The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: Traitor to the Nation, Volume I: The Pox Party Summary
The first volume (yes—there is a second, equally long, volume) is all about Octavian's life at the Novanglian College of Lucidity. The what? Yeah, we know—that name is a mouthful. Let's just call it the College.
Anyway, the College is basically the "master"/ "owner" of Octavian and his mother Cassiopeia, both slaves from an African nation. Unsurprisingly then, Octavian has a pretty twisted relationship with the College—and it takes four separate sections to develop.
Part I: The Transit of Venus (or, "Hey, this is a lot like Eden!")
"Venus"… Hrm… sounds a little romantic, right? Well, that's kind of the point here.
Octavian's this young boy who is basically treated like a little prince at the College. Why? We find out that he's an experiment of the College, which is made up of all these different philosophers, scientists, and artists located in Boston.
The head of the College, Mr. Gitney (or 03-01 as he names himself, after a numerological naming system he's invented), "took" (or bought) Octavian's mother Cassiopeia at a slave auction when Cassiopeia was just fourteen and pregnant.
But instead of turning Cassiopeia (who is supposedly a royal Princess of an African court) and her son into house or field slaves, Mr. Gitney decides to use them as evidence that—yes—African people can be as smart as white people if given a classical education.
Octavian's especially important to them because he's like their tabula rasa, or clean slate, since he was born at the College. In fact, Mr. Gitney is the one to name both Octavian and Cassiopeia (we never find out Cassiopeia's real name).
So their days are all about Octavian's education. He goes around from tutor to tutor, covering all the major classical subjects of that day—math, science, Greek, Latin—in addition to playing the violin, which he turns out to be a virtuoso at.
Things are great at the College for the most part, though things are definitely a little weird. For example, Octavian eventually figures out—with the help of a house slave named Bono—that he and his mother are still technically slaves even though they have all sorts of freedoms in the house. It's a bit of a shocker to Octavian since he's never really served anyone in his life, so he can't fully connect to the other slaves.
At the same time, it's not like his education is all sunshine and unicorn moonbeams. Mr. Gitney isn't exactly into traditional teaching methods, and instead he's all about making Octavian "Observant"—that is, someone able to detach himself from the moment and remain objective, like an ideal scientist.
This means Mr. Gitney puts Octavian through all sorts of cruel, on-the-spot lessons, like watching Octavian's dog die from a poisoning experiment gone wrong or watching all sorts of other animals get killed through some type of scientific experiment.
But all in all, Octavian sucks up knowledge like a sponge and enjoys—if that's the right word—his life at the College.
So does Cassiopeia, who is treated like the queen she's supposed to be. Her main purpose is to captivate all the scholars and guests who walk through the door, and she entertains men just by being her beautiful, witty, regal self. This means dancing with and talking to the men, and—importantly—nothing more. Not a bad job, right?
Their fortunes turn though, when one of the main funders—a Lord Cheldthorpe—of the College dies. His nephew, the New Lord Cheldthorpe, visits the College and is completely seduced by Cassiopeia's charm and beauty. It's a good thing too because he's not exactly a scientific man; in fact, think of him as your classic jock, but from colonial times.
Mr. Gitney sees that Cassiopeia's the key to Lord Cheldthorpe's heart, and therefore also the key to the College's continued funding, so he convinces Cassiopeia to join the men on an extended camping trip into the New York woods.
Everything on that camping trip seems wonderful. Nature is beautiful; the College men are able to do all sorts of experiments and observe all sorts of natural phenomenon; Lord Cheldthorpe is able to hunt and flirt with Cassiopeia. Octavian gets to continue his studies out in Nature and learns to swim from Lord Cheldthorpe too. They even observe—ahem—the transit of Venus across the sky.
Once they return to the College though, things change. Lord Cheldthorpe wants Cassiopeia to go back to London with him; he's willing to set her up well as his mistress and she can bring Octavian too. Only Cassiopeia is too proud—she wants a marriage that befits her royal line, so she not only turns him down, she rejects him hard.
Lord Cheldthorpe doesn't take kindly to this rejection and attacks her, but Octavian interrupts things before they can get too physical. The end result? Cassiopeia and Octavian get whipped for the first time, while Lord Cheldthorpe takes off and withdraws his financial support of the College.
Without Lord Cheldthorpe's money, Mr. Gitney gets desperate and has no choice but to accept a new guy into the College—a Mr. Sharpe, who represents a company of investors in the College.
Mr. Sharpe is the exact opposite of Mr. Gitney and all the other College scholars—he is totally practical and only thinks something is important if it can earn money. So he turns the College around and forces the scholars to align their experiments with practical ends.
Part II: The Pox Party
It's not just the scholars' experiments that change under Mr. Sharpe—so do Octavian and Cassiopeia's lives. Octavian isn't allowed to read narratives anymore, and suddenly his entire education is all about learning the most abstract stuff without any kind of story behind it.
In other words, Octavian gets schooled in the absolute, most boring way possible, and all because Mr. Sharpe has determined that such an education will show whether Octavian can truly become an abstract thinker—which is the true mark of intelligence, according to Mr. Sharpe. Octavian's also, by the way, not allowed to learn the violin anymore.
Cassiopeia gets her dress account slashed, and she also has to find a way to make herself useful. In fact, both Cassiopeia and Octavian become servants of the house. Octavian doesn't really mind though, because he gets to work with Bono, who turns out to be a father/brother figure for him.
While all of this is going on inside the College, outside the College, Boston and the rest of the colonies are gearing up for war against the Brits. There's a lot of violence and ransacking of British goods because the colonialists are all against being taxed on British goods (you know, no taxation without representation and all that jazz).
Outside events and College events clash when the Brits take over Boston, so the College crew flees to the countryside, where one of Mr. Gitney's brothers has a mansion. Once they get to Canaan, Bono gets traded to some gentleman backer down in the Virginia colony; when he leaves, Octavian's life starts to stink even more.
As their stay at the mansion in Canaan, Massachusetts extends into the spring, Mr. Gitney and Mr. Sharpe decide to hold a pox party. They're going to invite all the funders and their families to Canaan to get inoculated against the smallpox, which has been a spreading worry for some of the colonies.
The party is supposed to last for as long as the guests need to get over the small bit of pox virus they get infected with.
When the party begins, everyone gets inoculated—including the slaves. It's a real party, with lots of food and dancing, but as people fall sick over the next few days—including the slaves—the party sort of dies down. Go figure.
Plus, the Young Men (a.k.a. the young backers of the College) are tense, and keeping watch over the slaves. Why? There are all these rumors about the Brits stirring up the slaves to rebel against the colonialists, so the Young Men—with a whole arsenal of guns—stand watch over everyone in the house while people are recovering from the smallpox. The smallpox vaccine also purposely weakens the slaves so that the Young Men have a better chance of fighting off a slave rebellion in their own house.
Only not everyone recovers from the pox vaccine. Three people become seriously ill: a young boy, one of the men, and Cassiopeia. The boy ends up dying and so does Cassiopeia. Octavian is sick too, but he eventually gets better—but as he recovers, he has to witness his mother get completely ravaged by the virus. Ugh.
At this point of the book, Octavian's writing gets replaced by other documents, including an excerpt of a scientific article Mr. Gitney and Mr. Sharpe produce. It turns out that the whole smallpox party was also an excuse to corral the slaves and run an experiment on how Africans respond to the smallpox vaccine.
Gitney and Sharpe detail how Cassiopeia not only dies, but gets dissected as well, and how Octavian ends up witnessing Cassiopeia's dissection.
See? Things have really changed… and they're going to keep on changing…
Part III: Liberty & Property
The third section is told entirely from the perspectives of people who either are searching for or come into contact with Octavian. Why? Because Octavian has escaped and gone into hiding.
We find out that Octavian runs from place to place, kind of like a zombie (can't blame him—he just saw his mother get dissected after all), until he ends up as a part of a band of Patriots, committed to fighting the Brits.
This company, especially a Private named Evidence Goring, befriends Octavian. They may be white, but they sympathize with Octavian—who goes by the name Prince now—and he earns his keep as a fiddler in the company as they go from battle to battle.
Goring charts Octavian's development from this guy who seems like he has a major death wish to a guy who starts to have a purpose—and that purpose, according to Goring, is to fight for liberty, not just from the Brits but from slavery itself. Goring thinks he's convinced Octavian that slavery will be on its way out if the Patriots win.
Problem is, while the militiamen fight the Brits, Mr. Sharpe has been trying to find Octavian. He and a couple of slave-catchers eventually track Octavian to Private Goring, who they fool into thinking they want Octavian to serve as a spy for the Patriots.
They don't, obviously. But Goring doesn't know it so he leads the men straight to Octavian, who gets caught and returned to the College.
Part IV: The Great Chain of Being
At the beginning of Part 4, Octavian's back at the house in Canaan. He can't believe it and pretty much goes through all the stages of grief. Mr. Sharpe has him shackled, with a metal mask over his face and a metal bit in his mouth. Things have radically shifted from where they started back in Part 1, to say the very least.
Octavian is both super-philosophical and angry, all the way up until a final interview with Mr. Sharpe and Mr. Gitney. In the interview, Mr. Sharpe grills and lectures Octavian, especially on the necessity of slavery for America's economy.
Only—at the same time—Dr. Trefusis, one of Octavian's tutors whom Octavian has always been especially close to, manages to drug both Mr. Sharpe and Mr. Gitney. Dr. Trefusis masterminds and executes Octavian's and his escape from the College.
At the end of the book, Dr. Trefusis and Octavian have decided to cross the Channel from Roxbury to Boston in the dead of the night. In Boston, they hope to find some protection—or at least a place to hide—from Mr. Sharpe and the rest of the Young Men. Octavian doesn't know what else to expect, except that he sees the potential for freedom in Boston, a city now taken over by the Brits…
Part 1, Chapter 1
- Octavian's telling us all about where he grew up, and it's definitely a little weird.
- First off, he remembers stuff like a house, a garden and apple trees.
- Okay, not that big of a whoop. Sounds like a pretty typical house, right?
- But here's where things start to get strange.
- Octavian's holding his mom's hand as they look at flames rising from the orchard behind the big house.
- And his mom is smiling with delight.
- Servants are lighting gas on fire.
- By the way, there's also a huge wall surrounding the property, you know, to keep people out.
- But also to keep people in. Yep—things are getting freaky.
- But the wall isn't something Octavian understands until he's older, looking back on everything.
- Then a last line: Octavian gets all philosophical on us and says something about (we're totally paraphrasing here) how everything that wants to rise up, ends up burning or destroying itself.
- Cheery fellow, this Octavian.
Part 1, Chapter 2
- Octavian's going to give us the rundown of his upbringing, and—let's just say—it's not for the faint of heart.
- He begins by introducing the men of the house—a group of scientific philosophers led by this guy called Mr. Gitney (or 03-01).
- These guys are the ones who raise and educate Octavian. Octavian, by the way, never wonders why (as a kid) he doesn't have a biological dad or why his mom and he are the only ones with actual names. (He's Octavian, which you already know; she's Cassiopeia.)
- Mr. Gitney hands off Octavian's super-classical education (Greek, Latin, math, botany, music) to the other men in the house.
- These men kind of act like tutors, but they're more than that since they're also artists, scientists, poets, etc.—in other words, super-nerds of olden times. They also don't live in the house exactly; they just visit the house all the time, staying there for days or weeks.
- These guys are also into painting—especially Cassiopeia in all sorts of ways, including nude.
- A variety of experiments are done in the house, and a lot of these experiments involve living things.
- There's one door Octavian's not allowed to pass through.
- He knows this because they tell him and there's also a drawing of Octavian's face, with skulls drawn over it, on the door. Yeah—not subtle.
- Octavian doesn't go out much.
- In fact, Mr. 03-01 is all about hiding him and tells him to stay hidden or else he'll be taken away from his mother. Nice guy, that Mr. 03-01.
- Octavian tells us he sees himself as a quiet, serious kid—about as serious as his mother is cheery and smiley.
- Which she is—all the time—especially for the men who come to the house.
- Then Octavian explains why Mr. Gitney calls himself 03-01.
- Mr. Gitney's all into creating a numerical naming system so that the world can be more rational, and 03 refers to the fact that he's of the third family (the Gitneys), while 01 refers to his position as the head of the household.
- 01-01, by the way, would refer to the King of Great Britain; 01-02, the Queen; 01-03, the next in line, the Prince of Wales, etc.
- 02-01 happens to refer to the Earl of Cheldthorpe, a major patron of the house (in other words, a majorly important guy, who's even more of a head honcho than Mr. Gitney).
- Cassiopeia, for one, never really points out how strange this whole situation is, but Octavian thinks she probably gets it.
- He wonders, in fact, how his mom would have smiled if they didn't live in that house.
- He also doesn't ask why he and his mom aren't numbered; he thinks it's because his mom is supposed to be of "royal blood"—like a real queen even.
- Anyway, back to the men, who, by the way, call themselves the "Novanglian College of Lucidity." (Sounds cultish, huh?)
- Octavian points out how classical his education is again, and then he launches into an example of how good an observer he was taught to be.
- Hang on here—this is some freaky stuff.
- Octavian observes the men: pet a dog and then time its drowning; calculate how high cats can be dropped without being able to save themselves; take a special-needs kid and beat her until she's nearly fainted because she can't use verbs.
- Because of all of these incidents, Octavian becomes really good at "observing"—without moving—a bare wall for hours.
- One time, 03-01 asks what Octavian has observed, staring at the wall.
- Octavian tells him "nothing," but 03-01 points out that that's impossible, so Octavian says he watched a daddy longlegs.
- 03-01 wants to know what he hypothesized.
- Octavian tells him that he hypothesized whether a daddy longlegs was the same thing as a spider.
- So 03-01 asks Octavian to prove the hypothesis through a syllogism.
- Octavian doesn't say anything at first, so his mom jumps in and gives him the first phrase: spiders have eight legs.
- Octavian continues the proof by pointing out that daddy longlegs have eight legs, so daddy longlegs must be spiders.
- But 03-01 says that's wrong because Cassiopeia's point—that spiders have eight legs—is wrong, and this is why Octavian can't have his dinner (which 03-01 gives to the dog).
- Cassiopeia's not happy about this.
- But 03-01 tells Octavian that he shouldn't listen to his mom so much in the future—Cassiopeia jumps in though, saying that Octavian's her son.
- Not really though; 03-01 tells them that Octavian "belongs to all of us."
- Octavian "observes" all of this and goes to his room (without dinner, of course).
- He also wonders who has all the power in the house and who doesn't have any.
Part 1, Chapter 3
- Octavian's basically just thinking aloud about what he's revealed to us in Chapters 1 and 2.
- He tells us that he tries really hard to remember the good stuff the men taught him—you know, things like "kindness, humility, piety, respect."
- That's all despite the fact that he now views Mr. Gitney more like a monster (in fact, the centaur Chiron) and himself like a young Achilles.
- Then he gets super-philosophical on us and tells us we can't gain anything by being angry.
- He even quotes a major Roman poet called Horace to drive his point home.
- He also calls on God to get him to forgive these men.
- Then he goes into all the reasons why he ought to be thankful for what they taught him, before finally pointing out that he doesn't think they ever meant to be mean jerks.
Part 1, Chapter 4
- If you like dogs, prepare yourself—this isn't going to be fun.
- Octavian remembers being five or six years old and taking some food Mr. 03-01 prepared for his dog.
- He was all happy about spending some quality time with his pup, a stray named Cloud, but when he got to the shed, Cloud didn't move.
- Yep—dead. Poisoned, in fact.
- Octavian can't remember feeling anything when he found Cloud dead, but he does remember crying all the way back to Mr. 03-01.
- It wasn't until years later that Octavian figures out (from one of Mr. 03-01's articles) that Cloud died from a mixture of mercury and food that Mr. 03-01 was giving him.
- You see, Mr. 03-01 wanted to know if a mercury compound would kill mammals (we're guessing Mr. 03-01 wouldn't be against animal testing if alive today).
- Anyway, Octavian also recalls that—at that time—Mr. 03-01 asked him why he felt sorrow.
- Octavian couldn't really answer, but Mr. 03-01 pressed on, asking him if he felt Cloud passed on to a better place.
- Octavian nodded and described doggy heaven — all while Mr. 03-01 listened and took notes on Octavian for a future article.
Part 1, Chapter 5
- So there was this guy—a painter/scientist called Mr. 07-03—who was all into nature.
- We're talking wood nymphs, forests, birds—an old-school granola-cruncher.
- Octavian remembers this one time Mr. 07-03 got them all to have a picnic during a summer day in the country; all the scholars plus Octavian and his mother went.
- It was a great day, for no reason other than everyone was just calm and happy, with good food and laughter all around. Here's what happened:
- The men gathered around Octavian's mother while their wives went off to the side. (We're guessing the wives weren't too happy about that.)
- Then 07-03 got it into his head that they should all be like animals again, crawling on all fours.
- So a bunch of the scholars and Octavian crawled on hands and knees in front of Octavian's mother, who laughed.
- That evening Mr. Gitney gave a speech that capped everything off: he basically stated that Nature is God's gift to civilized man and man should use Nature like it's his God-given right — like a new Eden.
- Then they went back to Boston.
- On the ride back, Octavian sits with 24-06, only when Octavian calls him "24-06," 24-06 tells him that's not his name; his name's Bono (no—not the singer from U2).
- Bono's not cool with Octavian. How do we know?
- Octavian wants to ask Bono about the moon and the sun, but Bono tells him to shut up or else he'll kick Octavian off the carriage.
- Then he tells Octavian that Octavian can't cry, even though he starts to pinch Octavian hard.
- Octavian tells us he stops feeling and becomes "observant" instead.
- He notices the scenery, like felons hanging from nooses—you know, cheery stuff.
- Then, when they arrive, Bono gets mysterious. He tells Octavian to "learn fear" because—we'll just quote—"fear is like happiness, but the smile is wider."
- Octavian brings us back to the present and tells us that it was moments like this when—as a kid—he'd wonder who he really was.
Part 1, Chapter 6
- The scholars at the College of Lucidity have a supplier who gets them all their stuff for their experiments.
- The supplier's name? Druggett. (Get the pun in his name? Drug… get…)
- Druggett's kind of like a Davey Crockett guy—he braves the Wild West and trades with Native Americans (or "savages of the Iroquois Nations" as they're painfully referred to in the text).
- He brings back all sorts of crazy plants and animals to fulfill the scholars' needs, and one time, when Octavian was four, Druggett even brought back a dragon's skull.
- Octavian took to the skull so much that he wore it on his head.
- He wouldn't take it off and cried so hard when they took it away from him that they let him keep the skull in his room, where he'd sleep with it like it was his favorite stuffed animal.
Part 1, Chapter 7
- This chapter is all about crap. No—really.
- Octavian tells us that when he was young, he learned how to operate and read scales.
- By weighing his own poop.
- Everything he ate and then pooped out, the scholars would weigh and take notes on.
- In fact, Octavian's poop was so important it was even weighed on a golden scale—because gold is an inert metal that can't react chemically with whatever is put on it, including poop.
- When Octavian noticed that no one else got his poop weighed, he felt incredibly special.
- Wouldn't you?
Part 1, Chapter 8
- Octavian starts out by telling us that he doesn't know much about his origins; he only knows what his mother told him and she never told him much.
- Except then he launches into a really long story of his mother's past as a princess in the Oyo empire, in western Africa.
- Here are the basics: Cassiopeia was a princess, who used to sit by her big daddy the King while he dealt with state business. She was happy, with lots of siblings, a beautiful home, and even a handsome prince as her fiancé. Then, just as she was about to marry her beloved prince, another prince asked to marry her. This prince was a total jerk about being rejected, so he took his anger out on them by waging war. He killed her fiancé and kidnapped Cassiopeia, and tried to force her to marry him, but she refused, so he exiled her to the coast. There, on the coastal kingdom of Dahomey, she was kept at the Governor's castle. The castle was beautiful, with lots of music, and she would sit listening to the music while pregnant with Octavian. In fact, that's where she thinks Octavian got his musical talent from—all that background music he heard while in the womb. Things were good, except the English came and took over the Isle of B—, where she was at. She got taken onto a ship called the Incontrovertible with Captain Julian McFergus at the helm. McFergus protected her from other men throughout the trip across the sea to America; then, once in America, she figured out that she didn't really like the more southern ports like Savannah or even New York, which is how she ended up in Boston.
- Mr. Gitney saw her arrival in the papers and was so impressed with her elegance and smarts, he opened his home to her.
- The only thing he asked for in exchange was that Octavian be educated according to the Gitney way (philosophy, classics, blah blah blah).
- Cassiopeia was only thirteen years old then, so she couldn't say no.
- And that's how their life began in the College of Lucidity.
Part 1, Chapter 9
- This whole chapter is all about how much Octavian adores his mother.
- He describes how all the men just flocked to and surrounded Cassiopeia all the time, and how Cassiopeia knew how to banter and flirt with them in order to get her way, especially if she had to leave and tend to Octavian.
- Even Octavian started to view her the way the other men did: as an admirer.
- Insert Octavian the narrator, with a whole argument about how he can't describe his mother in any way other than this beautiful flirt.
- He admits that he doesn't know anything about her feelings or thoughts; he can only describe her as he saw her.
- Once though, he remembers how—after putting him to bed—she asked him to touch her hair.
- She laid her head down in his lap and he patted her head.
- That time, he felt like he was the mother and she was his son.
Part 1, Chapter 10
- Octavian's beating himself up for not knowing sooner.
- He doesn't tell us right off what, exactly, he didn't know though.
- Instead, he takes us back to this memory he has of hanging out with Bono.
- Octavian wants to know why Bono wants to change his name, and Bono says he doesn't like it because it was given to him as a joke.
- Octavian doesn't get the joke, so Bono explains that since he was bought when he was in his mother's womb, he got the name Pro Bono, as in for free—as in two for the price of one.
- Just like Octavian, Bono points out.
- But Octavian's confused, and is all no, my mom's a princess.
- Was a princess, Bono says.
- Octavian goes on to explain that Cassiopeia chose to come to Boston because she didn't like the southern ports, but Bono just looks sorry for Octavian and jokes that Cassiopeia being in Boston had nothing to do with the fact that the southern ports sent the sickest slaves up to New England because Southerners didn't want those slaves.
- Octavian doesn't really get Bono's point.
- Then Bono realizes that—wow—Octavian doesn't know he is a slave.
- He tells Octavian that this one time, Octavian can cry, because it'll be the last time he's free.
- Then the chapter switches to an ad taken from The Boston Gazette, June 12, 1759.
- The ad shows an auction to be held for slaves from the ship The Incontrovertible, brought to Boston by Captain McFergus.
Part 1, Chapter 11
- Now that Octavian knows he's a slave, he can't help but see slavery everywhere he goes.
- He also notes how there are different classes of slaves—both white and black—like bonded, freed, indentured, etc.
- So what makes Octavian so different?
- He's not sure, but he does know one thing: the answer is behind that door with the crossed bones over his face.
- One night, while the scholars are throwing a party, Octavian sneaks into the room, and inside he finds: lots of bound notebooks—all about him and his mother; a chart of detailing all the differences between animals and humans; and a nude picture of his mother titled "Pubescent Female of the Oyo Country In Africa."
- Freaky, right?
- Octavian especially can't get over the picture of his mother naked, even though he hears Mr. G. looking for him.
- Mr. G. finds him in the study.
- Only Mr. G. isn't super-mean to Octavian, and instead they have a rational discussion about what Octavian finds.
- Mr. G. confirms all of Octavian's suspicions and basically lets Octavian know how important and special Octavian is.
- Octavian ends up wanting to do good by Mr. G.
- His big aspiration? To become a number, a mere observer, just like Mr. G. and the other scholars.
- But there's still a punishment: Mr. G. has Octavian hold a huge book (Milton and Shakespeare—ouch) in each hand, and he's not allowed to put the books down even though his hands might get tired.
- Apparently, Mr. G. had the same punishment when he was a kid and the feeling after the punishment is "sublime"—like arms floating up, weightless.
Part 1, Chapter 12
- This chapter is about as short and sweet as they come.
- Now that Octavian knows about Mr. G.'s experiment with him, Octavian just wants to succeed.
- But he can't help noticing all the animals in all the experiments at the house—after all, those animals are his "brethren."
- Still, he studies his books and plays the violin as much he can.
Part 1, Chapter 13
- This chapter's one long letter from this guy called Dr. Matthias Fruhling, to his wife.
- Who's this guy? He's just one of the guests Mr. G. invites over to his house all the time, though that doesn't stop him from criticizing his good hosts.
- Why? Well, let's just say he's a Bible-thumper who's not all about parties, good food, and good entertainment.
- About that entertainment though…
- He's willing to admit that there was one really good act—and that was Octavian playing his violin.
- He also lets his wife know that he and Mr. G. don't agree about the whole Manifest Destiny, westward expansion over Native American thing.
- Mr. G. thinks America is God's gift to them and so they should just go forth, take it, and use it; Dr. Fruhling, though, he's not down with that whole plan.
- But don't you go thinking it's because he cares about the Native Americans—nope, he thinks they're "savages" who God put to the far west of Virginians (that's what he is) for a reason.
- From there, he closes his letter with the promise that he's going to find a church to pray at.
Part 1, Chapter 14
- We know you're just dying to hear all about 09-01, or Dr. Trefusis, one of Octavian's tutors.
- No? Oh well. Here goes anyway…
- 09-01 teaches Octavian all about Latin and Greek, but he's more than just a tutor—he was once welcomed at Versailles and Sansouci (which are the royal courts of France and Germany, by the way).
- Maybe that's why he walks around all gloomy sometimes. It must kind of stink to go from some royal court to being Octavian's tutor.
- Or maybe it's the stuff he assigns Octavian to read — all about falling empires and such.
- He's also really paranoid about existence in general, and by that, we mean whether or not that piece of furniture sitting in the corner of your room actually exists.
- In fact, he has this habit of popping into a room unexpectedly just to check if a chair in the room is actually still there and not completely dissolved into random molecules.
- One night, he takes Octavian into an empty room.
- They just stand there silently for fifteen minutes.
- Then he tells Octavian that all that's left is the eye of God.
- He says, "'The pupil is black, and as large as a world.'"
Part 1, Chapter 15
- So if 09-01 is like Octavian's best academic teacher ever, 13-04 is his favorite music teacher.
- Why? It has a lot to do with the way he treats Octavian and Cassiopeia, but we'll get to that.
- First, a description: 13-04 is all about the music, which means he's not about the way he looks.
- Another way to put it: 13-04 is dressed like a hobo as much as Octavian's dressed like a little prince.
- Which is totally awkward for Octavian because it's not like he chooses to dress like a peacock (03-01 makes those decisions for him).
- 13-04 is also incredibly well educated in music and studied with all the "great masters" in Italy.
- Under 13-04, Octavian plays some serious classical music, we're talking Handel, Gluck, and Corelli—composers known to serious music students.
- But what really makes 13-04 really cool is how open he is to different kinds of music.
- For example, he hears Cassiopeia singing one night and is just bowled over by her music even though it's totally different from the Western classical music he knows. (She's singing a lullaby from her homeland.)
- He asks her if he can write down every song she knows from her homeland.
- Cassiopeia assents reluctantly, and 13-04 starts on the project of documenting her songs.
- He even tries to get Octavian to sway Cassiopeia into singing the songs in private to Octavian so that Octavian can remember his own musical history.
- So Octavian does just that, but instead of singing to Octavian one of their folkloric songs, she recites a passage from the Book of Psalms (as in the Bible).
- The passage is all about a group of people in Babylon who are weeping because they don't feel like they can sing the songs of the Lord in a foreign place, even though their captors are trying to force them into singing songs of Zion.
- Cassiopeia gets really into the reading, takes off her wig, and puts her hand on Octavian's head.
- She continues with the passage, which goes on to condemn those who would forget Jerusalem in favor of a place like Babylon.
- In fact, the passage is really negative about those captors of Babylon, especially the "daughter of Babylon," for forcing the captives to sing about Zion.
- The last part of the passage is all about hoping for the death of the "daughter of Babylon's" babies, as revenge for what she's doing to the captives.
- Octavian's kind of stunned by what his mom is reading (we don't blame him; it's all a little scary) and isn't sure what country his mother is actually describing in the end.
Part 1, Chapter 16
- Don't pity Octavian—he was a lucky boy… or, that's what Octavian wants you to know anyway.
- He knows people make think his childhood was totally weird, but he looks back on it as a time of plenty.
- After all, he got to read, think, play music, hold his mother's hand… totally different from all the other slaves, who lived in crappy conditions and were treated like animals.
- Back then, he had two selves—the one who might cry and the one who Observed coldly.
- So even though he cried from time to time as a kid, he also learned how to detach from his crying self too.
- That's the big Eye that watched him as he grew up—his own self.
Part 1, Chapter 17
- Octavian's tutors are all about taking him outdoors and teaching him mathematical principles through everyday life.
- We're talking math problems based on how a large a ship appears—that kind of stuff.
- They talk about other subjects too, like how the human eye sees color or what kind of trade occurs between countries.
- On these walks, they can't avoid the politics of the city because the city is super-tense.
- Boston's itching to fight the motherland (England) over taxation. (You know the motto: "No taxation without representation.")
- Octavian doesn't understand all the tension and anger in the city, why people's stores are getting looted and vandalized, or why people are crying "Liberty and Property!".
- More importantly, he really doesn't understand that all this tension threatens his life at the College too.
- There, life is easy and grand; they get to wear cool threads and eat good food.
- Even though they have guests who come by bearing bad news (like Customs officials preventing the smuggling of goods—which the Gitney family is involved in) and who come cursing out the English crown, Octavian doesn't feel the effect.
- But wait—Octavian's not totally a dolt in these discussions.
- He does get that whatever is going on does have one serious effect on him, his mother, and the other slaves—and that maybe, just maybe, all this unrest might be God's way of leading them to a future of freedom, self-education, and self-rule.
Part 1, Chapter 18
- One night, 09-01 and Octavian are walking along the wharf.
- 09-01 teaches Octavian how to calculate the number of miles a man pulling rope on a ship walks backward in his lifetime.
- They see a man who's been tarred and feathered, or at least, that's what Octavian eventually figures out (at first, the guy looked like some beast).
- Who's the guy? It's John Withers, a Customs Inspector.
- (Yep—it wasn't just slaves who got tarred and feathered back then.)
- They witness Withers getting beaten and trying to protect his private parts.
- This all leads Octavian to wonder why all of this is happening, which leads 09-01 to explain this whole beef Boston (and the other colonies) have with England over taxation.
- But 09-01's explanation is actually more like a defense of England.
- He points out that taxation is necessary if they want the colonies to be protected from French invasion or if they want to kill the Native Americans so that the colonies can expand westward—after all, it takes money to kill people.
- One of the guys beating the Customs Inspector hears 09-01 and asks him what he's saying.
- 09-01 lies and tells the guy that he was just speaking Greek to Octavian—about how Plato defines a man to be a featherless biped open to political philosophy.
Part 1, Chapter 19
- Octavian's eleven-years-old when Lord Cheldthorpe (02-01) dies.
- Who's Lord Cheldthorpe (02-01)? Oh… just the most important donor to the College.
- All of which means, of course, that the College has lost a major source of its funding.
- Bad news.
- But wait—there's this nephew, who has been named Lord Cheldthorpe in place of the old L.C., and this nephew is coming to the College to see if it's worth all the money his uncle was pouring into it.
- Mr. Gitney is totally nervous because everything hangs on this visit, and no one knows anything about this new Lord Cheldthorpe.
- Mr. Gitney does let everyone know though that the new L.C. will be numbered 02-06, though.
- When the new Lord Cheldthorpe arrives, the first thing he asks (which is totally weird, even for the scholars at the College) is whether or not a one-legged bird could be lured to his side. Like—as a real scientific problem, worthy of research and study. (Told you it's weird.)
- Mr. Gitney doesn't really know how to respond, so he just kind of mumbles his response and introduces the nephew to Cassiopeia.
- Lord Cheldthorpe, clearly digging Cassiopeia, asks to be called "Lord Cheldthorpe of the New Creation." (If you need to take a break and gag on your own vomit, go right ahead.)
- Cassiopeia welcomes the "New Creation" in style, to "Eden."
Part 1, Chapter 20
- Lord Cheldthorpe and Cassiopeia totally hit it off—they flirt and flirt and flirt some more.
- Octavian's not so into their flirtation, though, and at one point he acts out by throwing and breaking Cassiopeia's crayons, even though he says he's just drawing an erupting volcano.
- Things are going so well with Lord Cheldthorpe's visit that he offers to fund a field trip to the wilds of New York (and no, we don't mean Manhattan—we're talking actual wilderness here).
- Mr. Gitney tells everyone at the College that the goal of the trip will be threefold: to woo Lord Cheldthorpe into seeing how the New World can be profitable, pleasurable, and important to science.
Part 1, Chapter 21
- So they're all in the wilderness now.
- Cassiopeia goes along because Mr. Gitney tells her to keep Lord Cheldthorpe company, even though the wild is no place for a woman in heels.
- The group meets up with Druggett, who gets them past the Iroquois—heck, two Iroquois people help them pass safely through the land.
- One night, one of the Iroquois asks if Bono knew Cato Williams, a black guy who fought against the Iroquois, but Bono just shrugs and says everyone is named Cato Williams.
- The wilderness is incredibly beautiful and very much "nature" with a big "N" (so we probably should have just written Nature).
- All that beauty inspires Lord Cheldthorpe to go hunt and de-"virgin"ize the land. Stay classy, LC.
- Bono and 09-01 agree that they've never seen anyone human being take so much pleasure in killing animals and such.
Part 1, Chapter 22
- Now that they've settled into a camping spot, Mr. Gitney and Druggett go about surveying the land.
- Meanwhile, 09-01 and Octavian continue their studies.
- Bono likes to make fun of Lord Cheldthorpe behind his back, and Cassiopeia thinks Lord Cheldthorpe is pretty silly too, but she still flirts with LC and feels attracted to him.
- Which is all great for Mr. Gitney—he's figured out that the happier Lord Cheldthorpe is, the more likely it is tht he'll continue to fund the College.
- He even encourages Cassiopeia to keep up her warm relations with the Lord.
- Cassiopeia points out that there's a name for the type of thing Mr. Gitney is asking her to do. (We think you can guess what the name to that oldest profession in the world is.)
- One night, they hold a dance in the woods; Octavian plays the violin while Cassiopeia and Lord Cheldthorpe dance.
- Cassiopeia tells Octavian that he's rushing through the music, which prompts Octavian to remark (like a little smart-aleck), that he can't help it—the humidity of the air has "untuned" him.
- Cassiopeia all of a sudden turns cold on Octavian and tells him to basically stop acting like a child.
- 09-01 comes to Octavian's defense and points out that Octavian, you know, is a child, at which point Cassiopeia retorts that Octavian has never been a child and so she doesn't see why he should start acting like one now. (Ouch.)
Part 1, Chapter 23
- This chapter is one of those tiny chapters, less than half a page long.
- Octavian's feeling bad about portraying his mom like a total (insert bad word here), so he's reminding himself to remember good memories of her, like: when they chased fireflies together; when she was decorating a cake, her dress blowing in the wind; when she lured birds to her side with butter and singing.
Part 1, Chapter 24
- It's the end of May.
- While the entire College is communing with Nature in the wilds of New York, Boston's getting ready for the Revolutionary War.
- Lord Cheldthorpe is starting to pay more attention to Octavian; he even teaches Octavian how to swim.
- Octavian's a smart boy. He knows Lord Cheldthorpe's just trying to get in good with him so that Cassiopeia will like the Lord more—but Octavian doesn't care, because the way he looks at it, this is just more proof that it's Octavian who's the center of Cassiopeia's world.
