“Better put on your pigeon-omelet trick now,
“All right. That ought
to go well. And you are getting ready for ”
“The fire trick,” interrupted
Professor Alonzo Rosello, as he and his young assistant,
Joe Strong, stood bowing and smiling in response to
the applause of the crowd that had gathered in the
theatre to witness the feats of “Black Art,
Magic, Illusion, Legerdemain, Prestidigitation and
Allied Sciences.” That was what the program
called it, anyhow.
“The fire trick!” repeated
Joe. “Do you think it will work all right
“I think it will. I’ve
had the apparatus overhauled, and you know we can
depend on the electric current here. It isn’t
likely to fail just at the wrong moment.”
“No, that’s so, still ”
Again Joe had to bow, as did Professor
Rosello, for the applause continued. They were
both sharing it, for both had taken part in a novel
trick, and it had been successfully performed.
Joe had taken his place in a chair
on the stage, and, after having been covered by a
black cloth by the professor, had, when the cloth was
removed a moment later, totally disappeared.
Then he was seen walking down the aisle of the theatre,
coming in from the lobby.
There was much wonder as to how the
trick was it done, especially since the chair had
been placed over a sheet of paper on the stage, and,
before and after the trick, the professor had exhibited
the sheet the front page of a local paper apparently
unbroken. (This trick is explained in detail in the
first volume of this series, entitled, “Joe
Strong, the Boy Wizard.”)
“The audience seems to be in
good humor to-night,” observed the professor
to Joe, as they bowed again. The two could carry
on a low-voiced conversation while “taking”
“Yes, I’m glad to see
them that way,” answered the youth. “It’s
not much fun playing to a frosty house.”
“I should say not! Well,
Joe, get ready for your pigeon-omelet trick, and I’ll
prepare the fire apparatus.”
The professor, with a final bow, made
an exit to one side of the stage, which was fitted
up with Oriental splendor. As he went off, and
as Joe Strong picked up some apparatus from a table
near him, a disturbed look came over the face of the
“I don’t like that fire
trick,” he mused. “It’s altogether
too uncertain. It’s spectacular, and all
that, and when it works right it makes a big hit,
but I don’t like it. Well, I suppose he’ll
do it, anyhow or try to. I’ll
be on the lookout though. If the current fails,
as it did last time ” Joe
shrugged his shoulders, and went on with his trick.
Since he had become associated with
Professor Rosello, Joe had adopted the philosophic
frame of mind that characterizes many public performers,
especially those who risk bodily injury in thrilling
the public. That is, he was willing to take
the chance of accident rather than disappoint an audience.
“The show must go on,” was the motto,
no matter how the performer suffered. The public
does not often realize its own cruelty in insisting
on being amused or thrilled.
“Yes, I’ll have to keep
my eyes open,” thought Joe. “After
all, though, maybe nothing will happen. And
yet I have a feeling as if something would.
It’s foolish, I know,, but ”
Again Joe shrugged his shoulders.
There was nothing he could do to avoid it, as far
as he could see. Joe was beginning to acquire
the superstition shared by many theatrical persons.
The theatre, filled with persons who
had paid good prices to see Professor Rosello’s
performance was hushed and still now, as Joe, his
preparations complete, advanced to the edge of the
stage. He was smiling and confident, for he
was about to perform a trick he had done many times,
and always with success. For the time being he
dismissed from his mind the risk Professor Rosello
would run in doing the “fire trick,” for
which the chief performer was even then preparing.
“Persons in the audience,”
began Joe, smilingly addressing the house, “often
wonder how we actors and professional people eat.
It is proverbial, you know, that actors are always
hungry. Now I am going to show you that it is
easier for us to get food than it is for other folk.
“For instance: If I were
to be shipwrecked on a desert island I could reach
out into the seemingly empty air, and pick money off
invisible tree branches like this.”
Joe stretched up his hand, which seemed
to contain nothing, and in an instant there appeared
between his thumb and finger a bright gold coin.
“So much for a start!”
he exclaimed with laugh. “We’ll drop
that on this plate, and get more.” There
was a ringing sound as the coin dropped on the plate,
and Joe, reaching up in the air, seemed to gather
another gold piece out of space. This, too, fell
with a clink on the plate. And then in rapid
succession Joe pulled in other coins until he had
Probably it has been guessed how that
trick was done. Joe held one coin in his hand,
palmed so that it was not visible. A movement
of his well-trained muscles sent it up between his
thumb and finger. Then he seemed to lay it on
a plate. But the plate was a trick one, with
a false bottom, concealed under which was a store
of coins. A pressure on a hidden spring sent
one coin at a time out through a slot, and it seemed
as if Joe deposited them on the receptacle as he gathered
them from the air.
“But we must remember,”
Joe went on, as he laid the plate of coins down on
a table, “that I am on a desert island.
Consequently all the money in the world would be
of no use. It would not buy a ham sandwich or
a fresh egg. Why not, then, gather eggs from
the air instead of coins? A good idea.
One can eat eggs. So I will gather a few.”
