Summary (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
This tale, which was told to the narrator, Geoffrey Crayon, during a peaceful afternoon of fishing, begins with a local legend concerning treasure buried by the notorious pirate Captain Kidd in a swamp not far from Boston. Near this swamp, in 1727, lives a miserly fellow named Tom Walker and his wife, a woman as miserly as he. These two, so greedy that they even try to cheat each other, are constantly fighting, and Tom’s face shows the physical marks of their arguments.
One day, cutting through the swamp, Tom comes across the remains of an old Indian fortification and discovers a skull with a tomahawk still buried in it. As Tom kicks at the skull, he hears a voice and looks up to see a black man, “neither negro nor Indian” seated on a stump. The man, wearing a red sash around his body, has a soot-stained face, which makes it appear as if he works in some fiery place. Tom soon recognizes the stranger as the devil, Old Scratch. The devil confirms the story of Kidd’s buried treasure and offers it to Tom but only on a certain condition, a condition that the story does not state but that is surely the possession of Tom’s soul. Old Scratch proves his identity by leaving the imprint of his finger burned into Tom’s forehead.
When Tom tells his wife of the encounter, she greedily urges him to accept the bargain, but to spite her he refuses. Unable to change Tom’s mind, she decides to make her own pact with the devil, keeping the profits...
(The entire section is 728 words.)
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In "The Devil and Tom Walker," set in New England in the early 1700s, a narrator relates a story he has heard about a local man's dealings with the devil. The narrator never claims that the stories are true, only that they are widely believed.
According to local legend, a treasure is buried in a dark grove on an inlet outside of Boston. It is said that Kidd the Pirate left it there under a gigantic tree and that the devil himself "presided at the hiding of the money, and took it under his guardianship." Since the pirate Kidd was hanged, no one has disturbed the treasure or challenged the devil's right to it.
In the year 1727 a local man, the notorious miser Tom Walker, finds himself in the dark grove alone at dusk while taking a short cut back to his house. Tom is well known among the townspeople for his pitiful horse, his loud wife, and the couple's miserly habits in which they "conspired to cheat each other." Unaware that treasure lay nearby, Tom stops to rest against a tree outside the remains of an Indian fort. Despite local legends of the evil goings-on at the site, Tom "was not a man to be troubled with any fears of the kind."
After absentmindedly digging up an old skull, Tom is suddenly reprimanded by a gruff voice. The voice belongs to a man who is blackened by soot and grime and who introduces himself as the black woodman. Soon enough, Tom realizes that he is in the company of the devil himself. After a brief conversation,...
(The entire section is 671 words.)