Magic Trick: The Transit of Old Glory

This brilliant little trick has the great advantage that it is as well suited for the drawing-room, that is for exhibition in a private house or at a club, as for the stage. The performer comes forward with half a sheet of note-paper in one hand. "I have here," he says, "a piece of paper, the product of that great magician, the paper-maker, who turns beggars' rags into sheets for editors to lie on. There is nothing concealed here, as you may see," he turns the paper, so as to show it back and front. "But see! I roll it up for a moment." Suiting the action to the word, he rolls the paper till it is about the thickness of a finger, "and now, tearing it in two, this little flag appears." He spreads out the flag and crumpling up the paper, throws it aside. "Pretty isn't it? It's small, but it covers a lot of ground." Throwing the flag over the back of a chair, he picks up two silk handkerchiefs, a red and a dark blue, ties a corner of one to a corner of the other, bunches them together, and places them in an empty goblet. "So far, so good," he continues. "Now, let me show you this pocket." He turns out the right side pocket of his trousers. "Empty! like every conjurer's pockets." He puts it back in place, and rolling up his right sleeve, so that nothing can be concealed there, slowly puts the little flag into the empty pocket. "See what I shall do. By simply repeating certain incantations, handed down to us from the days of Nostradamus, I shall cause the flag to leave my pocket and take its place between the handkerchiefs now tied together. And this without hiding the goblet from your sight for one moment. Listen! Chiddy biddy bee, chiddy biddy bi, chiddy biddy bo. (And let us say, parenthetically, that when you are versed in these mysteries, other words may be substituted for these.) And now you will please observe that my pocket is empty."

As he says this, he pulls out the pocket, and to his surprise and mortification the flag comes out with it. "Dear me!" he exclaims, "how very embarrassing. Something has gone wrong. Evidently a misquotation. Ah! how stupid of me. I forgot to give the flag the necessary wherewithal to defray traveling expenses." He replaces the flag in his pocket, and pretending to take a piece of money from his waistcoat pocket he puts it in the pocket that contains the flag. Then with a simple command "Go!" he catches hold of an end of each handkerchief in the goblet, and giving them a sharp jerk and a shake, shows that the flag has taken its place between the handkerchiefs and is firmly tied to them. Again turning his pocket inside out, it is seen to be empty, and the trick is done as promised.

But how is it done? Read attentively and you'll know. First, as to the production of the flag. Taking a piece of saffron-colored tissue-paper, technically known as "Havana color," the performer makes of it a long, narrow bag, as near the shape of a finger as possible, rounded and closed at one end and open at the other. Into this he gently pushes a small sheer silk flag. If this be placed between the second and third fingers of the left hand and the fingers held close to each other it will be a keen-eyed one, indeed, who will detect that the performer has one more finger than he is entitled to. When rolling up the sheet of note-paper, it is folded round the hand and the paper "finger" is left inside. Tearing the note-paper in two, the flag is revealed. The crumpled up paper is then thrown aside for the moment, only to be carefully picked up later, lest some inquisitive body should take a notion to examine it, and finding the yellow paper inside get some inkling of the secret of the trick. A false finger of flesh colored sheer muslin may be substituted for the one of tissue paper, and with it an additional effect may be produced. This finger is rolled in the paper as already described. By giving the paper a fillip with a finger the flag will gradually make its appearance at the open end, crawling up, as it were. When it is entirely out, the performer presses the paper together, keeping the false finger inside. The paper is then crumpled up and disposed of as told. Before the flag is put into the pocket the first time it is rolled into a ball. The second time the performer pushes it with his right thumb into the upper part of the pocket near the band of the trousers, and as far toward the center of the band as possible. The other fingers go down toward the bottom of the pocket. With the flag so stowed away, the pocket may be turned inside out, and will appear to be empty.

Opposite one corner of the blue handkerchief a square of the same silk, measuring three and a half inches, is sewed so as to make a pocket, with the opening toward the corner and about two and a half inches from it. A triangular-shaped piece of the same blue silk, five inches long and three inches wide at its greatest width is sewed to the corner A of the flag, while the corner B is sewed on to the blue handkerchief, between the mouth of the pocket and the corner, as shown in Fig. 113. Into the pocket the flag is tucked, beginning with the corner C, leaving the end of the triangular piece sticking out.

Fig. 113

When these preparations are completed the trick may be shown.

Fig. 114 The dotted lines represent the corner of the blue handkerchief, which is folded into the two knots.

Picking up the blue handkerchief with his left hand the performer holds it so that its folds conceal the pocket and its contents. Then taking the red handkerchief in his right hand he, apparently, ties one corner of it to a corner of the other. In reality, however, the actual corner of the blue handkerchief is folded back and held down behind the fingers of the left hand, and in its stead the triangular piece of blue silk that sticks out of the pocket is tied to the red handkerchief with two knots; as soon as the first knot is made, the actual corner of the blue handkerchief is brought up from behind the fingers and the second knot is tied over it (as shown in the illustration, Fig. 114), and tied tightly, thus keeping the flag securely in the pocket. Then the performer wraps the two handkerchiefs together and puts them in a goblet with a corner of each hanging out. At the proper moment he grasps these corners and giving them a quick jerk the flag is pulled out of the pocket and is seen tied, apparently, between the two handkerchiefs.

Instead of a prepared handkerchief and flag, as described, some conjurers rely on an exchange of packages, and when skilfully carried out this is much the more artistic way. For such an exchange, a small shelf is hung at the back of a chair. On this lies a package made up of a red and a blue handkerchief with a flag tied between them, care being taken that the flag is concealed within the folds of the handkerchiefs. Alongside the shelf is a small black bag, its mouth being held open by a wire run round it in a seam. In showing the trick the performer deliberately and actually ties the two handkerchiefs together at one corner and rolls them into a package similar to the one on the shelf. The flag used in the trick is lying on the back of the chair, and as the performer picks it up with his right hand, his left, that holds the original package, passes for a second only behind the chair, but in that time it grips the shelf package and drops the original into the bag. There is no hesitation, no waiting, but in the twinkling of an eye the change is made.

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