Before I read this story, I had no idea what "diddling" was. As a matter of fact, it took a page or so of this story before I really figured it out. Apparently, it's an old term for grifting. This story was more of an essay about swindling -- what qualities the "diddler" has and some common examples of "diddles". Here is one that he cites --
A bold diddle is this. A camp-meeting, or something similar, is to be held at a certain spot which is accessible only by means of a freebridge. A diddler stations himself upon this bridge, respectfully informs all passers by of the new county law, which establishes a toll of one cent for foot passengers, two for horses and donkeys, and so forth, and so forth. Some grumble but all submit, and the diddler goes home a wealthier man by some fifty or sixty dollars well earned. This taking a toll from a great crowd of people is an excessively troublesome thing.
This was a very amusing tale and was totally unexpected from Poe. I would not even recognize it as his if it wasn't for the wit of the piece. I wonder if he did research for the story or if he knew something of diddling himself. Anyway, this was another refreshing break from the macabre.
Next week's Poe Fridays selection is another short story, The Island of the Fay.
On the lookout for diddlers,