At the beginning of Washington Irving's classic short story "The Devil and Tom Walker," the protagonist is described as being a miserly, greedy man who lives with a termagant wife in a forlorn-looking home. When Tom Walker initially meets Old Scratch in the depths of the swamp, the devil offers to make a deal with him for his soul, which Tom does not immediately accept. After Tom informs his greedy wife about his meeting and opportunity to do business with Old Scratch, she pays the devil a visit herself and is never seen again.
On Tom's second interaction with Old Scratch, the devil agrees to give him Kidd the Pirate's buried treasure in exchange for his soul, on the condition that the money is employed in his service. Initially, Old Scratch suggests that Tom become a slave-trader, which is something too appalling for even Tom to accept. Tom eventually agrees to become a usurer with the money he attains and vows to extort bonds, foreclose mortgages, and drive merchants to bankruptcy.
With his newfound wealth, Tom ruthlessly wields his authority and develops into a tight-fisted usurer. Although Tom was always a miserly, selfish man, his negative attributes are emphasized in his new position, as he takes pleasure foreclosing on mortgages and ruining people's lives. Tom then attempts to outwit the devil by going to church and becoming a zealous Christian. However, Tom remains a heartless, cold man who continues to hoard his wealth while loaning money at high interest rates.