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What is the summary of "The Devil and Tom Walker?"

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"The Devil and Tom Walker," a short story by Washington Irving, tells of a man who sells his soul to the devil, known as Old Scratch, in exchange for great wealth. He becomes a usurer, swindling money from other people, until he is old, and the devil comes on a black horse and carries him away.

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Full Answer

The story opens by recounting the legend of the pirate Kidd who buried a treasure in a forest under the protection of the devil. It then introduces Tom Walker and his wife, both misers, living in misery in a shabby house. Tom Walker takes a walk near an old fortress in a swamp and meets Old Scratch, who offers him Kidd's riches. When Walker goes home and tells his wife, she goes off to make the bargain herself, thinking to hoard the wealth, but she never returns. Walker eventually closes the deal and makes a fortune cheating others. However, in old age he becomes fearful for his soul. He begins to attend church and keeps two Bibles nearby. One day when one of his clients is visiting, Walker hears knocks at the door and sees Old Scratch outside with a black horse. Since he left his protective Bibles behind, the devil grabs him and rides away, disappearing in a flash of lightning. He carries Walker back to the old fortress, where walker remains, haunting it as a ghost.

"The Devil and Tom Walker" first appeared in the short story collection "Tales of a Traveler" in 1824. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, it is a retelling of the Faust legend and is considered one of Washington Irving's best short stories.

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