The Devil and Tom Walker
“The Devil and Tom Walker” is a short story written by American author Washington Irving. The story’s first appearance was in the author’s 1824 collection Tales of a Traveler. Washington Irving (1783-1859) was one of the earliest and most popular American writers, largely remembered for his stories “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”
“The Devil and Tom Walker” opens with the story of Kidd the Pirate, who makes a deal with the devil in order to keep hidden his treasure, which he buried in a Massachusetts forest. Kidd dies before he can retrieve his treasure, but the devil continued to protect it. Jumping forward to the year 1727, Irving introduces Tom Walker, a greedy and selfish man with an equally greedy wife. One day, Tom Walker comes across an old Indian forest, and falls into conversation with the devil, known as Old Scratch. The devil offers Tom Kidd’s treasure in exchange for his soul.
Part of the deal is that Tom can only use the money in the devil’s service, so he becomes a moneylender and a slave trader. Despite having the money, Tom continues to live as miser, until he begins to repent and loudly and publicly turn towards religion. Eventually, the devil comes to collect Tom, throwing him on the back of a black horse. All of his money turns to wood chips and the only thing left of him is the New England saying “The Devil and Tom Walker.”