MAGIC, to most children, is one of life's nicer things. It adds a sparkle to living. Under its auspices come Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the character who exchanges nickels for extracted teeth, and several other pleasant creatures, and children are in favor of it. That, at any rate, is the way our five-year-old daughter felt about it until she met a professional magician and was swindled, bamboozled and betrayed.
Our enthusiasm for magic shows is a good hop this side of overwhelming. Watching a woman get sawed in half is not our idea of a big evening. However when Hooling the Great came to our town, Jane’s little cohort across the street went to see him and was insufferably patronizing to those who had been less fortunate—meaning Jane. Also, we were overcome by one of those “we don’t do enough with our children” attacks. So we went to see him too.
Jane watched bug-eyed while women were nailed into boxes and came out of different ones, were sawed in half. She wiggled ecstatically through a highly scented version of the Indian rope trick. And when he pulled a string of flags out of thin air, she was simply carried
We should have been prepared for it. I suppose, but we weren’t. When he called for a child to help him with the next trick, she was halfway down the aisle before we realized what was happening.
She put her confident, trusting little hand in his, and listened starrv-eyed while he explained that she was to be assistant, and he couldn’t do the trick without her help. Then he gave her one end of a length of ribbon, and walked across the stage, measuring out more of it as he went. When he reached the end he waved his hands, and lo and behold ! tied to the end of Jane's ribbon was the unhappiest-looking guinea pig I ever have seen.
“Do you like it?” he asked her. Jane nodded, speechless. Her very pigtails quivered.
1 moaned feebly, and Jane’s father looked wildly around him. I'm not sure for what.
Jane sat on a small stage chair and cuddled her guinea pig while Hooling the Great changed feather dusters into bouquets of flowers, and poured quarts of water into a glass. Then he turned to her and said “Do you like
Receiving the expected response, he said. ‘T1I get you some.” Whereupon he clapped his hands over the unfortunate creature in Jane’s lap, and it vanished. Then he clapped them again, and the pig was replaced by a box of chocolates. Jane beamed dazedly, and the audience applauded with enthusiasm. The necromancer bowed deeply, took Jane’s hand and began to lead her off the stage. Jane looked confused and held back.
“What’s the matter, little girl” Don’t you want to go back to your mummy and daddy?”
“Yes, thank you,” said Jane clearly and politely, “but I haven’t got my little pig.”
“Oh!" He looked startled. “But you have the candy.”
“You said the little pig was mine.” Jane told him firmly. ”1 want it. please.” She set down the candy, backed away, set her feet together, and clasped her hands behind her back.
“Ye gods." said her father prayerfully. We both recognized the signs of a coming storm.
“You got the candy instead of the guinea pig.” explained the magician, with a huge toothy extremely phonvlooking smile.
The audience was beginning to titter, and a good part of it was craning its collective neck at us. “For heaven’s sake do something!” I hissed. “Go and
Milord’s neck was crimson, but he was grinning with unholy glee. “He s a magician. Let’s see him magic his way out of this.”
Our daughter’s face was beginning to pucker. “You didn’t say the candy was instead!” she wailed. “You said the little pig was mine. Here’s your candy. I want my pig.”
The villain leaned forward and murmured in her tiny ear.
“NO!!” she roared. “I want my PIG. WAHHHHHHH.”
Here, I regret to say, the Great Hooling lost his head. He attempted to pick up our lamb and carry her off the stage. She’s a reasonable child, but nobody’s dupe. She kicked him. The audience howled. Her father, meanwhile, had gone to fetch her, muttering, “Serves him right. It was a dirty trick.”
To a thunderous ovation we hauled our screaming infant from the theatre It took a Persian kitten to console her. She was not even interested in the fact that she got better Press notices than the Great Hooling. And she can still take her magic or leave it alone.
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