Twose Company | Greene Magic

By Dominic Twose - Tuesday, June 4, 2019


Graham Greene’s novel The Power and the Glory was published in 1940. It helped establish his reputation as one of England’s finest writers. Towards the end of the book, the ‘whisky priest’ hero performs a couple of card tricks. Clearly they are fictions invented by Greene, but over the years I’ve often speculated on possible methods, particularly bearing in mind that the priest seems to know only a couple of tricks and so is unlikely to be a sleight of hand expert. You might enjoy thinking of possible solutions yourself.

The rain poured ceaselessly down. They sat in silence. Suddenly the lieutenant said, "Keep your hand away from your pocket."

"I was only feeling for a pack of cards. I thought perhaps it would help to pass the time. . ."

"I don't play cards," the lieutenant said harshly.

"No, no. Not a game. Just a few tricks I can show you. May I?"

"All right. If you wish to."

Mr Lehr had given him an old pack of cards. The priest said, "Here, you see, are three cards. The ace, the king, and the jack. Now," he spread them fanwise out on the floor, "tell me which is the ace."

"This, of course," the lieutenant said grudgingly, showing no interest.

"But you are wrong," the priest said, turning it up. "That is the jack."

The lieutenant said contemptuously, "A game for gamblers or children."

"There is another trick," the priest said, "called Fly-away Jack. I cut the pack into three - so. And I take this Jack of Hearts and I put it into the centre pack - so. Now I tap the three packs." His face lit up as he spoke --- it was such a long time since he had handled cards - he forgot the storm, the dead man and the stubborn unfriendly face opposite him. "I say 'Fly-away Jack'" - he cut the left-hand pack in half and disclosed the jack - "and there he is."

"Of course there are two jacks."

"See for yourself." Unwillingly the lieutenant leant forward and inspected the centre pack. He said, "I suppose you tell the Indians that that is a miracle of God."

"Oh no," the priest giggled, "I learnt it from an Indian. He was the richest man in the village. Do you wonder? with such a hand. No, I used to show the tricks at any entertainments we had in the parish --- for the Guilds, you know."


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