Having shown the beginner what can be done with the ordinary objects of everyday use, I will now endeavour to instruct him in the skilful manipulation of cards. By his success or failure in this particular branch of legerdemain will his reputation as a conjuror be made or marred. Card tricks, more than anything else, demand sleight of hand pure and simple, and success with them can only be attained by assiduous practice. To the learner some of the following directions will at first appear impossible of execution, owing to the unaccustomed positions in which the fingers have to be placed; but a little resolution will soon overcome all obstacles, and when once success, however trifling, has been achieved, greater results will speedily follow. In conjuring, as in most things, everything that is at all worthy of accomplishment requires some little trouble; and the learner must, therefore, not be disheartened if his early efforts are not crowned with success commensurate with his wishes. There is no disguising the fact that card tricks which owe their accomplishment to sleight of hand (and they are the only ones worthy of the conjuror's consideration) are difficult—in many cases exceedingly so; but this fact ought only to make one extra energetic in mastering them. Amateur conjurors of every grade I have met with, but those skilful with cards I can count upon the fingers of one hand.
Before everything, let me inform the reader of one fact, not by any means universally known, which is that the cards generally used by conjurors are considerably smaller than those in ordinary use.* I will not say that it is impossible to conjure successfully with ordinary cards, because I know of very clever conjurors who use the full-sized card, but they have strong hands; but the advantage of using smaller ones is so marked that anyone thinking seriously of practising sleight of hand should provide himself with some small-sized packs. Many use the French cards, but I find them far too flimsy for many things. The best are those made by nearly all the large English card manufacturers for conjuring purposes. Bancks Brothers, Glasshouse-street, London, are, perhaps, as good as anyone. Should the reader be unable to procure these small cards, he can provide very fair substitutes by having an ordinary pack shaved at the edges, and so reduced in size.
* Since this was written, a great change has come over the fashion connected with playing-cards, the large, heavy card giving way rapidly to a smaller and more flexible article, the American round-cornered cards occupying a prominent place.
To enumerate every card trick individually would necessitate a separate volume, so numerous are the varieties of changes capable of being introduced. All the teacher can do is to instruct in the general principles, by means of which the results are brought about, and to give illustrations of the actions of the same. Accident or design will enable the performer to vary his tricks in hundreds of ways.
The chief things to be learnt at first are: