No prettier trick was ever presented to an audience than this. It was originally introduced in London by Colonel Stodare, and was brought to this country in 1867 by Joseph M. Hart, better known as M. Hartz, the Man with "The Devil of a Hat," and later was invariably included in Kellar's program. In exhibiting this trick the performer uses two tables draped nearly to the floor (in the original production three tables were used, but Kellar used two only). On the top of each is a circular piece of metal supported on light wire legs. Attention is first called to a cardboard cone open at both ends, and positively empty as the audience may readily see. Besides the tables and the cone there are two flowerpots, made of pasteboard, to resemble the common red clay pots. These are filled with sand. They are placed on the little metal stands that are on the table, and as there is considerable space between the top of the stand and the top of the table it does away with the suspicion that might arise that the flowers came from below. The performer covers one of the pots with the cone and on raising it a bud is seen just above the sand. He covers it a second time and this time when he raises the cone a beautiful bush of flowers is in the pot. The second pot is now placed on a small table, without drapery of any kind, that stands nearer the audience. This is covered with the cone and when that is again lifted the second pot contains a rose bush fully fifteen inches high.
The average layman when asked for an explanation of the trick generally suggests that it is done by a spring. A very natural explanation for, as we all know, Spring brings up the flowers. This case, however, is somewhat different, as our readers will now learn. Besides the cone that the audience see, two other cones play an important part. These fit one in the other, and both, eventually, go into the visible cone. Behind each table, near the point where the drapery ends, there is a shelf. On this shelf stands a plant, covered with a cone that fits inside Cone No. 1. The base of this plant is a moss-covered wooden disk that goes into the mouth of a flower-pot. From this disk a green cord ending in a ring leads up to the top of its cone, where the ring goes over a flat hook inside the cone and near the top. Picking up the cone that the audience have just examined the performer holds it with both hands, one at each end, and covers the first flower pot. As he does this he drops from the top a rose bud that is fastened to a small, loaded spike, so that it will be sure to fall, right side up, into the sand. This spike he takes out of his vest pocket or from his table, and holds between the second and third fingers of his right hand which goes inside the top of the cone, as he is about to cover the pot. Now comes the most important move of the trick. The performer stands with his right side to the table, and lifting the cone to show the bud, he lets it drop in the most natural way over the cone that contains the first bush. Seizing the two cones with his fingers inside, he passes back of the table and stepping out on its right (as it faces the audience) he carries with him the loaded cones in his right hand and the flower pot in his left, to show the bud. This flower pot he replaces on its table. Then he covers it with the cone and releasing the ring inside the second cone, lifts off the two cones, revealing the bush standing in the pot. As he lifts the cones he drops them over the third cone, that is back of the second table, and almost immediately passes back of the table, to the front, carrying the three cones with the second bush. It might seem as if the audience would notice this movement, but it is so natural and the cone is out of sight for such a brief moment, that nine out of ten people in the audience would declare, if asked, that they had not lost sight of it for a second.
Going now to the undraped table on which he stands the second pot, the performer covers that and as he raises the cone he turns the mouth momentarily toward the audience so that they see it is empty. The attention of the audience, however, is so fixed on the second bush, that they hardly give a glance at the cone.
Several attempts have been made to improve this trick, so as to do away with the draped tables. One of these is worth mentioning on account of its ridiculous ending. The performer who attempted this improvement decided that he would have the flowers run up from below into the cone, as it rested for a moment on the stage. The idea proved better than the execution, for on the first night when the performer gracefully rested the cone on the stage a trap opened on the opposite side, and a bush was thrust up in full sight of the amused audience.
A real improvement on the trick was devised by that graceful and brilliant performer, Mr. Karl Germain, whose retirement from the stage is regretted by all who have had the pleasure of witnessing his performance.
In his version, a single uncovered flower pot stood on a table. Standing near it Germain began to fan the pot, when gradually there appeared to spring from it a few leaves. These were followed by buds, and then the plant increased in height until it was fifteen to eighteen inches above the top of the pot. That the flowers on it were real there could be no doubt, for the performer cut them off and distributed them to the ladies in the audience.
Before beginning the trick proper, the performer passes around for examination a flower pot filled with earth. This pot is in two parts, an inner and an outer part. The outer is a mere shell, without a bottom. The inner, which contains the earth, is held in place by two bayonet catches or in any way that the ingenuity of the performer may suggest. When he returns to his stage, he rests the pot for a moment on a side table, while he turns to speak to the audience. As he stands the pot on the table he releases the catches and the inner part sinks, of its own weight, through a trap. The outer part or shell of the pot the performer finally places on his center table in a place that is hollowed out to receive the bottom part, which stands over an opening. Under this table is a tube leading up to the opening in the table top. Inside this tube is the bush fastened to a solid base, and at the proper time it is pulled up into the pot either by clock work or by cords leading off to a concealed assistant. The center table is of the three-legged variety, but is shaped so that all three legs may be seen from any part of the house. It is, in fact, almost a round frame with a triangular shaped top. The space between the legs is filled in with black velvet and back of the table hangs a handsome bright plush curtain, the lower part of which, from a distance of about four and a half feet above the stage, is of black velvet. The result is that the audience imagine that they see under the table. The effect is somewhat similar to that produced by a "Sphinx table," but requires fewer curtains and does away with the danger of breaking expensive glasses.