Magic Trick: The Obliging Bouquet

This trick resembles to a great extent The Ascending Cards, and was one of Hermann's many masterpieces. As performed by him, it outshone, in exquisite neatness and effect, all other card tricks; but the amount of skill and daring necessary to carry it properly through is considerable, and persons of nervous or uncertain dispositions had better consider well before they attempt it. At the same time, those with the requisite skill and nerve may earn incalculable glory by including this trick occasionally in their programmes. The description of it (never before made public) is as follows: A bouquet of real flowers is handed to a lady in the audience, and three or four cards are then chosen from the pack. These cards are made to disappear. One by one they are then seen to rise from the bouquet, which is still held by the lady.

As in The Ascending Cards, a case for holding cards is required, but in this instance it is made of zinc, and just large enough to take about eight cards. The outside is painted dark green. This case must be prepared beforehand, with cards, as described in The Ascending Cards, with the exception that human hair is substituted for silk. It is also as well either to have the intermediate cards, i.e., those over which the hair passes, fixed permanently, or else to have partitions of the same material as the case. The loose end of the hair should have a tiny bead of wax on it, and the case must be placed in the centre of the bouquet, in such a position that, although it is not visible from the outside, yet the cards will have a tolerably free passage for their ascent. If possible, bring the mouth of it just beneath two buds of roses, which will give to the slightest pressure, and allow the card to come up between them. The hair should hang down between the buds, passing between the stalks. The greatest care must necessarily be taken in arranging all this, and the trick rehearsed within an hour of its performance, to make sure of everything being safe.

Bring the bouquet on, and, selecting the lady least likely to interfere with your arrangements (this selection should be made whilst you are on the stage performing other tricks), ask her to kindly hold the bouquet for you, calling attention to the fact that the flowers are real ones. If possible, always have the bouquet held in the front row of the audience, and take care that the hair is towards you all the time. Now "force" duplicate cards of those in the bouquet, and then cause them to vanish as you please. As looking the most skilful, I prefer palming to any other method, on all occasions. If, from knowing the cards as you "forced" them, you are aware who took particular cards, you can ask the person who chose the duplicate card of the first in the case, the name of it, and then desire that one to rise from the bouquet. On hearing the name of the card, or just before, advance to the bouquet, and ask the holder of it if she saw the fairies bring the cards to the flowers, or any other fanciful question you please, and then, under the pretence of having it held a little higher or lower, or a little more to the right or to the left, advance the hand to the bouquet, and so obtain possession of the end of the hair. A good deal of deceptive action must now be introduced, the wand being put into the hand holding the hair, which must then be pulled very slightly indeed, and if the card rises the strain can be continued. Just before the card shows itself, say, "No! I am afraid the fairies have been disobedient to-day." This will momentarily remove the interest of the audience from the bouquet, and attention will be directed to you, as if inquiring what will be done next. This is the opportunity you must seize for causing the card to rise, and then exclaim, "Ah! there is one, after all." Run the card up quickly, and take it out of the bouquet, or, if it appears to be very loose, allow the holder of the bouquet to remove it. If, at this juncture, you fancy your temporary assistant is at all suspicious, at once take the bouquet to someone else; but on no account take this step if all is going on well. Ask the name of the next card, which cause to rise in the same manner, and repeat the operation with the remaining card or cards. As the hair becomes gradually longer, you will be enabled to stand a little further off on each occasion. You must contrive to alter your attitude as often as possible, and also endeavour to look quite unconcerned. The best way to assume this by no means easy appearance, is to affect to be rather more amused at the ascension of the cards from the bouquet than the audience itself. One ticklish point is in ascertaining whether everything is in order. This never reveals itself until the first pull is made, when, if there is anything wrong, a jerk will be felt by the holder of the bouquet, and, in all likelihood, a clue to your secret will be given. If you only so much as fancy that anything is wrong, take hold of the bouquet with your disengaged hand, without taking it away from the holder of it, and have it held a trifle higher or lower. This will enable you to give a precautionary pull without allowing any strain to be felt. Such a thing as a hitch ought not to take place, for the previous arrangements should be so perfect as to do away with all possibility of such an occurrence. The cards all out of the case, inquire, for the sake of effect, if there are any more chosen ones that have not appeared, and then take the bouquet round, allowing people to smell at it, &c. This is really to enable you to remove the case from the bouquet, but ostensibly to show that the flowers are real. The best way of removing the case is through the stems of the flowers, and for this purpose it is made of zinc, it being a weighty metal. As it is a small affair, it can easily be palmed. The bouquet should be then presented to the lady who held it during the performance of the trick, with the request that the flowers should be examined to see if there be any preparation about them.

Taking into consideration the difficulty in performing the trick, the desirability of having as small a case as possible, and the usual shortness of hair, it is advisable to force only three cards, although three or four hairs may be employed. When I first saw Herrmann perform this trick, I was simply appalled at the audacity required to perform it successfully; but experience has taught me that, with practice, it is as easy as many other tricks which are not one quarter so effective. The difficulties to be overcome are causing the first card to rise without being discovered, and removing the case. It will be found that if the bouquet is held a little lower (only a few inches) than the hand holding the hair, there will be less likelihood of any strain taking place. If the performer pleases, the chosen cards can be torn up or burnt in the first instance, but the destruction is a needless one.

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