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The Red Light of Mars or, A Day in the Life of the Devil, (A Philosophical Comedy)

The Red Light of Mars
or, A Day in the Life of the Devil, (A Philosophical Comedy)
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Title: The Red Light of Mars or, A Day in the Life of the Devil, (A Philosophical Comedy)
Release Date: 2018-07-28
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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Transcriber’s Notes

Obvious typographical errors have been silently corrected, but repeatedunconventional punctuation and accents remain.

The cover was created by the transcriber by adding the title to theoriginal cover and is placed in the public domain.


THE MODERN DRAMA SERIES
EDITED BY EDWIN BJÖRKMAN

THE RED LIGHT OF MARS
GEORGE BRONSON-HOWARD


THE RED LIGHT OF MARS
OR
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF THE DEVIL

A PHILOSOPHICAL COMEDY BY
GEORGE BRONSON-HOWARD

Publisher's Device

NEW YORK
MITCHELL KENNERLEY
MCMXIII


COPYRIGHT 1913 THE JOHN W. RUMSEY CO.

COPYRIGHT 1913 MITCHELL KENNERLEY

THE·PLIMPTON·PRESS
NORWOOD·MASS·U·S·A


CONTENTS


vii

INTRODUCTION

There is to me something typically Americanabout the life-story leading up to the play containedin this volume—a story in which the creationand publication of that play will undoubtedly representonly a temporary climax. I want to tell it, not only asa curiosity, but as something that has genuine significanceto the world of letters. The meaning of thisstory, read in conjunction with the work that hasgrown out of it, is that the time when books werebred by books only is about gone now. The newliterature will come straight out of life, apparently,and will in consequence have made a decided gain, eventhough it may have lost something else. As it springsforth, full-blooded and ready-tongued, we shall undoubtedlyhear melancholy voices proclaim the vulgarizationof poetry. But if, on hearing such protestsrising from some anæmic scholar’s cloistered cell, welook back through the ages and fix our gaze not onlyon the little followers but on the great leaders—onthe Dantes and Shakespeares and Cervanteses andMolières—then we shall find that almost always theterm of opprobrium quoted above has implied a vitalizationof the supposedly menaced art form.

The author of “The Red Light of Mars” is nowin his thirtieth year, having been born on January 7,1884, in Howard County, Maryland. His father wasa Baltimore merchant and insurance broker, who, inhis turn, had a Confederate blockade runner for fatherand an officer in the English army for grandfather.viiiHis mother sprang from an old French middle-classfamily, which had to emigrate from Dijon after theEdict of Nantes.

George Bronson-Howard studied in a private schoolin London, in the public schools of Baltimore, and inthe City College of the same place. At fourteen helost both parents, just as he was about to enter JohnsHopkins University, his age having been carefully concealedin order that the examinations might be opento him. Instead he became a messenger in the WeatherBureau at Baltimore. While thus employed, he submittedsuccessfully to the first of a series of civil serviceexaminations, each one of which required some skilfuldisingenuousness lest the applicant’s age prove an insuperableobstacle. During the next seven years, Mr.Bronson-Howard busied himself successively as follows:

Reporter on the Baltimore American; clerk in theoffice of the Secretary of the Navy; stenographer atthe Brooklyn Navy Yard; reporter on the BrooklynCitizen; press representative for one of the Frohmantheatres and for one of George W. Lederer’s productions;reporter on the New York Herald; clerk inthe Bureau of Navigation at Washington; clerk in theoffice of the Collector of Customs at Manila, PhilippineIslands; assistant to the Collector of Customs at Iloilo,on the island of Panay; newspaper correspondent atManila; member of the Philippine Constabulary; contributorof fiction stories to various newspapers andmagazines; employé of the Imperial Chinese CustomsService at Canton; agent of the Imperial Chinese Governmentin Shantung Province; war correspondent forthe London Chronicle with the Russian army in Manchuria;magazine and newspaper writer at SanFrancisco.

ix

He was twenty-one when he came East and began toproduce a series of clever, quick-moving stories, designatedby himself “as melodramatic magazine yarns.”The type of hero around which they were built waswholly new: a secret agent of the State Department.Appearing in book form under the title of “Norroy,Diplomatic Agent,” those stories met with such successthat their author found himself relieved for along time from all necessity of “pot-boiling.”