Joe stretched his hand up over his
head, made a grab at a seemingly floating egg and,
capturing it, laid it on the table. In like manner
he proceeded until he had three.
This trick was worked in the same
way as was the coin one, Joe holding but one egg,
cleverly palmed, in his hand, the others popping up
from a secret recess in the table. But the audience
“Now some persons like their
eggs raw, while others prefer them cooked,”
resumed Joe. “I, myself, prefer mine in
omelet form, so I will cook my eggs. I have
here a saucepan that will do excellently for holding
my omelet. I will break the eggs into it, add
a little water, and stir them up.”
Joe suited the action to the words.
He cracked the three eggs, one after another, holding
them high in the air to let the audience see the whites
and yolks drip into the shining, nickel pan.
“But a proper omelet must be
cooked,” Joe said. “Where shall we
get fire on a desert island, particularly as all our
matches were made wet when we swam ashore? Ah,
I have it! I’ll just turn this bunch of
flowers into flame.”
He took up what seemed to be a spray
of small roses and laid it under the saucepan.
Pointing his wand at the flowers Joe exclaimed:
Instantly there was a burst of flame,
the flowers disappeared, and flickering lights shot
up under the saucepan.
“Now the omelet is cooking,”
said Joe, as he clapped on a cover. “We
shall presently dine. You see how easy it is
for actors and magicians to eat, even on a desert
island. I think my omelet must be cooked now.”
He took the cover off the saucepan
and, on the instant, out flew two white pigeons, which,
after circling about the theatre, returned to perch
on Joe’s shoulders.
There was loud applause at this trick.
The boy wizard bowed and smiled as
he acknowledged the tribute to his powers, and then
hurried off the stage with the pigeons on his shoulders.
He did not stop to explain how he had chosen to make
the omelet change into pigeons, the surprise at the
unexpected ending of the illusion being enough for
Of course, one realizes there must
have been some trick about it all, and there was several
in fact. The eggs Joe seemed to pick out of the
air were real eggs, and he really broke them into the
saucepan. But the saucepan was made with two
compartments. Into one went the eggs, while
in another, huddled into a small space where there
were air holes through which they might breathe, were
two trained pigeons, which Joe had taught, not without
some difficulty, to fly to his shoulders when released.
After he had put the cover on the
saucepan Joe caused the fire to appear. The
flowers were artificial ones, made of paper soaked
in an inflammable composition, and then allowed to
dry. As Joe pointed his wand at them an assistant
behind the scenes pressed an electric button, which
shot a train of sparks against the prepared paper.
It caught fire, the flowers were burned, and ignited
the wick of an alcohol lamp that was under the saucepan.
Then, before the pigeons had time
to feel the heat, Joe took off the cover, opening
the secret chamber and the birds flew out.
Easy, indeed, when you know how!
Joe walked off the stage, to give
place to Professor Rosello, who was going next to
give his “fire trick.” This was an
effective illusion, and was worked as follows:
Professor Rosello came out on the
stage attired in a flowing silk robe of Japanese design.
His helpers wheeled out a long narrow box, which
was stood upright.
The professor, after some “patter,”
or stage talk, announced that he would take his place
in the small box, or cabinet, which would then be
lifted free from the stage to show that it was not
connected with hidden wires. As soon as the
cabinet was set down again, the house would be plunged
in darkness, and inside the cabinet would be seen a
bony skeleton, outlined in fire, the professor having
disappeared. This would last for several seconds,
and then the illuminated skeleton would disappear
and the magician again be seen in the box.
“And in order to show you that
I do not actually leave the box while the trick is
in progress except in spirit,” the professor
went on to state, “I will suffer myself to be
tied in with ropes, a committee from the audience
being invited to make the knots.”
He took his place in the upright cabinet,
and three men volunteered to tie him in with ropes
which were fastened at the back of the box, two ends
being left free.
The cabinet containing the professor
was lifted up, and set down on the stage again.
Then the ropes were tied, Joe supervising this.
“Tie any kind of knot you like,
gentlemen,” Joe urged, “only make them
so you can quickly loosen them again, as the professor
is very much exhausted after this illusion.”
This, of course, was merely stage talk for effect.
Finally the knots were tied, the committee
retired, and Joe, taking his place near the imprisoned
“Are you ready?”
He looked keenly at the professor as he asked this.
“It’s all right Joe I
guess it’s going to work properly,” was
the low-voiced response. Then aloud Professor
“I am ready!”
“Light out!” called Joe
sharply. This was a signal for the stage electrician
to plunge the house into darkness. It was done
Then, to the no small terror of some
in the audience, there appeared in the upright cabinet
the figure of a grinning skeleton, outlined in flickering
flames. It was startling, and there was a moment
of silence before thunderous applause broke out at
the effectiveness of the trick.
The clapping was at its height when
Joe, who always stood near the cabinet when this trick
was being done, heard the agonized voice of the professor
calling to him:
“Joe! Joe! Something
has gone wrong! There must be a short circuit!
I’m on fire! Joe, I’m being burned!