Tom Walker, however, was not a man to be troubled with any fears of the kind. A miserable horse, whose ribs were as articulate as the bars of a gridiron, stalked about a field, where a thin carpet of moss, scarcely covering the ragged beds of pudding-stone, tantalized and balked his hunger; and sometimes he would lean his head over the fence, look piteously at the passer-by, and seem to petition deliverance from this land of famine. He was on the point of foreclosing a mortgage, by which he would complete the ruin of an unlucky land-speculator for whom he had professed the greatest friendship. He walked slowly and carefully, so that he would not fall into a pool of mud. And so, every day he looked for the giant.
The story continues around 1727. He had left his little Bible at the bottom of his coat-pocket and his big Bible on the desk buried under the mortgage he was about to foreclose: never was sinner taken more unawares. Tom lifted up his eyes and beheld a great black man seated directly opposite him, on the stump of a tree. The house and its inmates had altogether a bad name. He believed that the devil came out of the woods and made deals with the unfortunate. He raked it out of the vegetable mould, and lo! In the early 18th century, New England was one of the largest and most-established metropolitan areas in North America.
He reposed himself for some time on the trunk of a fallen hemlock, listening to the boding cry of the tree-toad, and delving with his walking-staff into a mound of black mould at his feet. Tom waited and waited for her, but in vain; midnight came, but she did not make her appearance; morning, noon, night returned, but still she did not come. A farmer said that he saw the black horse, with a man on it, running wildly into the forest. Tom's wife is perfectly content to allow her husband to sacrifice himself for the sake of financial gain, and she pressures him to do it. People said he got his money as Captain Kidd did -- by stealing ships. Another night elapsed, another morning came; but no wife. As he turned up the soil unconsciously, his staff struck against something hard.
If he really did take such a precaution, it was totally superfluous; at least so says the authentic old legend, which closes his story in the following manner: One hot summer afternoon in the dog-days, just as a terrible black thunder-gust was coming up, Tom sat in his counting-house, in his white linen cap and India silk morning-gown. Soon enough his attention was drawn by the clamor of crows hovering around a cypress, in whose branches he found a bundle tied in an apron. If we take seriously the fable about Tom burying his horses, it reveals how crazy with death Tom became, and also how absurdly misguided he was in trying to preserve his immortal soul. When looked at in that way, the colonists are no more moral than the Indians, they are just better at deceiving themselves about their immorality. Any one but he would have felt unwilling to linger in this lonely, melancholy place, for the common people had a bad opinion of it, from the stories handed down from the times of the Indian wars, when it was asserted that the savages held incantations here and made sacrifices to the Evil Spirit. The house and its inmates had altogether a bad name. Indeed, the fallen Hemlock that Tom is sitting on bears the name of Crowninshield; Tom recollects a man of that name later identified as Absalom , mighty and vulgarly rich from buccaneering, as rumor has it.
When people were not able to pay him, he took away their farms, their horses, and their houses. The giant said Captain Kidd had buried great treasures under the trees, but nobody could have them unless the giant permitted it. It was a dreary memento of the fierce struggle that had taken place in this last foothold of the Indian warriors. Tom lost his patience and his piety. He stepped out to see who was there.
All his assets become worthless—his coach horses become skeletons, the gold and silver Tom hoarded turns into wood chips and shavings, his mortgages and deeds become cinders, and his great house burns to the ground. The rust on the weapon showed the time that had elapsed since this death-blow had been given. In an empty, romantic spot in his mind, perhaps he wonders what would happen if he made a deal with the devil. Away went Tom Walker, dashing down the streets, his white cap bobbing up and down, his morning-gown fluttering in the wind, and his steed striking fire out of the pavement at every bound. Here they had thrown up a kind of fort, which they had looked upon as almost impregnable, and had used as a place of refuge for their squaws and children. The most current and probable story, however, observes that Tom Walker grew so anxious about the fate of his wife and his property that he set out at length to seek them both at the Indian fort. These conditions must have been very demanding, however, for Tom needs time to think about them.
However, such paths often contain risks and complications, in this case not only economic ones, but perhaps ones that lead to eternal damnation. A few miles from Boston, in Massachusetts, there is a deep inlet winding several miles into the interior of the country from Charles Bay, and terminating in a thickly wooded swamp or morass. This rush for money in a time of economic depression provides the perfect situation for Tom walker to work as a usurer. About the year 1727, just at the time that earthquakes were prevalent in New England, and shook many tall sinners down upon their knees, there lived near this place a meagre, miserly fellow, of the name of Tom Walker. Tom Walker takes a walk near an old fortress in a swamp and meets Old Scratch, who offers him Kidd's riches. In place of gold and silver, his iron chest was filled with chips and shavings; two skeletons lay in his stable instead of his half-starved horses, and the very next day his great house took fire and was burned to the ground. He even set up a carriage in the fulness of his vain-glory, though he nearly starved the horses which drew it; and, as the ungreased wheels groaned and screeched on the axle-trees, you would have thought you heard the souls of the poor debtors he was squeezing.
The entire story was Irving's way of satirizing thepious Puritans who often exhibited contradic … tory behaviors. Religious persecution of Anabaptists and Quakers is shown as pleasing to the devil, suggesting that squabbles among sects of Christianity serve the devil, not the community. Finding Tom so squeamish on this point, he did not insist upon it, but proposed, instead, that he should turn usurer; the devil being extremely anxious for the increase of usurers, looking upon them as his peculiar people. The older Tom grows, however, the more thoughtful he becomes, especially about the afterlife. Not far from Boston was a small river which ran into the Atlantic Ocean. Deacon Peabody a wealthy person was mentioned.
This, however, is probably a mere old wives' fable. Tom does exactly that when he sells his soul to the devil. He had a shock of coarse black hair, that stood out from his head in all directions, and bore an axe on his shoulder. He knew the story that Indians had killed prisoners here as sacrifices to the Devil. By degrees, however, Tom brought him to business, and they began to haggle about the terms on which the former was to have the pirate's treasure.