Joe Cooke AKA the Great Nero was an unscrupulous and unsuccessful stage magician given to leaving town in a hurry without paying his assistants. Then, an elderly vagrant who claimed to have once been a magician offered to teach him some real magic tricks in return for payment. Cooke agreed and, taking the name Merlin, became a hugely successful magician. he agreed to settle his debt to the old man in return for the secret of one more trick: how to vanish into thin air. The old man agreed, but Cooke then scornfully announced that he had no intention of paying up. That night, 'Merlin' performed his final great trick, vanishing on stage, but he never reappeared! As the audience gave up and went home, the old vagrant resumed his true identity as the real Merlin, and announced that he had never liked imposters...

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