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   Magic Trick: The Conjuror's "Shuffle"




Nearly all good conjurors preface their card tricks with an exhibition of shuffling, a process always conducted in the showiest manner possible, although, by the time it is completed, it is possible that the position of the cards has not been interfered with in the least. As the term "shuffling" is only employed for want of a better one, and it is merely a question of exhibiting skill, this does not signify. When a conjuror wishes to shuffle the cards, he adopts the specious method generally in use—if he can. According to whether he be a genuine adept, or only a performer of an inferior order, so will the phenomena exhibited to the spectator in this connection vary. In the one case, the performer, holding the cards in the two hands, suddenly opens them very wide apart, the cards spreading, after the manner of a comet's tail, from one hand to the other. For an instant they form an aerial arc, when, before they can fall to the ground, the hands are brought smartly together, collecting the cards by the action. This movement is repeated twice or thrice. This is what the genuine man does. The impostor ostensibly does a very great deal more, for he begins by parting and bringing the hands together again, as one does in playing the concertina, several times, the cards acting the part of the concertina perfectly. He then tosses the cards about from hand to hand in the most nonchalant manner, the cards invariably following one another in an unbroken stream which assumes serpentine and other shapes, at the will of the performer. They are spread along the conjuror's arms, and over his chest, and are invariably gathered in again without a single one being allowed to fall. The feats performed appear to be nothing short of marvellous, until one becomes possessed of the interesting fact that the cards are all sewn together, so that the whole thing is merely child's play. Now, although I have seen conjurors with good reputations using these prepared cards, I entirely disagree with their use myself. In order to deceive the public, one must not be particular about the means employed; but here it is a question of one conjuror setting up to be vastly superior to others, the facts of the case being precisely the other way. As a matter of fact, these prepared cards are only used when the performer is so wanting in skill that he cannot execute the genuine shuffle. Looking, as I do, upon the use of these cards as being unworthy anyone but a music-hall performer, I never hesitate to expose the fraud whenever it is perpetrated. I shall, of course, describe nothing in connection with it, but pass on to the genuine article, which may be at once recognised by the noise accompanying its execution, the fraudulent method being quite noiseless. As the feat is really difficult of accomplishment, its study must be conducted by easy stages. The pack, which should be composed of small cards (the large English ones being very unsuitable), thirty or so in number, is held lengthwise in the right hand (left hand if the performer is very decidedly left-handed) by the thumb at one end, and the first, second, and third fingers at the other end, the body of the hand making an arch over the cards. The left hand is held out, a little lower than the elbow, in front of the body, with the fingers spread out, and slightly curled upwards, the first finger a great deal more than the rest. Now, if the cards be squeezed by the fingers and thumb of the right hand, they will bend thus, ???; but if, just as the pressure is put on, the fore finger of the left hand pushes the centre of the pack from below, the opposite curve will be taken, thus, ???, which is the one wanted. With the cards thus bent, they must be held over the left hand, and more pressure then applied, when they will "squirt" into the left hand, their foremost ends striking against the up curled forefinger, and so being prevented from falling to the floor. In making the squeeze, it will be found that the middle and third fingers use more influence than does the first finger, which is merely an auxiliary at the commencement. The greatest power of all must be exerted by the thumb, which is always pushing the cards forwards with considerable force. The learner must content himself with merely "squirting" the cards from the right hand into the left, at a distance of two or three inches only. When he can do this easily and smoothly, and without dropping any on the floor, he may increase the distance to six or eight inches. This is about the greatest distance he will be able to attain by simple "squirting." In order to make a more effective show, he will have to give to the right hand an upward movement at the moment the cards are pouring from it. This will tend to increase the distance between each card, but as, at the same time, it kills the forward momentum, the cards would simply fall to the ground were they not prevented from so doing. To accomplish this, the left hand must follow them up quickly. For an instant of time they will poise in the air, and then commence to fall; but, at that moment, the left hand comes upward with a rapid sweep, bringing the cards together against the right hand. By not attempting too great a distance at first, the learner will progress more rapidly; and he should not be satisfied until he can compass a distance of two feet. Great experts can accomplish very much more than this. As proficiency is attained, the "shuffle" should be made more across the body, the direction being from the left hip towards the right shoulder, this being more showy. A very difficult, but highly effective, method is to make the "shuffle" the reverse way, i.e., downwards. The left hand is held nearly shoulder high and the cards "squirted" into it, the right hand sweeping downwards in the direction of the right hip. The performer must always direct his practice towards making the cards remain as long in the air as possible. To this end, the movement of the right hand must be exceedingly rapid, so that all the cards are visible to the spectators at once; and the longer the left hand dallies, the more rapid must be its motion towards the right hand. It must be distinctly understood that the two hands do not move simultaneously, there being two decided movements, one following the other. Old cards are useless for this feat, as they come off in batches, and have no spring. American cards are a trifle too thin, and are only good when new, whilst the regulation English whist card is too thick; therefore a medium thickness must be chosen. The finest quality cards will be found the cheapest to use, as they stand the strain better. Inferior cards soon become demoralised by the rough treatment to which the "shuffle" subjects them. After using a pack faces downwards for some time, turn it over, and use with the faces upwards, changing back again when the spring of the cards becomes weak.

Properties.—Besides the auxiliary articles mentioned in connection with various tricks, there are some that are of general application which the conjuror should always have in readiness. They are here enumerated and described:

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