Since then he has written more stories, three romances—oneof which so far has only been publishedin Germany—essays, plays, criticism, musical revues,etc. He has acted as play reader for the late Henry B.Harris, as dramatic editor on Smith’s Magazine, asdramatic critic on the New York Morning Telegraph,as vaudeville impresario at Paris, and as librettist forthe Winter Garden at New York. He has dramatizeda novel and novelized a play. He has lived at London,Baltimore, New York, Paris, and Nice—to settle downat last in a house of his own at Belleterre, Port Jefferson,Long Island.

So far Mr. Bronson-Howard has a dozen plays ofevery conceivable type to his credit, some of them beingwholly his own and some being written in collaborationwith others. Most of these works have already beenproduced, some with marked success, and others arescheduled for performance in the immediate future.Thus, for instance, “The Red Light of Mars” will bestaged by H. H. Frazee during the season of 1913-14.

There are two qualities that seem to characterize allof Mr. Bronson-Howard’s dramatic productions: akeen perception of the demands and possibilities ofthe stage, and a shrewdly humorous grasp of humannature. His command of stagecraft is so facile thatxat times it strikes the critic as a danger to his art.And it has the faults as well as the merits generallyaccompanying such facility. He would probably bemuch surprised if he heard himself referred to as a“psychologist”—and yet that is just what he is, inhis own practical, intuitive, American way. With thesetwo qualities, which provide for the framework of hisart, goes, as its informing and directing spirit, a stronginclination to “side with the under dog.”

Edwin Björkman.

LIST OF PLAYS BY GEORGEBRONSON-HOWARD

The Only Law (with Wilson Mizner), 1909;

Spring Time (with Booth Tarkington and Harry Leon(Wilson)), 1910;

Snobs, 1911;

An Enemy to Society (with Wilson Mizner), 1911;

Rhett Maryl, 1912;

The Reef (with David Belasco), 1912;

The Red Light of Mars, 1913.


1

THE RED LIGHT OF MARS
OR
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF THE DEVIL
A Philosophical Comedy


2

PERSONS

(in order of appearance)

Thomas Vanillity, B.Sc., LL.D., M.A. (Oxon)
The Hon. Hippolyte Critty, Judge of Special Sessions
John Magnus Of Magnus & Co., Bankers
William Tromper Manager Magnus Steel Works
Mrs. Horace Henry Felix
Fanny Felix Her daughter
A Valet
H. Addington Agnus, M.D., Ph.D., D.Sc.
Noel Onfroy, R.A. Chevalier Légion d’honneur
The Light
Topliss A servant
Doll Blondin A show-girl
Schwartzenhopfel An anarchist
St. Elmo Peattie Sheriff
A Detective Lieutenant
Two Detectives
A Chauffeur

3

THE RED LIGHT OF MARS

THE FIRST ACT

The study and laboratory of Doctor AddingtonAgnus, Rothlyn, Long Island.

Entrances: Folding-doors to laboratory; door togarden; spiral stairway; door to hallway.

A long, low white room: white-panelled, whitebook-shelves, furniture, etc.; upholstered in light yellowand light blue chintz.

Garden seen through two windows on either side ofupper door. Folding-doors to laboratory closed.

A sunny day in early winter: late morning. The sunis almost blinding on the white room and the highlypolished brasses.

A bright wood-fire burns.

As the curtain rises: a knocking on the garden door,which continues. The knob rattles. The door givesway, almost precipitating Thomas Vanillity on his face.

Vanillity is a college professor, lean, spare, ascetic-looking;wears a dark gray English walking suit; tailedcoat; derby hat. Has typical sad Englishman’s moustache,a “drooper”; closely shaven lantern jaws. Carriesneatly folded umbrella.

VANILLITY (evidently astounded at unlocked door)

Well: upon my word—upon my word! (Picks uphat, umbrella, etc., which have fallen, and straightenshimself) I wonder if he’s in? (A slight explosion4from laboratory; he drops articles again) Yes,he’s in! (Picks up articles a second time; straightenstie, etc., in glass; twirls moustache; then goes to fire;stretches out hands) A-a-ah!

