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The Devil and Tom Walker

by Washington Irving

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How does Tom die in "The Devil and Tom Walker"?

In "The Devil and Tom Walker," Tom dies in the midst of an argument about foreclosing a mortgage, when he cries out: "The devil take me ... if I have made a farthing!" At this point, there are three loud knocks on the door, and when Tom answers it, he finds a black figure with a black horse. This is the devil, come to take him away.

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At the end of Washington Irving's short story "The Devil and Tom Walker," Tom Walker, who is a moneylender, is foreclosing a mortgage. This foreclosure will ruin the speculator who borrowed the money and who begs for a few more months to pay. Tom, however, refuses to give him a single day. As they argue over the matter, the speculator points out that Tom has made a great deal of money out of their dealings already, whereupon Tom cries out:

The devil take me ... if I have made a farthing!

As soon as he says these words, there are three loud knocks on the door. When he goes to answer the summons, Tom finds a sinister black figure, who abruptly tells him, "Tom, you’re come for!" The man whisks Tom up onto his horse and rides away with him. The moneylender is never seen again, becoming nothing more than a proverb in the memories of his neighbors. Irving says that this was the end of Tom Walker, and the implication is that, since Tom made a pact with the devil earlier in the story, this combination of lie and blasphemy in his argument with the speculator is the cue for the devil to claim his due and take his servant away on his black horse to hell.

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