The performer comes forward with a soup-plate in one hand and two silk handkerchiefs in the other. The plate, after being shown empty, is placed upon the ground, inverted, whilst the performer takes the handkerchiefs in his hands, and commences to roll them up in them. He rubs his hands together, and, on opening them, the handkerchiefs are found to have melted completely away. The soup-plate is then raised by one of the company, and the handkerchiefs are found beneath.
The soup-plate portion of the trick is thus easily managed: The performer has balled up under the fingers of the hand holding the plate duplicate handkerchiefs of those he holds openly in the other hand. They are of very fine silk, and so are easily concealed. As he boldly shows the inside of the plate, where the fingers are, the spectators never suspect the presence of the handkerchiefs, or of anything else. As the plate is laid carelessly upon the floor, it is drawn a few inches towards the performer, the side that is towards the company scraping the ground. In this way the handkerchiefs are got underneath. The melting away of the handkerchiefs is accomplished with the aid of the plain-looking implement depicted at Fig. 45. It is constructed of wood, is hollow, and is blackened on the outside. Through the end is a hole, and through that is passed a piece of stout elastic, having a knot on the inside. On the side seam of the vest is sewn a ring, and the end of the elastic, after being passed through this, is brought round the back and left side, and fastened securely to a button in front. This great length is necessary for the facile performance of the trick. When at rest, the wooden holder rests against the ring on the vest. After the performer has finished placing the plate upon the floor, he retires to the stage, and stands sideways to the company. Supposing the holder to be on his right side, that side would be nearest the company. First of all, the sleeves are turned very far back, and then, under cover of the right forearm, the left hand seizes the holder, and, drawing it out of concealment, places it in the right hand, where the handkerchiefs are being held. The performer may get out the holder before this, if he pleases—the proper time for so doing being whenever a favourable opportunity presents itself—and keep it palmed in the right hand. The arm will always prevent the elastic being seen by the company. With his arms outstretched, and the hands together, the performer proceeds to gather in the handkerchiefs by slow degrees, the fingers of the left hand pushing them into the holder. When they are all pushed home, the hands are opened slightly, the left hand only being moved for this purpose, and the holder, thus released, flies back until stopped by the ring. The performer continues rubbing away the handkerchiefs, still supposed to be in his hand, and he must act as though they were being rolled into an ever-decreasing ball, the final kneading being done by the tips of the fingers of the right hand, working in the palm of the left hand. All that now remains is to have the plate lifted. The trick may be prolonged and varied if the performer has a second holder on his left side containing handkerchiefs of other colours to those first used. By getting this holder out and rolling up the handkerchiefs from under the plate, the new handkerchiefs may be got out and the old ones substituted. Or the trick may be done the other way round, and the change executed first, the second handkerchiefs being found under the plate. There is no reason why this trick should not be even more elaborated, and further changes of handkerchiefs made. This may be done by means of a holder, some four inches in length, open at each end, and connected with the elastic by a metal fork-shaped piece, upon which it swivels by means of a pin passing through the centre. Each side can contain handkerchiefs of different colours, the pin through the centre preventing their becoming mixed with one another, and a variety of changes made, which will be intensely bewildering to the spectators, especially as the performer each time gives the handkerchief for examination, and shows his hands empty. The perfect simplicity and completeness of the method of vanishing permits of its being repeated any number of times, each successive change or disappearance causing fresh wonderment. Care must, however, be taken, in each instance, that the handkerchiefs are pressed well home in the holder, as an exposed portion might be seen as it flashed under the coat; whilst there is still greater danger of its subsequently working out and becoming slowly visible to the company. If the great length of elastic which I have recommended were not employed, the performer would not be able to stretch his arms out to their full extent in front of him; and it is highly essential for effect that the hands should be as far removed from the body as possible. The ingenuity of the performer will enable him to employ the holder in many tricks in which handkerchiefs take part.