The Devil and Tom Walker

Also called the Wild Huntsman, the Black Miner, and, in New England, the Black Woodsman, Old Scratch is the devil himself, pure black as if covered in soot and with a shock of coarse black hair. It is said he guards Captain Kidd’s treasure, for he guards all treasure, especially that which is acquired immorally. He claims to own the swamp near which Tom Walker and his wife live, where Tom meets him one evening surrounded by trees into which are carved the names of the living damned, soon to die and serve as fuel for hell’s fire. Old Scratch is a cunning devil who knows when he’s got people right where he wants them, and he drives a hard bargain. His ideal world seems to be one filled to a large extent by slave traders, but usurers will also do in a pinch. By story’s end, Old Scratch wins the souls of Absalom Crowninshield, Tom’s wife, and Tom himself.

Old Scratch Quotes in The Devil and Tom Walker

The The Devil and Tom Walker quotes below are all either spoken by Old Scratch or refer to Old Scratch. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Greed Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Dover Publications edition of The Devil and Tom Walker published in 2008.
“The Devil and Tom Walker” Quotes

The devil presided at the hiding of [Captain Kidd’s] money, and took it under his guardianship; but this, it is well known, he always does with buried treasure, particularly when it has been ill-gotten.

Related Characters: Old Scratch, Captain Kidd
Related Symbols: Old Scratch’s Swamp
Page Number: 161
Explanation and Analysis:

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His face was neither black nor copper-color, but was swarthy and dingy, and begrimed with soot, as if he had been accustomed to toil among fire and forges. He had a shock of coarse black hair, that stood out from his head in all directions; and bore an axe on his shoulder.

Related Characters: Old Scratch
Related Symbols: Old Scratch’s Swamp
Page Number: 163
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Tom looked in the direction that the stranger pointed, and beheld one of the great trees, fair and flourishing without, but rotten at the core, and saw that it had been nearly hewn through, so that the first high wind was likely to blow it down. On the bark of the tree was scored the name of Deacon Peabody, an eminent man, who had waxed wealthy by driving shrewd bargains with the Indians.
Related Characters: Tom Walker, Old Scratch, Deacon Peabody
Related Symbols: Old Scratch’s Swamp
Page Number: 163
Explanation and Analysis:

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“I am he to whom the red men consecrated this spot, and in honor of whom they now and then roasted a white man, by way of sweet-smelling sacrifice. Since the red men have been exterminated by you white savages, I amuse myself by presiding at the persecutions of Quakers and Anabaptists! I am the great patron and prompter of slave-dealers, and the grand-master of the Salem witches.”

Related Characters: Old Scratch (speaker)
Related Symbols: Old Scratch’s Swamp
Page Number: 164
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

One would think that to meet with such a singular personage [as Old Scratch], in this wild, lonely place, would have shaken any man’s nerves; but Tom was a hard-minded fellow, not easily daunted, and he had lived so long with a termagant wife, that he did not even fear the devil.

Related Characters: Tom Walker, Old Scratch, Tom Walker’s Wife
Related Symbols: Old Scratch’s Swamp
Page Number: 164
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id

He [Old Scratch] proposed, therefore, that Tom should employ it [the pirate treasure] in the black traffic; that is to say, that he should fit out a slave-ship. This, however, Tom resolutely refused: he was bad enough in all conscience; but the devil himself could not tempt him to turn slave-trader.

Related Characters: Tom Walker, Old Scratch
Page Number: 167
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco

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Just then there were three loud knocks at the street door. He [Tom Walker] stepped out to see who was there. A black man was holding a black horse which neighed and stamped with impatience.
“Tom, you're come for,” said the black fellow, gruffly. Tom shrank back, but too late. 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.

Related Characters: Old Scratch (speaker), Tom Walker
Page Number: 170
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Old Scratch Character Timeline in The Devil and Tom Walker

The timeline below shows where the character Old Scratch appears in The Devil and Tom Walker. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
“The Devil and Tom Walker”
Greed Theme Icon
...great amount of treasure. It is also said that the devil (later referred to as Old Scratch ) himself oversaw the hiding of the money and guards it even now, for the... (full context)
Greed Theme Icon
Wealth, Religion, and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
...how “the savages” cast spells here and “made sacrifices to the evil spirit” (later called Old Scratch ). Tom, however, is not afraid of such things. (full context)
Greed Theme Icon
Tom lifts his eyes and beholds a great black man (later identified as Old Scratch ), seated opposite of him on a stump; Tom is “exceedingly surprised” to find himself... (full context)
Greed Theme Icon
Wealth, Religion, and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
The black man (later identified as Old Scratch ) demands to know what Tom is doing on his grounds; Tom retorts that the... (full context)
Greed Theme Icon
Wealth, Religion, and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
...master of the Salem witches. Tom recognizes the black man as the one commonly called Old Scratch , that is, the devil himself. One would think that Tom would be terrified to... (full context)
Greed Theme Icon
Wealth, Religion, and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Storytelling as Moral Instruction Theme Icon
Tom and Old Scratch have a long and serious conversation together as the former makes his way home through... (full context)
Greed Theme Icon
Wealth, Religion, and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
...earlier that evening with Crowninshield’s name carved into it, and he becomes convinced that all Old Scratch had told him is true. (full context)
Greed Theme Icon
...of Kidd’s hidden gold awakens the miserly woman’s greed. She urges her husband to accept Old Scratch ’s conditions for securing the treasure. As much as Tom is prepared to sell his... (full context)
Greed Theme Icon
...gone many hours, and returns home quiet and sullen. She tells Tom that she met Old Scratch hewing at the root of a tall tree in the swamp, but he would not... (full context)
Greed Theme Icon
Storytelling as Moral Instruction Theme Icon
...off with the household’s silver to some other province; still others say that the devil, Old Scratch himself, had tricked her into a boggy area on top of which her hat was... (full context)
Greed Theme Icon
Storytelling as Moral Instruction Theme Icon
...of Tom’s wife. The narrator says that, though “a female scold” is a match for Old Scratch , the devil himself, here it seems she was bested. Around the cypress, it is... (full context)
Greed Theme Icon
...the loss of his property with the loss of his wife, feeling even grateful to Old Scratch . He consequently tries to meet up with the devil again, but without success for... (full context)
Greed Theme Icon
At first, Old Scratch pretends to be indifferent to Tom’s offers for the buried treasure, but soon enough the... (full context)
Greed Theme Icon
Usury Theme Icon
So instead Old Scratch proposes that Tom Walker become a usurer (someone who lends money and charges interest, especially... (full context)
Greed Theme Icon
Usury Theme Icon
Wealth, Religion, and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
...thoughtful he becomes, especially about the afterlife. He at last regrets selling his soul to Old Scratch , and sets about trying to cheat the devil of his due by becoming a... (full context)
Greed Theme Icon
Storytelling as Moral Instruction Theme Icon
...world would turn upside down and he’d need to ride at full speed to escape Old Scratch ’s clutches. However, this is probably an old wives’ fable, and burying the horse so... (full context)
Greed Theme Icon
Usury Theme Icon
Wealth, Religion, and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
...Just then there are three knocks at the door: it is a black man, presumably Old Scratch himself, holding a black horse. “‘Tom, you’re come for,’” the black man says gruffly. Tom... (full context)