In its original form the trick presupposes a certain amount of skill in handling cards, for the reason that the performer forces certain cards on the audience. There is, however, an easier way, by use of what is known as a "forcing pack." This is a pack made up of, say, only four different cards, as, for example, the King or the Jack of clubs, trey of hearts, the eight of spades, and the deuce of diamonds, each being repeated ten or twelve times. All of one kind are kept together, and when one lot is placed on another, the Queens at the bottom, it makes a respectable looking pack.
Fig. 66 The Houlette.
With such a pack, a decanter nearly full of water, a metal case with a cork at the bottom (known as an houlette), to hold easily, say, forty cards without binding the edges in any way, and a fine, strong, black silk thread, the performer is almost ready to begin his trick. We say almost ready, for there is still one more matter, a most important one, to be attended to. This is the threading of the cards. For this, besides the forced cards, six other indifferent ones, which we will call a, b, c, d, e, and f, are used. The first card, a, should be, preferably, the King or Jack of clubs. In this a slit about a quarter of an inch in length is cut in the center of the lower edge, and in the slit is inserted one end of the thread, on which there is a large knot to prevent the thread from pulling through. From the bottom the thread is carried up back of the card, and b, c, d, e, and f are placed back of a. Over the tops of these five cards, as near the center as possible, the thread is laid. Taking, say, the trey of hearts, the performer presses it down between b and c, the thread going with it; then the eight of spades is pressed down between c and d and the deuce of diamonds between d and e, the thread being carried down in each case. When this is done the bottom of each of the forced cards rests on the thread, and, as will be readily understood, a gentle pull will cause these cards to come up from the pack, one after another, the trey of hearts the third, and the King of clubs, the card with the knot in it, the last.
The cards thus arranged are laid face down on the performer's table, the loose end of the thread being passed through a small staple or a screw-eye (which is entirely closed, so that the thread may not slip through) at the back of the table, and thence off to a concealed assistant who is to pull it when the time comes. In front of these cards lying on one side is the houlette. Everything being ready, the performer may begin his trick. Taking his forcing pack he goes to a lady whom he requests to draw a card. Remember, there are only four different cards—the ten top cards are all deuce of diamonds; the second lot of ten cards are all eight of spades; the third lot, all the trey of hearts, and the bottom lot the King of clubs. As the lady is about to draw a card the performer runs off the top cards and she naturally takes an eight of spades. As he goes to another lady he passes the top cards to the bottom of the pack, and running over the deuce of diamonds forces one of those, and so on with the trey of hearts and the King of clubs. In order to know when the last card of one kind is reached some performers have the card marked, say, by clipping off a small piece of the lower right-hand corner. When the four cards are drawn and returned to the pack, the performer steps to his table, ostensibly to get the houlette and the decanter, so they may be examined by the audience. As he reaches the table he places the pack of cards upon the threaded cards which are lying behind the houlette, taking care to keep the thread free. When the decanter and houlette are examined the performer places them on the table, the houlette being fixed in the decanter. Then the cards are taken up, placed in their case, and the trick proper begins.
Addressing the lady who drew the deuce of diamonds, he asks the name of her card and requests her to bid it rise. The concealed assistant, holding in his left hand the thread, gently taps it with the side of his right hand; the card obeys at once, and when it is almost entirely out of the pack the performer lifts it out, and takes it to the one who drew it. The second card, the eight of spades, is treated in the same way, and then comes the trey of hearts, and finally, the King of clubs. When this card is ordered to come up it does not obey.
"That's very strange," says the performer. "Are you sure, Madam, that you drew the King?"
"Very sure," answers the lady.
"Please repeat your demand, Madam."
Again she orders the King to come up, but all to no purpose.
The performer shows that he is perplexed. Suddenly his face lights up.
"Ah, I see," he says. "Probably we ought to be more ceremonious in addressing a King. Let us try it."
Turning to the cards, and bowing politely, he says: "Will Your Majesty graciously condescend to honor us with your presence?"
Scarcely is the request made when the card rises from the pack and jumps out.
By adding a duplicate of any one of the cards and threading it so that it will rise just before the card it represents and with its back toward the audience, the performer may create the impression that the card turns over in the pack.
Where it is not practicable to have an assistant to pull the thread, the performer can gain the same effects by fastening the loose end of the thread to the back of the table. In this case he will have to hold the decanter in one hand (See Fig. 67), and by carefully moving it forward the least bit he can cause the cards to come up without exciting any suspicion.
A few years ago, a clever conjurer who, like young Lochinvar, came "out of the West," claimed to have puzzled an old and accomplished performer with another version of the trick. He did not force his cards, but he had an entire pack prepared as follows: On the back of each card near the top and at the center was glued a bit of cardboard about half an inch square. It was glued only at the top of one edge and formed a sort of flap. This pack was held by an assistant at the back of the stage. When the performer began his trick he requested the audience to call out the names of the cards with which he should do the trick. The assistant, who heard the names, immediately selected those cards and arranging them in the order called for, quietly laid them on a table on the stage, from which the performer picked them up and placed them at the back of his pack.
Stretched across the stage at about six feet or more above the floor was a fine black silk thread. One end was fastened to a hook in the scenery frame, the other end passed through a screw-eye in the scenery frame on the opposite side of the stage. On this loose end were fastened two or three cards to act as counter-weights.
Standing under the thread and about a step back of it and holding the pack in his left hand, the performer raised his right hand above his head as if to show there was no thread used and in doing so pressed down the thread and passed it under the loose part of the card-board on the last card. He held on to the other cards tightly. Then with his open right hand about two feet above the pack, he called the card by name and bade it ascend. Loosing his grip of the pack, the prepared card, propelled by the weights on the thread, sprung at once into the outstretched hand. In this way all the chosen cards were made to ascend. (See Fig. 68.)
A second American performer having seen the trick thought out another way of doing it,—and a better way, because it may be done anywhere, as well as on the stage. Here is his method. (See Fig. 69):
The performer procured a long brown hair, from a woman's head, and tied one end of it firmly to a black-headed pin. On the other end he stuck a bit of wax. So that the hair might not pull out of the wax he cut a piece of thin cardboard about one eighth of an inch square. Through this a slit was made about two thirds of the way across. A knot was made in the loose end of the hair which was slipped into the slit and pulled through till the knot caught fast; the hair was then wound through the slit and around the card two or three times which finally was trimmed as small as possible and imbedded in the wax of which only a tiny piece is needed. When the performer was to do the trick he secretly fastened the black pin under the lapel of his coaton the right side, brought the hair down to his hip at which point in his coat he had stuck a second black-headed pin, passed the hair round the head of the pin and stuck the waxed end on the bottom button of the coat. With the hair fixed in this manner there is little danger of it getting in the way, and the performer might wear it all the evening.
For this form of the trick any cards may be taken, they need not be forced. We should advise not more than three be used. As the performer gets them back he has them placed in the center of the pack, and one on top of the other, without it being noticed. To do this easily, he merely slips the little finger of the left hand, in which the pack is held, in the place he opens the pack. When all are gathered he deliberately cuts the pack, and so brings the selected cards to the top. The performer's next move is to pull out the pin at his hip, which will allow the hair to swing loose; remove the waxed end from his coat button, which he may do with his thumbnail, and stick it on the point of his thumb. As he takes the pack from the left hand to stand it upright in that hand he presses the wax on the back of the top card near the top and the center. Then holding the pack upright in his left hand, the right is waved to and fro, under and over, around and about, to show that the cards are not connected with anything, and while making these motions he gets his thumb under the hair. Then by raising the right hand slightly and lowering the left, the back card will shoot up into the right hand which goes down to meet it. The second and third cards are treated in the same way.
