the first time anyone can remember, gotten up early on a Sunday morning to cheer Liza and the royal family as they drove by on the way to church.

 

 

© 1995 by Bruce Lansky. Adapted from the story "Liza and the Lost Letter" in Girls to the Rescue, Book #2, published by Meadowbrook Press. This Classroom Theater version of "Liza and the Lost Letter" is © 2000 by Meadowbrook Press.

Permission is given for individual school classes to perform this play and to make as many copies of the play as are needed for the students' use. All other reproduction and performance is prohibited under penalty of law.

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