Tom Walker initially encounters the devil as he sits on the trunk of a hemlock near what was once an Indian fort. Later in the story, Tom meets up with "Old Scratch" when he returns to the forest to learn what has happened to his wife. The Devil is "sauntering along the swamp," close to the first location.
One day as Tom returns home, he decides to take a shortcut through the swamp. This decision proves to be a fatal one as he treks near the remnants of an old Indian fort. As he rests upon a tree stump, Tom unearths a skull with an axe stuck in it. While he examines it, he hears someone ordering him to leave it alone. The figure before Tom is dark and sooty as though he has customarily been occupied with burning things.
Tom soon learns that this "black man" is the devil known as Old Scratch. Then, as he talks with him, Tom is offered the pirate treasure of Captain Kidd if he abides by certain conditions. Tom is tempted, but he returns home and, even though he has a tempestuous relationship with his wife, he tells her of the devil's offer because it is a dangerous bargain which Old Scratch proposes. But, unfortunately for her, his greedy wife decides to take this bargain for herself; however, she never returns home. When Tom realizes that she has taken the household valuables, he returns to the swamp and forest to search for them. There, he again encounters Old Scratch who stands near a tall tree. After some haggling, Tom strikes a bargain with the Devil.
he met the black man one evening in his usual woodsman's dress, with his axe on his shoulder, sauntering along the swamp and humming a tune.