In "The Devil and Tom Walker," what does the devil plan to burn in the winter?
"The Devil and Tom Walker" is Washington Irving's tale about a greedy man who sells his soul to the devil to become wealthy. It is based on the German story of Faust.
Tom Walker first meets the devil, or the "black woodsman," or "old scratch" in the dark swamps that were once an Indian fort near his house. The devil is described as a black man "begrimed with soot" who works among "fires and forges." He has partially cut down many of the trees in the swamp and marked down the names of important men on them. Tom Walker is sitting on one that has the name of Crowninshield on it and the devil remarks,
"He's just ready for burning!" said the black man, with a growl of triumph. "You see I am likely to have a good stock of firewood for the winter."
The reader presumes that the named men have all sold their souls to "old scratch" and when they perish he burns the wood from the trees. Later in the story Tom Walker dies a fiery death after selling his soul and becoming a money lender. After his death all that is found of his riches are "cinders" and his horses have turned to skeletons.