About the year 1866, Colonel Stodare, a very skillful English conjurer, introduced a little trick with an egg and a handkerchief to which he gave the above title. It proved very successful and Carl Herrmann exhibited it some years later at his first performance in New York; and afterward his successor, Alexander Herrmann, often included it in his program. In its first form, an egg was placed in a glass goblet, over which was thrown a large handkerchief. Standing at a distance, the performer picked up a small square of red silk, which he began to gather into his hands.
When it was completely within his hands they were opened, and it was seen that the silk square had disappeared—if that is not a bull—and in the hands was an egg—presumably the one placed in the goblet. On removing the handkerchief from the goblet, the silk square was seen in the glass, but the egg had gone.
The explanation of the trick is simple: the egg that is placed in the goblet has been blown, that is, it is nothing but an egg-shell, the egg itself having been cleaned out by means of two holes, one at each end. By blowing in one hole the contents of the egg comes out at the other. It is not a pleasant job to prepare such an egg, and for that reason many performers use a wooden egg or, what is much better, one of celluloid, which is made specially for conjurers' use. When the performer is about to place the egg into the goblet, it is lying on the large handkerchief, which is spread over his left hand. A fine black silk thread about four inches long attaches the egg to the center of the handkerchief, and between the two is the silk square which is folded into as small shape as possible and concealed in a half-fold of the handkerchief. To fold this properly it is plaited back and forth until it is one long strip, and then the strip is plaited in the same way until it is about an inch and one-half square. Folded in this way, the natural resilience of the silk will cause it to open out when released.
As the performer is about to cover the goblet with the handkerchief after the egg is in, he relaxes his hold of the silk square and drops that in, also. Back of the second square of silk, which is on a table, is concealed a hollow metal egg, with an opening on one side. The silk square and this egg are picked up together, and as the square is drawn into the performer's hands, he works it into the hollow egg, which he finally shows to the audience, who suppose it to be the egg that was placed in the glass. Going to the goblet, the performer lifts up the handkerchief and with it the hollow egg, and shows the square of silk, which has, apparently, passed invisibly into the glass.
In place of a hollow metal egg, the performer often prepares a real egg. This can be done by soaking the egg for some time in strong vinegar. After a while the shell will become so soft that it may be cut, without splintering, by driving a sharp pointed penknife in with gentle taps. When the piece is out, the contents are scooped out, and the egg is washed out with a weak solution of carbolic acid, and then lined with a thin coating of plaster of paris. Prepared in this way, it is infinitely better than any imitation.
Another and better method:—An improvement on this trick is to use a drinking-glass, the bottom of which has been cut out. This must be done, of course, by a glass-cutter or engraver. He should be instructed to leave a narrow rim around the bottom, that is, the bottom should not be cut close to the edge.
Provided with such a glass, the performer may use a real egg and dispense with the duplicate handkerchief, as only one is needed. Besides the egg and the handkerchief a piece of rather stiff letter-paper is required. This is rolled into a cylinder which will fit easily over the tumbler, as a cover, and is fastened together with a small pin.
This method of presenting the trick has long been a puzzle to many professional conjurers. It is now properly explained for the first time.
Everything being ready, the performer, with an egg concealed just under the lowest part of his waistcoat, advances to his audience, and begs for the loan of an egg. Addressing one of the company, he asks, "Will you, sir, accommodate me with a fresh egg?" extending his open left hand at the same time. "Thank you; lay it here, please." As the performer leans forward to receive it, his right hand goes, naturally, to the bottom of his waistcoat and gets hold of the egg. At the same time the closed hand moves to the gentleman's mouth, and the concealed egg is allowed to show itself at the tip of the fingers. It appears as if the egg were taken from the mouth. The egg is placed on the table along-side a goblet.
In the next move the performer obtains the handkerchief. This he produces "magically," by means of a false finger or any one of the many ways.
He now inverts a glass goblet, placing it mouth down on the table, and on the bottom of this he stands the bottomless tumbler. "I place this here," he says, "so that it may be seen easily, and in it I put the egg which the gentleman has lent me." In putting this in, the performer is careful to have it rest on the rim which is left at the bottom of the glass. "I hope you all can see the egg." As he says this, he picks up the tumbler with his right hand and places it on the extended palm of his left hand. "I will shake the glass so that you may hear the egg as well as see it. Listen." In shaking it thus the egg is dislodged and rests on his hand. With the paper cylinder, which is ready, he covers the tumbler and in front of it, on his fingers, he throws the handkerchief; then picking up with his right hand the empty tumbler, still covered, he replaces it on the bottom of the inverted goblet. The egg is now in his left palm, but the handkerchief conceals it. He turns the hand with its back toward the audience, and bringing his two hands together begins to roll the handkerchief into a compact ball, which he presses into his right palm and holds it there concealed. He then brings the egg to the tip of his fingers and shows it. "See!" he exclaims, "here is the egg, and in its place in the glass we find the handkerchief." As he says this the performer allows his right palm to come over the top opening of the cylinder, into which he drops the handkerchief, which passes into the tumbler. At the same moment he lifts the tumbler cover, showing that an actual change has taken place.