This is another amusing trick, in which handkerchiefs are destroyed and restored in a most lavish manner. Beyond the preparation of a couple of handkerchiefs, and the use of a conjuring pistol, no apparatus is required, if the trick be performed after the following method, which is according to my own arrangement, and in keeping with my belief in sleight of hand as opposed to apparatus.
Purchase three common coloured cotton handkerchiefs, all of precisely the same pattern, and from the centre of one of them cut a circular piece some three or four inches in diameter. Replace this with a white piece, so that you have a coloured handkerchief with a white centre. Take a white handkerchief, and cut from its centre a circular piece just a trifle smaller than that from the coloured handkerchief, which latter then sew in the centre of the white handkerchief. A friend of yours in the audience should have the second of the coloured handkerchiefs in his pocket, and receive instructions to the effect that, when you ask for a handkerchief in a particular manner (you can easily arrange a sort of by-word between yourselves), he is to offer this particular handkerchief, which you tardily accept. This is one of the very rare occasions on which I permit myself to have a confederate in the audience; and I only do it because (1) a really capital trick would otherwise be impossible of performance, and (2) because it is not at all necessary that your confederate should know anything about the trick. I always say that it is necessary for me to have in such-and-such a trick a coloured handkerchief, merely for effect, and it is rarely that people bring coloured handkerchiefs with them, so, to avoid disappointment, &c., &c. If the person who officiates be a dullard, he will be none the wiser, and if he be a relative, as he should be, he is tolerably safe. Coloured handkerchief No. 3 you have rolled up in a piece of paper and placed in your capacious breast pocket. Besides these, you must have in the palm of one hand an ordinary white handkerchief concealed. The two prepared handkerchiefs already described are done up in paper in the shape of a ball and placed upon the shelf at the back of the table, on the top of which are lying a few loose sheets of paper similar to that in which the handkerchiefs are wrapped. Also on the table are two plates, some methylated spirits, a lighted candle, two pairs of scissors, or else two sharp knives, and a funnel pistol. Advance to the audience, with the white handkerchief concealed in the palm, and borrow two handkerchiefs—one a white one, at hazard, except that you endeavour to let it be one somewhat similar to your own, and the other, the coloured one, from your friend. Exchange the white handkerchief for your own, as in the preceding trick, and vest it, and then give both white and coloured handkerchiefs to be held by separate persons. Each handkerchief should be held horizontally by the two hands, one holding the very centre of it, and the other grasping it a few inches away. Give the scissors or knives to two other persons, and bid them mark the handkerchiefs. At first some hesitation will be shown at cutting the handkerchiefs, but you must say there is no fear. From the position in which each handkerchief is held, it will be incumbent on anyone cutting between the hands of the person holding it to take a piece clean out of the centre. When this cutting is over (you might do it yourself, only it looks more genuine and creates more fun to have it done by the audience), say that there will be no mistaking the handkerchiefs now, for they are marked with a vengeance. Now take the mutilated coloured handkerchief and the white piece, and put them on one plate, the the mutilated white handkerchief and coloured piece being put on the other. Pour spirits on both, and set fire to them. When they are well ablaze, pretend to discover that you have made the mistake of mixing the colours, and endeavour (fruitlessly, of course) to take out the burning pieces. Remark that it is a very bad job, as you had hoped to have shown a specimen of your skill, but now everything is spoilt through your forgetfulness. Your stage attendant can attend to the burning of the handkerchiefs, if you so please, in which case you can give him a good blowing up, and threaten to discharge him on the spot. The more penitent he can manage to look, the better it will be for the effect of the trick. Take the ashes, and put them in a piece of the paper which is on the table, and, whilst affecting to put this in a second piece, exchange it for the prepared handkerchiefs in paper on the shelf. This method is very easy, and is thus performed: Stand at the end of the table, and, with the hand that is nearest the audience, raise a piece of paper partly from the table, but not so much as to enable the audience to see under it, and behind this temporary screen the exchange can be effected by means of the rear hand with impunity, providing it is done quickly but not hurriedly, and with the eyes turned towards the audience, to whom the performer is impressively descanting on the many vicissitudes which chequer a conjuror's career. Directly the two parcels are safely exchanged, go forward and give the paper to be held by one of the audience. An ordinary pistol can now be let off, or a word of command given, and the paper then opened. Affecting not to notice that there is anything wrong, you proceed to return the handkerchiefs to their respective owners. Laughter will, of course, ensue, and you will then appear to be overwhelmed with confusion. Borrow a hat, put the handkerchiefs in it and take them out again, and finally drop one on the floor. The action of stooping to pick it up will enable you to bring the opening of the hat against your breast, and you must seize this opportunity of slipping the roll from the breast pocket into it. Go back to the table and place the hat upon it, and then, taking up the funnel pistol, ram the handkerchiefs into it, with the remark that you may as well get rid of them altogether. Fire the pistol, and then ask if anyone saw anything pass into the hat, as you fancy you did. Go to the hat and produce the roll, which open, and show the coloured handkerchief. Spread this out, to show that the centre is perfectly restored, and, whilst going forward with it, take the white handkerchief, unperceived, from the vest, and roll it up inside the coloured one. Then say, "Ah! but we have not the white handkerchief yet; well, perhaps we shall be able to find it." Rub the coloured handkerchief in the hands, with the white one inside, and, finally, open both and return to their owners. This finale is, perhaps, the most difficult part of the trick. Take care when the funnel pistol is fired that you either stand it upon its broad end, or else place it upon the table with the mouth from the audience. Although, to the audience, an enormous amount of destruction appears to be going on, such is not really the case, as two handkerchiefs only are destroyed in the trick.