28 May 2021
Our story today is, "The Devil and Tom Walker. " It was written by Washington Irving. Here is Shep O'Neal with our story.
Before we begin our story, let us go back 300 years to the late 1600s. In those years, one of the most famous men in the world was Captain William Kidd. Captain Kidd was a pirate. He sailed the seas, capturing any ships he found. He and his men took money from these ships. Captain Kidd hid this money in different places.
Captain Kidd was captured by the English in Boston, Massachusetts and executed in the year 1701.
From that time on, people all over the world searched in many places for Captain Kidd's stolen money.
The people who lived in Massachusetts in the seventeen hundreds believed Captain Kidd buried some of his treasure near Boston. Not far from Boston was a small river which ran into the Atlantic Ocean. An old story said that Captain Kidd had come up this river from the ocean. Then he buried his gold and silver and jewels under a big tree.
The story said that this treasure was protected by the devil himself, who was a good friend of Captain Kidd.
In the year seventeen twenty-seven, a man named Tom Walker lived near this place. Tom Walker was not a pleasant man. He loved only one thing -- money. There was only one person worse than Tom. That was his wife. She also loved money. These two were so hungry for money that they even stole things from each other.
One day, Tom Walker was returning home through a dark forest. He walked slowly and carefully, so that he would not fall into a pool of mud.
At last, he reached a piece of dry ground. Tom sat down on a tree that had fallen. As he rested, he dug into the earth with a stick. He knew the story that Indians had killed prisoners here as sacrifices to the Devil. But this did not trouble him. The only devil Tom was afraid of was his wife.
Tom's stick hit something hard. He dug it out of the earth. It was a human skull. In the skull was an Indian ax.
Suddenly, Tom Walker heard an angry voice: "Don't touch that skull!"
Tom looked up. He saw a giant sitting on a broken tree. Tom had never seen such a man. He wore the clothes of an Indian. His skin was almost black and covered with ashes. His eyes were big and red. His black hair stood up from his head. He carried a large ax.
The giant asked, "What are you doing on my land?" But Tom Walker was not afraid. He answered, "What do you mean? This land belongs to Mister Peabody."
The strange man laughed and pointed to the tall trees. Tom saw that one of the trees had been cut by an ax. He looked more closely and saw that the name Peabody had been cut into the tree. Mr. Peabody was a man who got rich by stealing from Indians.
Tom looked at the other trees. Every one had the name of some rich, important man from Massachusetts. Tom looked at the tree on which he was sitting. It also had a name cut into it -- the name of Absalom Crowninshield. Tom remembered that Mister Crowninshield was a very rich man. People said he got his money as Captain Kidd did -- by stealing ships.
Suddenly, the giant shouted: "Crowninshield is ready to be burned! I'm going to burn many trees this winter!"
Tom told the man that he had no right to cut Mister Peabody's trees. The stranger laughed and said, "I have every right to cut these trees. This land belonged to me a long time before Englishmen came to Massachusetts. The Indians were here. Then you Englishmen killed the Indians. Now I show Englishmen how to buy and sell slaves. And I teach their women how to be witches."
Tom Walker now knew that the giant was the Devil himself. But Tom Walker was still not afraid.
The giant said Captain Kidd had buried great treasures under the trees, but nobody could have them unless the giant permitted it. He said Tom could have these treasures. But Tom had to agree to give the giant what he demanded.
Tom Walker loved money as much as he loved life. But he asked for time to think.
Tom went home. He told his wife what had happened. She wanted Captain Kidd's treasure. She urged him to give the Devil what he wanted. Tom said no.
At last, Misses Walker decided to do what Tom refused to do. She put all her silver in a large piece of cloth and went to see the dark giant. Two days passed. She did not return home. She was never seen again.
People said later that Tom went to the place where he had met the giant. He saw his wife's cloth hanging in a tree. He was happy, because he wanted to get her silver. But when he opened the cloth, there was no silver in it -- only a human heart.
Tom was sorry he lost the silver, but not sorry he lost his wife. He wanted to thank the giant for this. And so, every day he looked for the giant. Tom finally decided that he would give the giant what he wanted in exchange for Captain Kidd's treasure.
One night, Tom Walker met the giant and offered his soul in exchange for Captain Kidd's treasure. The Devil now wanted more than that. He said that Tom would have to use the treasure to do the Devil's work. He wanted Tom to buy a ship and bring slaves to America.
As we have said, Tom Walker was a hard man who loved nothing but money. But even he could not agree to buy and sell human beings as slaves. He refused to do this.
The Devil then said that his second most important work was lending money. The men who did this work for the Devil forced poor people who borrowed money to pay back much more than they had received.
Tom said he would like this kind of work. So the Devil gave him Captain Kidd's treasure.
A few days later, Tom Walker was a lender of money in Boston. Everyone who needed help -- and there were many who did -- came to him. Tom Walker became the richest man in Boston. When people were not able to pay him, he took away their farms, their horses, and their houses.
As he got older and richer, Tom began to worry. What would happen when he died? He had promised his soul to the Devil. Maybe. . .maybe. . . he could break that promise.
Tom then became very religious. He went to church every week. He thought that if he prayed enough, he could escape from the Devil.
One day, Tom took the land of a man who had borrowed money. The poor man asked for more time to pay. "Please do not destroy me!" he said. "You have already taken all my money!"
Tom got angry and started to shout, "Let the Devil take me if I have taken any money from you!"
That was the end of Tom Walker. For just then, he heard a noise. He opened the door. There was the black giant, holding a black horse. The giant said, "Tom, I have come for you." He picked up Tom and put him on the horse. Then he hit the horse, which ran off, carrying Tom.
Nobody ever saw Tom Walker again. A farmer said that he saw the black horse, with a man on it, running wildly into the forest.
After Tom Walker disappeared, the government decided to take Tom's property. But there was nothing to take. All the papers which showed that Tom owned land and houses were burned to ashes. His boxes of gold and silver had nothing in them but small pieces of wood. The wood came from newly cut trees. Tom's horses died, and his house suddenly burned to ashes.
You have heard the story, "The Devil and Tom Walker." It was written by Washington Irving. Our storyteller was Shep O'Neal.
Now it's your turn. Are there any folk tales or traditional stories in your country about a person making a deal with the devil? Write to us in the comments section or on 51VOA.COM.
Words in This Story
treasure – n. a large collection of money, jewels or other things of great value
devil - n. the Devil the most powerful spirit of evil in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam who is often represented as the ruler of hell
skull - n. the structure of bones that form the head and face of a person or animal
ax - n. a tool that has a heavy metal blade and a long handle and that is used for chopping wood
giant - n. a legendary creature usually thought of as being an extremely large and powerful person
witch - n. a woman who is thought to have magic powers
lend - v. to give (something) to (someone) to be used for a period of time and then returned
slave - n. someone who is legally owned by another person and is forced to work for that person without pay