E. Cobham Brewer 18101897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
Devil and Tom Walker (The).
An American proverb, used as a caution to usurers. Tom Walker was a poor, miserly man, born at Massachusetts in 1727, and it is said that he sold himself to the Devil for wealth. Be this as it may, Tom suddenly became very rich, and opened a counting-house at Boston during the money panic which prevailed in the time of Governor Belcher. By usury he grew richer and richer; but one day, as he was foreclosing a mortgage with a poor land-jobber, a black man on a black horse knocked at the office door. Tom went to open it, and was never seen again. Of course the good people of Boston searched his office, but all his coffers were found empty; and during the night his house caught fire and was burnt to the ground. (Washington Irving: Tales of a Traveller.)