July 01, 2015 01:54 UTC

Home

The Devil and Tom Walker

Washington Irving





 

Announcer:  Now, an American short story in Special English.
 
(MUSIC)

Our story today is, "The Devil and Tom Walker. " It was written by Washington Irving. Here is Shep O'Neal with our story.

(MUSIC)

Storyteller:  Before we begin our story, let us go back three hundred years to the late sixteen hundreds. 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 seventeen-oh-one.

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.

(MUSIC)

Announcer: You have heard the story, "The Devil and Tom Walker." It was written by Washington Irving. Our storyteller was Shep O'Neal. Listen again next week at this same time for another AMERICAN STORY told in Special English on the Voice of America. This is Shirley Griffith.

(MUSIC)

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Learn with The News

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry - flanked by National Security Council Senior Director for Iran, Iraq, Syria and the Gulf States Robert Malley, U.S. Energy Secretary Dr. Ernest Moniz, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, and Eu

    Audio Iran Nuclear Talks Deadline Extended

    Also Tuesday, leaders of the US and Brazil promised to reduce carbon emissions and increase renewable energy use; China made a simiilar announcement; and another politician entered the US presidential race. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie says he will seek the Republican Party nomination. More

  • Audio Greece Offers a Proposal as Time Limit Runs Out

    Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has offered a proposal to avoid default on the country’s debt payment to the International Monetary Fund. On July 5th, Greeks will vote in a referendum on whether to accept new reforms or not. European leaders say it is a vote on whether to remain in Europe. More

  • Audio Is There a ‘Skills Gap’ in US Job Market?

    Eight-point-seven million American unemployed and 6.7 million doing part-time work. But, many jobs remain vacant. Employers say many of those jobs are vacant because they cannot find people with the right skills to do the work. Some experts look at why that is the case and what to do about it. More

  • Audio China to Prepare Private Ships for Military Use

    China is forcing private shipbuilders to build civilian vessels that can be used by the military during times of conflict. Experts say the new “dual-purpose” ships will strengthen China’s efforts to claim territory in disputed areas of the East and South China Seas. More

  • Video Motorcycle Lovers: We Are Not Criminals

    But police say some motorcycle gang members are violent lawbreakers. Some gangs say they have been operating for many years and have never been charged with crimes. “It is no different than a ladies tennis club,” they say. | As It Is More

Featured Stories

  • Audio Sweet Potatoes as Medicine

    Researchers have helped to reduce a major health problem with a simple food – the orange sweet potato. A program created to help farmers grow the crop has unexpected and healthy results. Some reports say this is the first time an agricultural program has had a major effect on health. More

  • Video Robots Ready to Work in Restaurants

    For many years, machines have been doing work that people once did, including some difficult jobs. Search and rescue operations employ high technology robots. But there is another area that may soon take jobs traditionally held by human beings: the restaurant industry. More

  • Audio More American Fathers Stay Home to Raise Kids

    More and more fathers in the United States are trading in the traditional role of breadwinner -- the person earning money -- for the role of stay-at-home dad. Meet two fathers who have been on this road for the past decade. You can also learn some great words such as "clique" and "masculinity." More

  • Audio Don't Be Caught With Your Pants Down

    Are you too big for your boots? Do you often fly by the seat of your pants? Learn what these clothing expressions mean and so many others. You may be excited to get started but keep your shirt on! Be patient. All you have to do is click on this episode of Words and Their Stories. More

  • Video Everyday Grammar: Words Come and Go in English

    Part of the reason that English has grown as a world language is that it adjusts easily to change. Why do some words and phrases stay the same while others change? VOA guest editor David Sullivan shares his ideas on the changes he has seen in today's English. More

Practice Your Writing

Confessions of an English Learner
Confessions of an English Learner blog

Tell us About Our Programs