This is an unusually good trick, and as it can be done anywhere and without an assistant, it is especially suited for the amateur conjurer.
It requires some previous preparation, but will well repay the trouble in making ready.
The "properties," so-called, are:
1. A Jack of Clubs that has been soaked in cold water, and then split apart. When it is nearly dry a marked dime is placed in the center and the card is then pasted (not glued) together again, put in a press, and left to dry perfectly. The press is made of two oblong pieces of half-inch hard wood, about four inches long and three wide; in the center of one piece is bored a hole a trifle larger in circumference than a dime; this will allow of the card being pressed flat. These boards are held together by strong, tight rubber bands or by a weight placed on them, or still better by a thumb-screw at each end to keep them together tightly.
2. A second dime, marked like the one in the card, of the same date, and in every way as like it as possible.
3. A pack of cards, with three or four extra Jacks of Clubs on top and on top of these the prepared Jack.
4. A leaf of cigarette paper, folded in half, with the second dime lying between the folds.
5. A piece of candle, one-quarter the size of a whole one. From one end of this the wick is cut out, leaving a hole about an inch in length and of sufficient width to admit easily half the cigarette paper when rolled up. This piece of candle is placed inside the handle of the knife hereafter described, the hole toward the lower end.
6. A sharp knife, like an ordinary kitchen knife. On the lower end of the wooden handle is a piece of brass tubing, large enough to hold the piece of candle. The whole handle is painted black or dark brown, and must look like one solid piece.
7. A candle in a candlestick.
8. A box of matches.
9. An unpainted inch-and-a-half board, twelve inches long and six wide. From end to end, the longer way, near one edge is cut a narrow groove, in which a candle will lie, half-way down, without rolling off. About the center of the board is hollowed out a cavity, into which the piece of candle will lie easily, without showing above the surface.
10. A piece of flash paper, the size of the cigarette paper. In it has been wrapped a dime, and the impression of the coin is still to be seen, though the paper is empty, but folded as if it still held the dime. This paper may be bought from a dealer in conjuring tricks or be prepared by any chemist. (Full instructions for making this paper will be found at the end of the book.) Its peculiarity is that it burns instantly on touching a light and leaves no ash or other trace behind; it is held in a clip under the performer's waistcoat, where he can get it easily.
To begin the trick, the performer goes to a lady with the pack of cards, and as he approaches her he cuts the pack, letting the little finger of his left hand, in which the pack rests, come between the two parts.
"Take a card, please, madam," he says, and he runs over the several Jacks, so that she is sure to take one. While she is looking at the card she has drawn, the performer again cuts the pack, bringing the prepared Jack to the top. "Let me have your card, please. Ah, the Jack of Clubs. Very good. Suppose we put it where every one may see it."
He walks to his table, and stands the card resting against the candlestick. "Keep your eye on it," he says. As he went to his table, he deliberately exchanged, by means of the "Top change,", the card drawn for the prepared Jack, and it is that card he places against the candlestick.
As he lays down the pack, he picks up the cigarette paper, in which is the second dime. Then going to some gentleman in the back of the audience, he asks for a dime. "Will some one lend me one?" he asks. "Ah, you, sir. Be good enough to mark it so that it may be unmistakably identified."
While this is being done, he lets the second coin drop into his hand from the cigarette paper, and holds it concealed between his right forefinger and thumb. The borrowed dime he takes in the same fingers, and as he brings it up toward his face, as if to examine it, he slides one coin over the other, and gives the second dime to some one seated at a distance from the owner of the borrowed coin and nearer the stage, with the request that he will examine it carefully and keep it for a while.
Going to a third person, the performer hands the cigarette paper to him and asks him to write a word across the length of the paper, then to tear the paper through the middle, to keep one half, and to give the other to the performer.
When he receives it he returns to the person who holds the second dime, and taking that he wraps it in the paper, and then takes them to his table. On his way there he drops the borrowed dime into his hand, rolls the paper into a small, compact plug, and takes the flash paper from under his waistcoat. This he rests against the card which is standing against the candlestick, and lays, for the moment, the borrowed coin on the table.
"Now let us have some light on this," he remarks, as he lights the candle. "‘How far that little candle throws its beam,’ as Portia says.
"Let us see how we stand. Here is the card that was drawn before the dime was borrowed. In this half-sheet on which the gentleman has written, is wrapped the borrowed dime. Now watch the sequel."
Picking up the flash paper, he touches it to the flame of the candle, and in the twinkling of an eye it is gone. Taking the card and getting the borrowed coin at the same time, he goes to the gentleman to whom the second dime was shown, and hands the card to him, saying,
"Please look at this card, and tell us if you see anything unusual about it. There seems to be something in the center? Can you take the something out? No? Then tear the card in two and tell us what you find. A dime! Is it the one you saw a few moments ago? Yes? Thank you.
"The very dime the gentleman saw. Who gave me the coin?"
As the performer goes to the owner of the dime he exchanges the coin taken from the card for the borrowed one, which is at once identified by its owner. The other coin he pockets.
Going back to his table he takes the candle from the candlestick, first blowing it out, and lays it on the groove of the board. Then he takes up the knife, allowing the piece of candle to drop into his hand. Pointing with the knife at the candle he says, "Now I am going to cut up this candle," and lays down the knife. "Because," he continues, "I wish to find that bit of paper which is still missing."
While talking, he inserts the plug of paper, which he has held between two of his fingers, next to his palm, into the hole in the piece of candle. Taking up the knife again, he inserts the piece of candle into the handle, and proceeds to cut up the candle: First he cuts off the burnt end and then divides the candle in two. He lets the audience decide which piece he shall use, and putting the other aside, cuts the selected piece in two. Again he gives the audience their choice. This time he picks up the selected piece, draws it toward him across the board, covering it with his fingers, and allows it to drop in the cavity of the board, holding up the piece that was in the knife handle, and which he had dropped into his hand when he asked the audience to select the piece he should use.
Going to the one who wrote on the paper, the performer cuts through the candle with a pocket-knife until he reaches the paper plug. This, he requests the gentleman to take out, match it to the other half, and identify the writing. All of which is done.