A very amusing trick can be performed when an entertainment is given in the country, or anywhere where a few very young chickens are procurable. Take four or five of these, and put them in a black alpaca or silk bag, the mouth of which is tied with cotton, and is easy to open. Place the bag on the shelf. Be provided with a blown egg, not too large, which palm. Borrow a hat, and find the egg in any way you please, and then retire to the stage. Place the hat on its side on the table, with the crown towards the audience, and the brim over the back edge, just where the bag is placed on the shelf. Do not place the hat in the desired position at once, but try it in various places first, and finally decide that the position in which you place it is the only secure one. Stand at the end of the table (R), and place the left hand on the brim of the hat, to hold it steady. With the right hand take the egg, and, after one or two feints, make a pass at the crown of the hat with it. Palm the egg and rub the hat, as if the egg had gone through it. This process of palming is not difficult when the egg has been made light, by blowing out the inside; the small end fits nicely between the two fleshy portions of the hand. Find another egg (i.e., the same one), in your leg, wand, or elsewhere, and pass it through the hat as before, and repeat the operation as often as you have chickens inside the bag. This bag will have to be introduced into the hat with the left hand, and the best time for doing this is when the right hand is engaged in finding another egg on any part of your person. It is not advisable to do it when the hat is first set down, as the eyes of the audience are full upon it. This is an illustration of misdirection. When you have "passed" the requisite number of eggs through the hat, raise it and bring it forward, remarking that not only have eggs passed through, but they have all become hatched. (The hatching can, of course, be done over a candle.) Great astonishment and amusement will be caused when you produce the chickens one by one. Before removing the last one secure the bag in the hand, for it will never do to allow the audience to see that. The egg you, of course, vest before commencing to reveal the contents of the hat. This trick is but little known, which is a pity, as it is a very simple one, and invariably causes great amusement. It also serves to vary the conventional list of tricks performed with hats.
There is a capital method for collecting the eggs for this trick in place of finding each one with the hand, and "passing" it through the crown of the hat. The hat is loaded, as before, with the chickens in a bag, and placed upon a side table, as being the least suspicious, brim upwards. The performer now takes a handkerchief, which is lying carelessly about, and opens it out. It is then doubled lengthwise, perpendicularly, and, held by opposite ends; one end is tilted over the hat, when an egg slides out. The handkerchief is then opened out to show that it is perfectly empty, is taken up by two corners, folded, and once more emptied of an egg into the hat. This process is repeated as often as necessary, when the handkerchief is put aside and the trick proceeded with, as before described.
The secret of the handkerchief is that on one side is suspended a blown egg, by means of a piece of black silk thread. A very thick, or, at any rate, opaque handkerchief, must be employed, so that by no possible chance can the shape of the egg be seen through it. The length of the thread will require nice adjustment, as will also its position on the handkerchief, for naturally it must not be long enough to allow the egg to appear below the lower margin of the handkerchief, when that article is held up by two corners, but must still have an inch or two to spare, to enable it to fall into the hat without being jerked backwards in the least, for so unnatural a movement imparted to a falling egg would at once undeceive the company. The position for the thread to be sewn to the handkerchief is about half way between the centre and a corner. The folding of the handkerchief must be done in a very easy manner, but without imparting a wavy motion to it, for the least lifting of the lower portion will expose the egg. When the handkerchief is folded the performer may go with it to various parts of the room, seeking where he can magically find an egg. The egg found, one of the company may be allowed to feel its contour through the handkerchief. The opening out of the handkerchief, after the egg has been poured from it, requires some attention. The lower end is released, and then the two upper corners are seized, one by either hand, and the handkerchief thrown wide open, showing the side to which the egg is attached. It is then thrown forward, so as to spread over the hat. By this act it has been turned completely over, the audience having seen both sides of it, whilst the egg has been peacefully resting inside the hat, the thread not being sufficiently prominent to become observed. The two corners nearest the performer, originally those belonging to the lower end of the folded handkerchief as the egg was tilted into the hat, are then taken, and the handkerchief drawn off from the hat towards the performer, with an oblique upward motion. The handkerchief is then in the position for refolding, and right for the discovery of a new egg.
One defect which always struck me as being apparent in this method was the fact that the handkerchief could never be given round for examination. This difficulty I surmounted by the following method: The egg and thread I keep apart from the handkerchief until the actual moment for performing the trick arrives. At the loose end of the thread, the length of which has, of course, been previously adjusted to a nicety, I fasten a bent black pin; that is, a very much bent pin—a hook, in fact—with the head end very short and the pointed end very long. The egg lies in my capacious breast pocket, and the hook is fastened in a convenient position in the edge of the coat flap. The handkerchief is given round for examination, and returned to the performer, who, as he retires to the stage, fastens the hook into it. Before he turns for this purpose, he must have fixed his eye upon the place where the hook should go, and have grasped the handkerchief there, so that afterwards he may be able to conclude his movements without turning his eyes upon the immediate scene of operations; not that this need take very long. The pin hook must not be merely stuck through the handkerchief, such a hold being very insecure, but it must be put through and brought back again immediately. This will effectually prevent its slipping out during the manipulations to which the handkerchief is subjected. So soon as the pin is fixed, the performer faces the audience, if otherwise ready, and, taking the handkerchief by the two upper corners, stretches them out, when, by putting his hands away from him in front, the egg will be drawn out of the side pocket. The trick then proceeds precisely as before. If the performer deems it necessary to allow the handkerchief to be again inspected, which is a matter of fancy, he must, prior to commencing, place a white handkerchief in the hat, "in order that the eggs may fall soft, and not make an omelette," he will explain. When the requisite number of eggs have been found, the pin is unhooked, and the egg allowed to remain in the hat, from whence it is removed, folded in the white handkerchief. If the performer observes a suitable handkerchief amongst the company, he may borrow it, when, of course, the egg must be got rid of; but it is not often that this circumstance will occur. It must be admitted that connected with the whole of this trick there are a style and a neatness which are very different from the general run of conjuring tricks.