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The Works of Edgar Allan Poe Raven Edition Volume 4
"Why, yes, madam, there is. Will you be kind enough to lend me a couple of shillings?"
In the first excitement of the moment the lady decides upon fainting outright. Upon second thought, however, she opens her purse-strings and delivers the specie. Now this, I say, is a diddle minute -- for one entire moiety of the sum borrowed has to be paid to the gentleman who had the trouble of performing the insult, and who had then to stand still and be thrashed for performing it.
Rather a small but still a scientific diddle is this. The diddler approaches the bar of a tavern, and demands a couple of twists of tobacco. These are handed to him, when, having slightly examined them, he says:
"I don't much like this tobacco. Here, take it back, and give me a glass of brandy and water in its place." The brandy and water is furnished and imbibed, and the diddler makes his way to the door. But the voice of the tavern-keeper arrests him.
"I believe, sir, you have forgotten to pay for your brandy and water."
"Pay for my brandy and water! -- didn't I give you the tobacco for the brandy and water? What more would you have?"
"But, sir, if you please, I don't remember that you paid me for the tobacco."
"What do you mean by that, you scoundrel? -- Didn't I give you back your tobacco? Isn't that your tobacco lying there? Do you expect me to pay for what I did not take?"
"But, sir," says the publican, now rather at a loss what to say, "but sir-"
"But me no buts, sir," interrupts the diddler, apparently in very high dudgeon, and slamming the door after him, as he makes his escape. -- "But me no buts, sir, and none of your tricks upon travellers."
Here again is a very clever diddle, of which the simplicity is not its least recommendation. A purse, or pocket-book, being really lost, the loser inserts in one of the daily papers of a large city a fully descriptive advertisement.
Whereupon our diddler copies the facts of this advertisement, with a change of heading, of general phraseology and address. The original, for instance, is long, and verbose, is headed "A Pocket-Book Lost!" and requires the treasure, when found, to be left at No. 1 Tom Street. The copy is brief, and being headed with "Lost" only, indicates No. 2 Dick, or No. 3 Harry Street, as the locality at which the owner may be seen. Moreover, it is inserted in at least five or six of the daily papers of the day, while in point of time, it makes its appearance only a few hours after the original. Should it be read by the loser of the purse, he would hardly suspect it to have any reference to his own misfortune. But, of course, the chances are five or six to one, that the finder will repair to the address given by the diddler, rather than to that pointed out by the rightful proprietor. The former pays the reward, pockets the treasure and decamps.
Quite an analogous diddle is this. A lady of ton has dropped, some where in the street, a diamond ring of very unusual value. For its recovery, she offers some forty or fifty dollars reward -- giving, in her advertisement, a very minute description of the gem, and of its settings, and declaring that, on its restoration at No. so and so, in such and such Avenue, the reward would be paid instanter, without a single question being asked. During the lady's absence from home, a day or two afterwards, a ring is heard at the door of No. so and so, in such and such Avenue; a servant appears; the lady of the house is asked for and is declared to be out, at which astounding information, the visitor expresses the most poignant regret. His business is of importance and concerns the lady herself. In fact, he had the good fortune to find her diamond ring. But perhaps it would be as well that he should call again. "By no means!" says the servant; and "By no means!" says the lady's sister and the lady's sister-in-law, who are summoned forthwith. The ring is clamorously identified, the reward is paid, and the finder nearly thrust out of doors. The lady returns and expresses some little dissatisfaction with her sister and sister-in-law, because they happen to have paid forty or fifty dollars for a fac-simile of her diamond ring -- a fac-simile made out of real pinch-beck and unquestionable paste.