Magic Trick: Chinese Marble Trick

Some years ago, there came over to England a few Chinese conjurors, who were seen by the public but very little, but who favoured me on several occasions with private views. Their skill lay chiefly in the performance of such delectable feats as swallowing sword-blades, tiny china cups, glass balls, and large leaden plummets. Although appreciating such tricks, I respectfully declined attempting to astonish my audiences by their means. There was, however, one little trick performed with four small marbles, which struck me as being something quite novel and quaint. Of the four marbles (little ivory balls are what I invariably use), one is concealed in the fingers, as in the cup and ball trick, unknown, of course, to the audience, who are supposed to know of the existence of three only. These three the performer puts into his mouth—one at a time, slowly, is the best way—to show that there is "no deception." He now forms his left hand into a fist, and holds it steadily in front of him, thumb upwards, as though holding a sword at rest. With the right hand he pretends to take a marble from the mouth, the concealed one being exhibited. The action of taking a marble from the mouth must be imitated exactly; and this is best done by rolling it along the lips until it travels from the roots of the fingers to their tips. The sleight must be quickly done, for the eyes of the audience are full upon the hand. Place the marble on the top of the left hand, i.e., on the doubled-up first finger, which, after a few seconds, open slightly, so as to allow the marble to disappear in the hand. With the right hand actually take a marble from the mouth, which will now contain two. Pretend to place this marble on the left hand, as you did the first one, but in reality conceal it. When the left hand is momentarily covered with the right, as it feigns to place a marble upon it, open the first finger, and, with the least possible jerk, bring the first marble again to the top. The audience will think that marble No. 1 is in the hand and marble No. 2 atop. After another short pause, allow the marble to again sink in the hand, thereby causing the idea that two marbles are concealed in it, and, with the right hand, affect to take another marble from the mouth, the concealed one being, of course, shown. Ostensibly, place this one on the left hand (deception as before), and allow it to disappear like its two supposed predecessors. At this stage, the state of affairs will be thus:—The right hand, presumably empty, contains one marble; the left hand contains presumably three, but in reality only one marble; the mouth, presumably empty, contains two marbles. The performer then proceeds as follows: Allow the marble in the left hand to sink until it is in the position for concealing at the roots of the fingers. If with the tips of the second or third fingers it can be pressed firmly home, so much the better, for the command to vanish can at once be given, and the hand opened—palm downwards, of course If the marble cannot be secured in this way, the thumb must be brought into use in the usual way; but the hand must be waved about a little so as to cover the movement. The three marbles are now supposed to be non est. The performer can proceed to find the first of them in whatever manner he pleases. He may pretend to pick it from the table cloth, break it from the end of his wand, or find it in the possession of one of the audience; how, is quite immaterial. As each hand conceals a marble, it is also immaterial which one is used. This first marble is placed on the table, and another one found. This second one, instead of placing on the table, the performer affects to pass into his ear, concealing it as before, and after a few seconds, it appears at his lips, the one thence protruding being, of course, one of the two concealed in the mouth. Allow it to fall from the mouth, and then proceed to find the third marble, which pass, say, through the top of the head. The remaining marble in the mouth is then exhibited, and the three wanderers are recovered. If the marbles or ivory balls are not small, their presence in the mouth, when they are not supposed to be there, will be discovered. I always conceal one on each side of the mouth, between the lower gums and the cheek. Ivory balls are in every way preferable, as they do not strike cold to the teeth, and do not rattle much, both of which disagreeable properties are possessed by marbles. Any ivory-turner will supply the little balls very cheaply. The performer must study to execute this trick with the greatest possible delicacy, or—especially before ladies—it will become repulsive. The method of finding the balls after vanishing them should be varied, each one being found in a different way. The portion of the trick requiring the most practice is that in which the left hand is opened. The knack of concealing the ball held in it unobserved requires some little address.

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