Sometimes a mechanical pack is used to make the cards rise. In this form a number of cards are glued solidly together and afterward are cut away, with the exception of the first and last cards, so as to leave nothing but a framework and make a box into which the necessary mechanism is introduced. This consists of a watch movement somewhat similar to that in a musical box. This movement sets in motion two small toothed wheels of steel or rubber, which protrude through slots cut through the front card, about an inch and a quarter apart and about half an inch from the top, as shown in Fig. 70. A tiny projecting pin at the top of this box, sets the movement going or stops it. It is not worth while to go into detail about the mechanism of this box-pack for it is not always reliable. It is an old arrangement, though claimed by a modern conjurer, but has never been popular.
Fig. 70 The Mechanical Pack.
Recently another mechanical pack has been made that dispenses with the aid of an assistant. This consists of a tiny spindle around the center of which is wound a fine silk thread, one end fastened to the spindle, the other to the back of the table on which the goblet rests and holds the cards. At each end of the spindle is a small wheel covered with a little rubber band. The mechanism is simple and seems to be practicable. The spindle rests in a metal frame that fits over the edge of the goblet. With this, as with the other mechanical device, the cards are not forced.
Besides these, a glass tumbler is made, as shown in Fig. 71. In one part of this a narrow slot is cut, running from the bottom of the glass to within an inch of the top. Through this slot the performer, holding the glass in his right hand, sticks his forefinger, and pushes up, one by one, the cards that were drawn by the audience. The cards are not forced, but as they are replaced in the pack are brought to the back by the "pass."
There are other ways of doing this popular trick, all more or less ingenious, but we shall omit mention of them and describe a method that has stood the test of years in the hands of one of our editors, who has exhibited it without failure under most trying circumstances, with the audience on every side of him. The main requisite is a piece of the finest sewing silk, that known as 000, about eighteen inches long. At one end is a bit of conjurer's wax, and at the other is a piece of blackened match. The latter is run through the lowest buttonhole of the performer's vest; the wax is stuck inside of the opening of his shirt front. These three articles with a large goblet, a many-colored Japanese folding fan, and his wand under his right arm, constitute all the "properties." Three cards are freely drawn by the audience, and as they are replaced in the pack are brought to the back by means of the "pass" and false shuffle. If so inclined, the performer may palm these and allow the pack to be shuffled by the audience, replacing the cards at the back before proceeding with his trick. Now mark the exact routine of the movements: Going to his table, the performer places the pack in the goblet with his left hand. At the same time he removes the wax from his shirt front with his right hand and secures it with his thumbnail. "Ah!" he says, "I have neglected to show you this glass. Please examine it and satisfy yourselves that it is not prepared in any way." As he says this he takes out the pack with his right hand and sticks the wax on the back card, near the top edge. The left hand picks up the goblet and when it has been examined replaces it on the table. Then the left hand takes the pack from the right and puts it reversed into the goblet, thus bringing the wax to the lower end of the card. "Pray," says the performer, addressing the person who drew the last card, as the wax is attached to that, "what is the name of your card?" When he is told this he makes a few mesmeric passes over the goblet, and picking up the fan with the right hand opens it and slowly fans the right side of the goblet. As he does this his body bends naturally, pulling the thread taut, and the card slowly rises from the pack. Laying down the fan, he takes the card from the goblet with his left hand; at almost the same moment the right hand takes hold of the card at the bottom, as if to show it better and in doing so removes the wax with the thumbnail and sticks it on his wand, which, as will be remembered is under his right arm. At the same time the left hand puts the card back in the pack. Then the cards are taken from the goblet and sprung from hand to hand, to satisfy the audience that they are not connected with any contrivance to make them rise. The cards are held up with the left hand, while the right rests naturally on the wand, secures the wax with the thumbnail and sticks it on the back card. The left shows the glass and the trick proceeds, following the same routine as described for the first card. When the last card has risen from the glass the wax is replaced on the shirt front. The varicolored fan screens very effectually the presence of the thread from those of the audience who may be at the side. It will be found to be an advantage if the goblet is placed on a slight elevation, say, on a box or some books. Some performers stick the wax on the top button of the vest, but the thread is apt to curl and tangle.