[A second knocking on garden door.

VANILLITY (going to folding-doors and calling into laboratory)Oh, Addington, Addington, my boy! (Asecond explosion from laboratory. Vanillity goes todoor, admitting Judge Hippolyte Critty: grosslybut respectably fat, with an unctuous smile and awalrus-tusk moustache)

JUDGE CRITTY (smiling genially)

Ah! Professor! Professor! Come to claim all thecredit of your pupil’s great discovery? (Waves handtoward laboratory)

VANILLITY (with painful humility)

I did nothing, Judge, nothing. A man like Dr. Agnuswould succeed without my teaching or anyone’s.(Shows by his attitude some servility to the Judge)

JUDGE CRITTY (warming hands at fire)

Well, he thinks you’re responsible. “If it wasn’tfor Professor Vanillity,” he keeps saying—

VANILLITY

I never knew so painfully modest a boy—

JUDGE CRITTY (they are both at fire)

Boy—you’ve hit it—boy! The great scientist(bows to laboratory doors) retains all his boyishshyness and lack of confidence. He even (preeninghimself) gives me credit for part of his success. Becauseonce I said the time was coming when sciencewould keep us alive forever. He says that put him onthe track.

5

VANILLITY (with melancholy satisfaction, looking towardlaboratory) Immortality! No more building upjust for Time to tear down!

JUDGE CRITTY (in a smoking-room manner, ribald)

And making us independent of women!

VANILLITY (shocked)

My dear Judge!

JUDGE CRITTY

Of good women, I mean. They are the only dangerouskind. We learned how to handle the bad ones afew thousand years ago!

VANILLITY

My dear Judge!

JUDGE CRITTY (going back to the days of boyish confidences)Tommy: it’s my profession to be a hypocrite.That’s why I enjoy talking to you. Being absolutelydependent on me, you can’t give me away. (Laughsfoxily) If I didn’t have you, I’d become a Catholic.I simply can’t keep all my cleverness to myself.That’s why most people enjoy confession. And soI say again: the good women are the only dangerouskind! (Goes to cellarette) Have a drink! There!(Pours)

VANILLITY

My dear Lytey—

JUDGE CRITTY

Nonsense, down with it! I need you today, and whenyou’re dead sober, you’ve got a conscience. (Drinkingwith him) Have a cigar! Take it! (Lightscigars for Vanillity and himself)

[Vanillity’s face brightens as drink and cigar affecthim.

6

JUDGE CRITTY

Yes, sir! The only dangerous kind! That’s why I’msorry for that poor fellow! (Nods toward laboratory)

VANILLITY

Ssh! Ssh!

JUDGE CRITTY

Pooh! He doesn’t know anybody’s on earth whenhe’s working—poor devil!

VANILLITY

Poor devil? Poor fellow? Who just won the Nobelprize—the most discussed scientist in the world?

JUDGE CRITTY

And a year from now forgotten!

VANILLITY

Absurd! (Seeing the Judge’s solemn look) Why?

JUDGE CRITTY

In love!

VANILLITY

With a very sweet girl—a very ambitious girl!

JUDGE CRITTY

Ambitious for herself—yes.

VANILLITY

But—

JUDGE CRITTY (looks at watch)

She’ll be here any minute now: was to meet me herequarter to. I came before time to find you; knewyou’d be the first to congratulate him! Anotherdrink?

VANILLITY

My dear Lytey—

[Judge Critty forces it on him; Vanillity’s smile becomesa beam.

7

JUDGE CRITTY

She’s bringing John Magnus and William Tromperwith her.

VANILLITY (dazed)

John Magnus!

JUDGE CRITTY

And William Tromper!

VANILLITY (dazed)

John Magnus!!

JUDGE CRITTY

And William Tromper’s the general manager of theMagnus Steel Works! He’s going to offer our friend(waving toward laboratory) one hundred thousanddollars a year! Chief chemist of the works!

VANILLITY

One hundred thousand dollars a year? My God!! (Asilence; changed tone; nods toward laboratory) Buthe won’t take it!

JUDGE CRITTY

He will take it. That’s

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