Magic Trick: The Assembly

In this trick, four cards are laid separately on the table, in a row, and upon each card three more are placed from the pack, making four heaps of four cards each. The company themselves select one of the four heaps, which is found to consist entirely of the four cards that were only just previously laid upon the table, apart from each other, the remaining three heaps consisting of four different cards each. To accomplish this, the performer commences operations by picking out of the pack four cards of any one denomination, say, the knaves. This is far better than having four different cards selected, as the trick is one of startling effect, and four picture cards are better for the purpose, apart from the fact that no one in the company is called upon for an effort of memory. The performer gives the four knaves to one of the company, and seizes an opportunity for palming three cards. He now allows the four knaves to be placed upon the top of the pack, which he holds in the left hand, supplementing secretly the three palmed cards. He then proceeds to deal off the four topmost cards, one by one, placing them in a row, divided by a few inches, saying, as he does so, "Here I place one knave, here a second, here a third, here a fourth." After he has placed the fourth card, which will naturally be the only one of the four that is really a knave, upon the table, he pauses for a moment or two, and then turning it over remarks, pensively, "Ah! the knave of diamonds," or whichever it may be. This is really to let the spectators see the only knave there is, in order to convey the impression that all the rest are knaves also, they being led to fancy the performer looks at the suit of it for the purposes of the trick. The remaining three knaves are now, of course, on the top of the pack, the three palmed cards and one knave having been removed from above them. It is open to the performer to place these three at once on the top of the fourth knave, and this is generally done, but I do not at all advise it. Invariably make a pass at this point, so as to bring the three knaves to the centre of the pack, keeping the place where they are well defined by a finger, or by a break in the pack. I then place the three cards now on the top upon one of the three ordinary cards, emphasising the fact that they come from the top. I then open the pack a little lower down, and taking three cards from there, place them upon another ordinary card. The middle of the pack, where the three knaves are, is now reached unsuspiciously enough, and they are, of course, placed upon the fourth knave. Three more ordinary cards, from still deeper down in the pack, are placed upon the remaining ordinary card, as much deliberation being paid to this last card as to any other, or the conjuror's manner may reveal that he has accomplished what he wanted, however unknown its precise nature may be. The selection of a heap then proceeds precisely as described in The Lady's Own Trick, first two, and then one being removed. The four knaves are then shown together in the supposed selected heap.

A second method depends upon the neat execution of the pass, and is to be commended because, each time three cards are placed upon one of the four lying upon the table, they are first shown to be ordinary mixed cards, and not knaves. Three cards are palmed, and placed upon top of the four knaves, as in the first method, and the three ordinary cards and one knave are placed in a row, as before. Three mixed cards are then taken from any part of the pack, their faces shown casually, and they are then put upon an ordinary card. This is gone through three times, the knave being left till the last. As if by mistake, the performer places the three cards, which he has shown to be mixed ones, upon the cards in his left hand, instead of upon the knave on the table. At this instant the three are passed to the bottom, the right thumb at once taking off the three knaves, as though they were the cards just placed there by mistake. On no account must the performer make any apology; he need merely say, "Oh! that's wrong; they must go here," and place the cards upon the knave. One must be perfect in making the pass before attempting this method; but it is very easy indeed to pass so few cards as three from top to bottom.

A third method is also accomplished by means of the pass, and is preferred by many conjurors. The four cards are shown, and, as they are being put upon the pack, the little finger is passed between the third and fourth, three cards thus being above it. The insertion of the little finger is in all cases greatly facilitated if the cards are spread a little, fanwise, at the moment of placing them on the pack. The three topmost cards (knaves) are immediately passed to the bottom, leaving one knave on the top, and the little finger kept between them and the rest of the pack. This card is then placed upon the table, its face being accidentally (?) shown to the spectators, and three others (ordinary cards) successively laid beside it. Three ordinary cards, always taken from the top, are then placed upon each of the ordinary ones lying singly upon the table, the audience seeing their faces each time, and then the pass is made, bringing the three knaves from the bottom back again to the top. These three cards are then placed upon the other knave, which brings about the desired state of affairs. As these three knaves cannot be shown to be ordinary cards, as was each preceding set of three cards, I here recommend the conjuror to make use of a little ruse of mine. It is to take off from the pack four, instead of three, cards, the three knaves thus having an ordinary card beneath them. Holding the edges even, so that only the lowest card can be seen, the performer says, "Now I once more take three cards, and"—here he turns them over, and, spreading them slightly, discovers four cards, so he continues, "Oh! I see, I have taken one card too many." He then removes the underneath card, and places the remaining three upon the knave. To show the faces of three out of four heaps of cards and not those of a fourth, causes suspicion to be thrown upon the latter. By adopting the ruse described, this is ostensibly done; at any rate, sufficiently so to satisfy the spectators, which is all that is desired.

A fourth method is bolder still, and calls for a masterly execution of the change. Matters progress precisely as in the second method, except that the three knaves are always slightly pushed off the top of the pack, ready to be exchanged at any moment. It is just as easy to change three cards as one by the method illustrated at Fig. 36. The fourth time is perhaps again the most favourable for the substitution, as the performer may cover the action of changing by handing the pack to be held. Holding the pack, with the knaves on the top, in the left hand, and the three ordinary cards in the right, he should turn round suddenly to someone on his extreme left, and somewhat behind him, when every opportunity will be afforded for executing the sleight. Or the act may be gone through by giving the last three cards to someone on the performer's left to place upon the remaining uncovered knave, when the same facility for an exchange will be afforded.

Yet a fifth method remains, which is a very fine one indeed, if the performer should happen to be an adept at changing. To attempt this method, he must be absolutely perfect in this sleight. The four knaves are first thrown down upon the table, faces upwards. One is then taken in the right hand, and three cards put upon it from the top of the pack, held in the left hand. That is what the performer appears to do, but, in reality, as he approaches the pack with the knave, the change is effected, the knave being thereby placed at the bottom of the pack. As he executes the change, the performer says, "I will now take three more cards from the pack," and, under cover of the quite natural action of bringing the knave into proximity to the pack, the change, if only adroitly executed, will pass unnoticed. The three cards required are drawn off by means of the right thumb, and the heap of four placed at a corner of the table. A second knave is similarly treated, followed by a third. Three knaves are now at the bottom of the pack. The performer may now either make the pass, bringing the three knaves to the top, and then place them upon the fourth, or else he may say that he will take three cards from the bottom of the pack, to show that it is immaterial to him from whence they come. As the feat of changing three times in succession is materially assisted by some freedom of movement, it is as well to place the four heaps at the corners of the table, wide apart, the performer being thereby compelled, in the eyes of the company, to move about a good deal. The one great feature connected with this method is, that the four knaves are shown faces upwards, until the very moment of their being placed in a heap. In each of the last three methods, the selection of the knave heap proceeds as described in the first method.

The five methods described give the conjuror his choice according to his greater facility with the pass, the palm, or the change; and he will also find that they are capable of far wider application, in connection with other card tricks.