One of the best tricks of the old time conjurer was that in which he baked a cake or a pudding in a hat. It always created a laugh—generally at the owner of the hat—and was, consequently, popular. The trick we are about to explain while much the same is widely different. How they differ may best be told by describing the latest version. The performer begins by borrowing a silk hat, or, as he says, "a tall hat or no hat at all." "I want to show you," he continues, "the most improved method of cooking, without range, gas or oil stove or even a chafing dish. I would especially direct the attention of young unmarried ladies and of bachelors, young and old, to the advantages of this method. For my own part, I am delighted with it. Let me give you an ocular demonstration of what may be done with it, for example, let us try an omelet."
He deliberately breaks an egg and drops it visibly and unmistakably into the hat. This he follows with flour from a dredging-box and salt from a salt-cellar. "Don't forget the salt," he says, "if you would have a palatable omelet." Finally, he beats up the mixture with a spoon, and then, of a sudden, there is a burst of flame from the interior of the hat. Clapping a plate on the opening of the hat, the performer turns it over, and produces—not an omelet, but a large and beautiful bouquet.
The apparatus for this trick is not at all complicated, and if our readers will follow our directions carefully, they need have no trouble in preparing it. It consists of a tin cylinder, four and a half inches in height and five inches in diameter. It is open at both ends, but in the middle there is a partition that divides it into an upper and lower part, as in A and B, Fig. 168. This partition also forms a bottom for both parts, A and B, depending on the position of the cylinder, whether A or B is uppermost. In the center of the partition is a hole, C, an inch and a quarter in diameter, which is crossed by a small bolt, D. Secured to the bottom of A by four upright pieces of spring brass that clamp it at different points, is a tin box, E, Fig. 169, which has a tightly-fitting hinged cover.* So much for part A. Securely soldered to the bottom of B is one end of a slightly tapering spiral spring, F, measuring four and a quarter inches in diameter at the larger end and four inches and a half in length. The smaller end of the spring is soldered to a disk of strong tin, H, that is three inches in diameter. One end of a stout wire, J, three inches long, is soldered to the center of this disk, and the other end is twisted into a ring. The ring end passes through the hole C in the partition and the bolt, D, is run through the ring, thus closing up the spring and holding it safely. The cylinder inside and out and both sides of the partition are painted a dull black. At three-quarters of an inch below the edge of A, around the edge of the disk H, and around the cylinder at a point in B just below the partition, tiny holes are punched to admit of a needle being passed in and out for sewing. The work on the cylinder being finished, the outside is covered with chints that is printed with designs of bright-colored flowers on a dark ground. Good paste with a few strong stitches will do this work. When that is done, the spiral spring, F, is also covered with a bag, made of the same chints, that extends from the bottom of the partition in B to the disk H; this should be sewed on. Finally, on the outside of the cylinder and also on the bag are sewed muslin artificial flowers and leaves, covering every spot, so as to make what will look like a large, handsome bouquet. When the spiral spring is pushed up inside of B and fastened by passing the bolt through the ring of J, a compact package is made that will easily go into a hat, while on withdrawing the bolt we have quite a presentable bouquet.
* The drawing of this box, E. Fig. 169, is greatly out of proportion, for the original is a very small box.
Fig. 169 The box E
One more article that is needed is a small iron spoon. This has a wooden handle modeled to look like the metal handle of a spoon and covered with silver leaf. With the spring brought up and fastened in place by the bolt, and the "bouquet" properly fixed the performer is ready to begin his trick. Prior to ringing up the curtain, he sticks part of a wax match in the center of a small portion of red fire, and then wraps the whole in black tissue paper, letting the business end of the match stick through. This little packet he lays on his table where he can put his hand on it. The bouquet is laid on the shelf back of the table. When the performer goes to borrow the hat, he holds in his hand, bunched up and concealed by his wand a large silk handkerchief. He receives the hat with his left hand and bringing it near his face, as if to read the maker's name, his right hand passes over the mouth of the hat and drops the handkerchief inside. Going to his table he stands the hat on it and begins to tell what he is about to do, as already narrated. Passing to the back of his table he picks up the hat with his left hand and looks into it. "Ah," he says, "the gentleman has left something here." He shakes out the handkerchief, pressing his left thumb on some part of it as it falls, so as to half-stop it for the moment, and at the same time his right hand takes up the "bouquet." The mouth of the hat is turned down, and near the top of the table. The performer pushes the handkerchief, that is now out, with the brim of the hat, toward the front of the table. Leaning over as if to look more closely at the handkerchief, the hat is, naturally, drawn toward the back edge of the table for a second, and in that second he claps the "bouquet" into it. If done deliberately, carefully, and not too hurriedly, no one is the wiser. Of course the part B goes in first. On the table stand an empty dredging-box, supposed to contain flour, a glass saltcellar, filled with white paper, a plate with an egg on it, and a dinner-knife. Deliberately putting a hand inside the hat, the performer opens the box E, then picking up the egg, he breaks it with the knife, and drops it into the box. He again puts his hand into the hat and closes the box, and as he brings his hand out, wipes his fingers, apparently, on the brim of the hat. Then he pretends to shake in flour and salt, and finally calls for a spoon. His right hand rests for a second on the table, and picks up the packet of red fire. Just then his assistant enters with a spoon on a plate. The bowl of the spoon has been held in a gas light till it is almost at a white heat. Taking it by the wooden handle, he pretends to stir up the omelet and laying the red fire inside the box E, touches the head of the match with the hot spoon, and the fire flames up. "That's cheerful," says the performer. "Everyone enjoys that except the owner of the hat, he does not see it in the same light." When the fire burns out, he closes E, carefully draws the bolt D, which causes the spring F to extend, and claps a plate over the mouth of the hat which he then turns over. He slowly lifts the hat, and reveals the bouquet, so that all may see and admire it. Throughout the trick a running fire of jokes and small talk should be kept up. The trick is not difficult, but requires practice to carry it out well and also good acting.