Take four well-shaped pieces, of a medium size, and place them before you on a table, at which you will sit at your ease, in the form of a square, and about a foot from each other. Hatch up a long rigmarole about one piece being the Emperor of Japan, another his wife, another his daughter, and another his prime minister, or any other rubbish you please, so long as you bring it about that it is necessary that all four should assemble together in one place. In the country of which you are speaking, you will explain, it is the custom of Royalty to travel by telegraph, and invisible to the gaze of the "common herd." To illustrate how it is done, you will cover two of the four pieces, each with a separate hand, and, at the word "pass," make a slight movement as if throwing a piece from one hand to the other. On raising the hands, two pieces will be found under one, and none under the other. Repeat this operation (the minority always going over to the majority) until all four pieces are collected under one hand. The explanation of this really pretty, and, to the uninitiated, inexplicable trick, is, that you have a fifth piece of sugar palmed. If this piece be released, and that under the other hand palmed, the effect is the same as if an invisible journey had really been made. Supposing the five pieces of sugar to be represented by numerals, the various changes may be thus tabulated:
|Left Hand.||Right Hand.|
|1.—Raise 1||and||Drop 5 with 2.|
|2.—Drop 1 with 5 and 2||and||Raise 3.|
|3.—Raise 4||and||Drop 3 with 1, 5, and 2.|
|4.—Raise both hands and pocket 4.|
The rough and adhesive nature of sugar renders it very easy to palm. In palming, avoid all contraction of the muscles of the back of the hand, which is visible to the audience, or a clue to the solution of the trick will be given. If going out to a place where you are likely to be asked to exhibit your skill, be provided with a piece of sugar, and then ask for the requisite four pieces. If you are unprovided, then you must secure possession of the sugar basin, and secrete the extra piece as best you can. The extreme simplicity of this trick is only equalled by the astonishment of the audience, who are straining their eyes to catch a glimpse of the piece of sugar as it passes. I need hardly remark that they never succeed.
Knives, I think I may say, are also tolerably common articles, and some good tricks are performed with them. Take a cheese knife and four tiny squares of paper. Stand facing your audience, however small it may be, and, wetting the papers separately, stick two on each side of the blade, taking care that the positions on both sides correspond as nearly as possible. Hold the knife before you in the fingers of the right hand (Fig. 19), and in such a position that only one side of the blade is visible. With the thumb and finger of the left hand remove the piece of paper nearest the handle, and, putting your hand behind your back, make a feint of throwing it away, without actually doing so. Now, with a rapid movement, cause the knife to describe a half circle in the air still with the same side uppermost; but the position of the hand will be slightly altered (Fig. 20), which will lead the audience to think that the knife has been actually turned over. Barely before the movement is completed a finger of the left hand must be upon the spot recently occupied by the piece of paper, as if taking off a second piece from the opposite side. The first piece, which has all the time been in the left hand, is thus made to do duty twice. The second time, it is dropped on the floor in full view of the audience, accompanied by the remark, "that mates the second piece." Now remove the other piece of paper, and repeat the manoeuvre executed with the first piece, taking the greatest care that only one side of the blade is visible, and that the finger of the left hand, with the concealed paper, is down upon the vacant spot before the spectators' eyes can rest there. Having ostensibly removed the fourth and last piece of paper, the knife is supposed to be empty, which you boldly declare to be the case, making a rapid backward and forward movement with the blank side to prove it. You then say you will cause the papers to re-appear upon the knife instantaneously. All you have to do is to put your hand behind your back and reverse the position of the knife so that the side of the blade with the two pieces of paper still remaining upon it is uppermost. Bringing the knife again to the front, make another quick backward and forward movement, saying, "Here are the papers back again on both sides as before," and then, without any further preliminaries, draw the blade through the fingers and cause the two papers to fall upon the floor. If this final movement is not executed, the audience will, when they have recovered their senses, point to the two papers which you dropped on the floor during the performance of the trick, and want to know why they are there and not on the knife. Continued rapidity of motion is what is required for the success of this trick. There must be no halting in the middle or hesitation of any kind, to avoid which practice in private will be essential, as, indeed, it will be with every trick worth doing at all.
Borrow a light penknife, and take care that it is not too sharp, and has a good deep notch at the haft. You are previously prepared with about two feet of very fine black silk, one end of which is attached to a button of your vest, the other end being furnished with a loop large enough to pass over a finger. This can either be wound round the button, or can hang loosely, with the free end looped up. I prefer the latter method, and have never found it lead to any inconvenience, which at first sight it appears extremely likely to do. Also borrow a hock or champagne bottle; pint size preferred. First send round the knife to be examined, and, whilst the examination is going on, get the loop of the silk over the end of one of the fingers of the left hand. When the knife is returned to you, and not before, give the bottle to be examined, and distract the attention of the audience by allusions to the "departed spirits" of the bottle, and admoni- tions to be sure and see that the bottom does not take out. By the time the bottle comes back you have slipped the loop over the blade of the knife and allowed it to catch in the notch, where cause it to remain. If the knife is a sharp one, extra caution must be observed, or the silk will be severed. This actually happened to me on one occasion, so I speak from direful experience. By sending the bottle away to be cleaned, I gained sufficient time to tie another loop in the silk, and went on as usual; but the incident was not a particularly cheerful one taken altogether—there was too much "glorious uncertainty" about it. Take the knife upside down, i.e., with the sharp edge of the blade upper-most, between the finger and thumb, hold the silk sufficiently taut to keep the loop in position by means of the other fingers, and drop the whole into the bottle. This must not be done with the bottle in a perpendicular position (in which case the loop will probably either break or slip off the knife), but with it inclined at an angle of about 45deg. (Fig. 21). This will allow the knife to slide down at a safe speed and yet reach the bottom with a good "thud." Having satisfied yourself that everything is in order, hold the bottle perpen- dicularly in the left hand between the audience and yourself, and about breast high. Make use of any cabalistic nonsense you please, and then cause the knife to rise from the bottle by the action of moving it from you and towards the audience. The action of raising the bottle must be but sparsely indulged in, if at all, as it is easily noticed; not so the horizontal motion. When brought to the mouth of the bottle the knife quietly topples over on to the floor, whence allow it to be picked up by a spectator, who will not require much admonition to examine it. Also send the bottle round again; and get rid of the silk as soon as you can after the trick is done. It will be noticed that I have directed the performer to use a hock or champagne bottle. The reason for this will be obvious after once trying the experiment with a bottle having an abrupt shoulder, such as an ale bottle. The knife catches in it, and a vigorous jerk, which is as likely to cause a breakage as anything else, has to be resorted to to free it. The sides of hock and champagne bottles presenting an even surface the whole way up, that class of bottle is therefore to be preferred. By means of the foregoing three tricks I have seen a room full of intelligent people utterly bewildered.
The following trick I have never known to be discovered if only properly performed. For it you will require another exceedingly common object, viz.: