The performer produces a solid wooden ball, having a thick cord passing through it, and this he allows the company to examine. It is seen that the cord passes freely through the hole. Placing one end of the cord under his foot, he holds the other end at arm's length, so that the cord is perpendicular. With the disengaged hand, the ball is raised up to the other, and, on being released, of course falls to the ground; when, however, the performer gives the word for it to remain at the top of the cord, instead of descending, it obeys. He then points with the wand to a part of the cord a foot or so down, and the ball at once descends so far, and then stops dead. To any place on the cord that is indicated by the performer or any of the company the ball will stop and remain.
The secret of this is, that the hole is not drilled straight through the ball, but has an angle, or bend, in it. The result is, that when the cord is pulled tight the ball is held, but when it is slackened the ball falls, a sudden tightening being sufficient to arrest it in its career.
A very good form of ball is that now generally sold. It has a very large hole indeed, quite a dozen times larger than the cord passing through it. This hole is slightly tapered, and the cord is passed through a small plug fitting into the hole. This plug is concealed in the performer's hand as he holds the cord, at one end of which is a big knot, or tassel. The plug has a crooked hole drilled through it, and when the ball is run down the cord, so as to get the plug inside it, the two become one, and the ball behaves precisely as it would were it itself prepared. As the spectators, however, fancy the ball to be strung on a cord that is many times smaller than the opening, the force which causes the object to remain wherever it is ordered, in defiance of the laws of gravitation, is quite inexplicable. I once saw a Chinaman with a doll which went both up and down a cord. This was very ingenious and diverting, but was too obviously mechanical.
A neat way of performing this trick, and one which I recommend for drawing-room use, is to take a ball of worsted and thread it with cotton or thread, the threading not being done straight through the ball, but crookedly. This ball will then be found quite amenable to discipline, and, of course, not the least suspicion can attach to it, the worsted being borrowed from the hostess's work-basket, and the threading done before the company's eyes. In any form, this trick is not sufficiently important for the stage, there being no variety or change in it.