With the foremost of these, as the most important, I will first deal. The use of the pass is to transfer a given card from one portion of the pack to another. In nine tricks out of ten, a card is chosen and replaced in the centre of the pack, which is then shuffled. If this were in reality done without any previous interference on the performer's part, he would be at sea as to the position of the chosen card, and so rendered totally unable to find it when he wanted to do so. To avoid this contretemps he, by means of the pass, brings the card either to the top or the bottom of the pack, and executes a shuffle which, although it appears to mingle all the cards, in reality leaves the chosen one in its original position. If a chosen card is placed in the centre of a pack, it divides it into two portions, and the effect of the pass is to reverse the positions of these portions, the upper one becoming the lower, and vice versâ. It will therefore be seen that if the card is to go to the top of the pack it must, when replaced, and before the pass is made, form the uppermost card of the lower portion, and when it is to go to the bottom it must form the bottom card of the upper portion. Except in very special instances, the card is usually required at the top, and this, for the sake of uniformity, I shall assume in my examples to be the case.
For the purpose of learning the pass, it will not be necessary to assume that a card has been chosen, but let the learner take the pack in the left hand. The little finger is inserted in the centre of the pack, thereby dividing it into two portions, the upper one of which must be held by the fingers as securely as the unusual circumstance will admit (Fig. 26).* The right hand is now brought across the left hand, as in Fig. 27, the lower portion of the pack being held between the thumb at one end and the second and third fingers at the other. The state of affairs is now this: The upper hand holds the lower portion and the lower hand the upper. Now, in order to alter the positions of the two halves of the pack, the left hand must draw off, under cover of the right hand, the upper portion, and, working as though it were a hinge, replace it beneath the lower one, which is slightly raised by the right hand during the operation, so as to facilitate its execution. The cards should not be held in a horizontal position, but at an angle of fully 45deg., or even more, the declension being towards the right hand. The movement should first be practised as slowly as possible, and with a few cards only. It will be time enough to increase the speed when a good action has been secured. One little point must be borne in mind, and that is that that half of the pack which was originally the lower one, and therefore held by the right hand, must always be kept hard against the root of the thumb of the left hand whilst the pass is being made, it working there as if hinged. At first the two halves, in passing each other, will make a scraping noise, sometimes very loud. This noise must be studiously avoided, as the pass must be noiseless as well as invisible. When making the pass before an audience, move the hands up and down or from side to side, to cover the movement. It is sometimes required to pass a single card from the very top of the pack to the very bottom. This can, of course, be done in the foregoing manner, but the quickest way is to simply press the fingers of the left hand (the hands being in position for the pass without the little finger inserted) on the top card, and then execute the hinge movement. This will pull the top card off and slip it to the bottom; but it is hopeless to expect to do this without some slight noise, although that can be almost nullified by immediately running the thumb sharply across the edges of the cards, and so causing a similar sound to be made. Such is the double-handed pass.
* Some conjurors (myself included) use the third finger, but the little finger is the better one to employ, as it is more removed from observation. It is more difficult at the commencement, the digit being so weak; but the better execution it ensures repays the extra trouble.
There are also various single-handed passes, one or two of which, at times, come in very handy. They are very difficult to master, and are best learnt with two cards only at the very commencement. The neatest, and in every way most effective, is the following : Hold the pack by the ends of the fingers and thumb, the first and fourth fingers acting as supports, by being slightly bent under (Fig. 28), and allow a portion of the cards to drop from below (Fig. 29). This portion push back towards the thumb by means of the first and fourth fingers, until it will permit of the upper portion dropping down, and so becoming the lower (Fig. 30). The asterisk denotes the chosen card, which is passed from the centre to the top of the pack. Although three positions are here shown, in order to make the action of the pass clear, it must by no means be thought that there should be three distinct movements. When the beginner can execute from thirty to forty passes in the minute, he may consider himself tolerably proficient. It will assist the action if the fingers are well raised and the thumb held a little low, thereby causing a better fall to be made; also considerable swing should be given to the hand, to cover the shifting which takes place. With practice this pass can be made without detection.
The pass shown at Figs. 31 and 32 is a fairly good one, but much more difficult than any other. The middle and third fingers are inserted in the pack, the bottom portion of which is held by the four fingers, two above and two below. The upper portion is held between the roots of the thumb and forefinger. The fingers draw out the lower portion and place it upon the upper one. This pass is useful when it is required to pass a card from the bottom to the top. Under most circumstances, the pass first described (Figs. 28, 29, and 30) is preferable, except when the top card has to be passed to the bottom, when the following method is sometimes adopted. Push off the top card, which is the one to be passed, by means of the thumb, until it lies well over the ends of the fingers. Stretch the fingers out straight, and the card will be drawn completely off the rest of the pack, which is quickly raised by means of the forefinger, and placed over the card. A good backward and forward swing will assist the action considerably.
Experience has taught me, however, that the pass shown at Fig. 31, &c., is the best one for getting a card from the top to the bottom single-handed. The cards are so firmly gripped by the fingers that the pass may be executed, no matter what position the pack is held in, whether end on, sideways, or upside down. The beginner will find that the thumb has but little difficulty in dragging off the top card, especially if very slight pressure indeed be put upon it to commence with. If an examination is made of the root of the thumb, a line will be found to run half way round it, joining other lines on the inside, where the flesh is loosest.
The card should be held just there. Matters will be greatly facilitated if the right hand, whilst placing the pack in the left, holds it for an instant. The thumb of the left hand then draws the card off an eighth of an inch, which will be quite sufficient to enable the card to be seized by it at the root. But the aid of the right hand should be dispensed with as soon as possible. The passing of cards by means of one hand only is not suspected by the general run of spectators, who are, however, always suspicious directly the two hands are brought together.
The learner should always use the double-handed pass, practising the single-handed ones in private, until he has attained that confidence in his skill which is afforded by frequent exhibitions before his friends, &c.
An easy, but somewhat clumsy, single-handed pass is depicted at Fig. 33. The third finger is inserted in the pack, and the top portion held between it and the middle finger, the rest of the pack being between the first finger and thumb. The top portion is then twisted round in a semi-circle in the direction of the arrow, and so brought beneath what was originally the lower one. The objection to this pass is that it disarranges the cards a good deal. The best way of avoiding this is to move the hand towards the table whilst making the pass, so that the edges of the cards can be set square at once on its surface. The motion must be made as if it were merely intended to place the pack upon the table.