- Octavian offers to teach Bono how to swim, but Bono just can't get over how Octavian seems okay with how everything is turning out between Cassiopeia and Lord Cheldthorpe.
- One day, Lord Cheldthorpe asks Octavian if it's weird to get his poop weighed.
- Octavian replies that it was weird finding out that no one else got their poop weighed and notes what a bummer this much be for other people since their lives are so "uncertain," what with not knowing how much they eat and poop out everyday.
- Lord Cheldthorpe points out that Octavian is definitely not your typical kid (like, duh).
- The day is unbelievably beautiful and perfect—life seems not just great, but incredibly generous.
Part 1, Chapter 25
- Everyone's waiting for the transit of Venus to eclipse the sun.
- Time to break out the popcorn and lounge chairs—this transit's about to take five hours.
- Lord Cheldthorpe gets antsy and wants to go "swimming" with Cassiopeia, but Druggett wants to join in, which gives Cassiopeia the opportunity to refuse (she's not into skinny-dipping with one man, let alone two).
- Lord Cheldthorpe feels kind of put out, but Druggett still offers to swim.
- In fact, Druggett is kind of persistent about swimming with Lord Cheldthorpe.
- Lord Cheldthorpe puts his foot down though and says no, claiming that swimming with Druggett would be way too close to slumming it.
- So instead Lord Cheldthorpe and Cassiopeia go off to the side and chat the hours away, while they all continue waiting for the eclipse.
Part 1, Chapter 27
- The next morning, Octavian and his mother are taken back into the house.
- Lord Cheldthorpe has finally left for South Carolina (yay)… but things are bad.
- Mr. Gitney's totally preoccupied with the state of the College, and he doesn't even have time to really deal with what Octavian and Cassiopeia experienced.
- The first of the College's equipment is sold.
- Clearly, the College has no more funding.
- Times are definitely changing.
Part 2, Chapter 1
- It's the day after the whipping, and Bono tells Octavian that Octavian can't wear a shirt.
- Octavian's back is completely bloody, so it'll just ruin the shirt.
- Octavian's really disturbed by the cuts on his back because they're so open, spilling all his pain out; he feels the pain of the wounds so much that he cries.
- Bono gives him the shirt anyway and tells him to put it on, but Octavian just shakes his head and cries some more.
- He tells Bono that he pooped in the ice house, and that the poop wasn't weighed.
- He asks Bono to tell Mr. Gitney the poop needs to be weighed, but Bono tells him nothing's being measured or weighed anymore.
- Meanwhile, Cassiopeia is in the cellar, wrapped in a ball, bleeding into her dress like the stars bleeding into the evening sky.
Part 2, Chapter 2
- No one speaks after the whipping incident.
- Cassiopeia sits for days in her room, acting like a tyrant to the other slaves.
- At first, the slaves are sympathetic—the cook even makes special food for her—but after Cassiopeia keeps sending the food back because it's not good enough for her, the cook stops giving her special treatment.
- Octavian also doesn't speak, nor does he go to his lessons.
- When he does resume his studies with 09-01 again, he doesn't speak for two days.
- But 09-01 doesn't put up with the silence for long, and on the third day, he tells Octavian to read a text in Latin aloud.
- Octavian speaks really quietly, which frustrates 09-01 so much that 09-01 starts badgering Octavian to speak more loudly.
- In fact, 09-01 gets so caught up in the moment that he starts reading the text in a loud, booming voice.
- Come to find out that the text he wants Octavian to read is all about a slave in Rome, who rises up against his masters through a rebellion. (Interesting choice…)
- Octavian starts translating as 09-01 reads the Latin aloud, until eventually his voice matches 09-01's loudness as they continue to read together.
Part 2, Chapter 3
- We've got a new guy entering the scene: Mr. Sharpe.
- Mr. Sharpe's here to save the day—he's got money (or, at least, he represents people with money), and he's willing to spend it on the College.
- But Mr. Sharpe isn't exactly your benevolent benefactor.
- First of all, he only faces people in order to assess them—otherwise, he paces and only shows you his profile.
- When he meets Mr. Gitney and the rest of the College peeps, the first question he asks them is whether an animal can feed on itself to survive.
- Why does he ask that question?
- It's basically his way of going into his agenda for the College. He points out that the way the College was run in the past just can't be if it wants to survive into the future, so his plan is for the College to expand into the real world.
- That means: (1) No more of Mr. Gitney's numerical naming system—it's just too hierarchical; and (2) he wants the Painter to make a mural of the Arts and Sciences sitting on top of Utility (which, he thinks, ought to kind of look like an ox).
Part 2, Chapter 4
- Mr. Sharpe is continuing with his plan to revamp the College.
- He meets with each scholar to figure out how that scholar's work can be redirected toward practical ends.
- Also, Mr. Sharpe isn't so much into the arts because they aren't practical or profitable to him.
- Everything really is changing.
- The whole business of switching to proper surnames is really weird for the College crew, and Cassiopeia—well, let's just say, Mr. Sharpe's just not that into her.
- He thinks Cassiopeia is way too fancy and puts on airs, so he cuts off funding for her dresses.
- Finally, he observes a lesson between Dr. Trefusis and Octavian.
- Octavian thinks the lesson is going well (it's another Latin text on a slave rebellion), but Sharpe doesn't think so.
- He bans all history and literature from Octavian's education—anything with a hint of a story—because narrative just isn't abstract (read: boring) enough.
- He reasons that all this storytelling is too much a part of Octavian's natural, African self and culture, and so of course Octavian takes to it well—what the College should really be testing is Octavian's ability to learn complete abstraction (stuff like pure grammar and logic), which Mr. Sharpe identifies as useful stuff.
- Dr. Trefusis is completely scandalized by this plan—he thinks it's going to ruin Octavian—but Mr. Sharpe just says that Dr. T has done that already and asks for the new lessons to begin.
Part 2, Chapter 5
- Octavian's not having fun studying anymore.
- Who can blame him? Now he's forced to study dry, boring stuff, like excerpts of Latin and Greek texts.
- He never gets a chance to read a whole text—Mr. Sharpe is strict about banning narratives from Octavian's study, so much so that Octavian can't even use the library because Mr. Sharpe says random reading will prejudice the results of their grand experiment with the boy.
- But Octavian's surprisingly chill with the arrangement, mainly because he gets to train under Bono.
- Yep—Mr. Sharpe wants Octavian to work as a servant too.
- Bono teaches Octavian all sorts of things about the running of the house, and he also shows Octavian how to protect himself when he goes outside of the house to run errands by carrying a note that states Bono is the property of Mr. Gitney. This note will keep the guards from wondering why Octavian is running about.
- Bono gives Octavian a lesson in reality when he points out that the note is what white men want black people to be—something that white men can own, can write on, keep in their pocket.
- Octavian tries to counter Bono with the idea that men are known by their "deeds," but Bono's smart and quick himself, so he agrees and goes on to say that "deeds" are exactly what houses are known by—they're documents that show who owns what, who owns whom.
Part 2, Chapter 6
- Everyday is the same for Octavian; he translates boring fragments of texts.
- Mr. Sharpe doesn't speak to him, and instead he just gives Octavian an assignment and leaves.
- Greek and Latin become drudgery.
- If he fails or makes mistakes, Octavian gets whipped, and while the whippings aren't as bad as that first whipping he got under Lord Cheldthorpe, they're a lot more regular.
- This means his hands are always bloody, cut, and bandaged tightly—he needs the bandages because he's in charge of handling Mr. Sharpe's clothes and can't get them bloody.
- But Octavian's okay with his demotion from princeling to servant.
- He would have felt awkward to be growing up, playing the violin and reading, while other slaves toiled around him.
- It is weird, though, to do chores, like prep dinner, then run to eat dinner in the dining hall, with the scholars who didn't prep the food.
Part 2, Chapter 7
- Bono isn't just about teaching Octavian how to get by in and outside of the household—he also shows Octavian how to fool the masters.
- For instance, one time Mr. Sharpe gets his tie spotted with some chemical mixture.
- He gives the tie to the laundry-maid to clean, but she can't, so she gives it to Bono, who—it just so happens—is the king of laundering stains.
- He tells Octavian how he would clean the stain (the process is long and involves vinegar and sheep's bones), but when Mr. Sharpe asks Bono if he can get it out, Bono says there's just no way.
- Mr. Sharpe's not happy about it, but what can he do?
- So when Bono asks if he could keep the tie—now that it's ruined, and all—Mr. Sharpe lets him.
- Bono cleans the stain off of the tie that very night, and two days later, he's wearing the tie out of the house. Boo ya.
Part 2, Chapter 8
- Octavian really misses his studies with Dr. Trefusis.
- He misses books more than anything else, and it feels like he's been exiled from his home and country now that he's not allowed to read any narrative.
- One night, Bono asks what's up with the depressed Octavian, and Cassiopeia tells him that Octavian just misses his books.
- Bono doesn't get it, though. Apparently Mr. Gitney told him to read some books in the library once, but Bono thought the books were total nonsense, full of stuff that's just not real.
- Bono tells Octavian to forget books and leave it to the rich.
- That's not what Octavian wants to hear though, so the next day, Bono slips him a book: Tacitus's Annals of Rome.
- Octavian can't speak, out of wonder.
- But there's a catch: Bono wants Octavian to read to him a book that's partly in Latin (the Latin is supposed to keep women from reading the book too).
- Octavian looks at the book and immediately isn't down with the deal.
- Why? The book is basically pornographic literature.
- But Bono won't give Tacitus to Octavian unless Octavian reads the smutty book to Bono.
- So Octavian folds, and once a week, in exchange for books from the library, he reads porn to Bono.
Part 2, Chapter 9
- Octavian can't take it anymore, so he starts to play his violin secretly in the attic.
- Only it's not that much of a secret, since everyone knows he's up there playing.
- Mr. Sharpe doesn't generally care as long as it's out of his earshot (he's not that into music either—thinks it's all too cultured and against nature… big surprise).
- But one day, Mr. Sharpe starts visiting the attic and listening in on Octavian's music sessions—he even asks Octavian to play some popular songs of the day—and eventually, he brings a violin master in to hear Octavian play.
- Their plan? To get Octavian to play at Faneuil Hall, in front of a big, paying audience.
- So they organize a performance at Faneuil Hall: Octavian will play "The Devil's Trill" dressed as the devil.
- What's with the whole devil thing?
- Mr. Sharpe—the guy, mind you, who thinks narratives are totally impractical—has told the audience that Octavian got his talent from the Devil one night.
- He thinks this will make Octavian's performance more interesting to the audience.
- Octavian is really not happy. First of all, the whole story is clearly a lie; and second, he's dressed in the most ridiculous (and offensive) get-up ever.
- Mr. Sharpe tells Octavian to play the piece full of lightness and joy.
- Yeah, right.
- Octavian—who, before the whole performance, was feeling sick and nervous—gets up on that stage and plays the hell out of (or more like, into) the piece.
- He makes it freaky, gothic, scary—in other words, the exact opposite of light and gay.
- He doesn't know how he gets as many compliments as he does after the piece, but he does; some people even come up to him and tell him he's managed to change their minds about slavery.
- But Mr. Sharpe is not happy.
- He whips Octavian when they get home that night; then he makes Octavian do his hair.
Part 2, Chapter 10
- Octavian's performance at Faneuil went so well that he's now hired to play light dances at the Hall.
- It's not just him though; he plays with a band of other slaves.
- All of which makes him wonder: How did the other slaves learn to play their instruments?
- Octavian the narrator jumps in at the end and gets all philosophical about music: how music comes from a place, but it's like its own country, with its own power, and anyone who wants to go into the land of music, can go and play whatever instrument he or she likes.
Part 2, Chapter 11
- According to Octavian (the narrator), history is usually written by memoirists.
- But not this year.
- This year, history is unavoidable because war is nearing.
- There are riots and beatings—all for those who side with the Brits.
- Even Harvard men join in on the violence. (We're pretty sure there's a joke in here about Harvard students, but we'll leave that one up to you.)
- Meanwhile, the College is poorer. Since the Transit of Venus, changes have clearly occurred.
- Who could have imagined, during that summer of the Transit of Venus, that nine months later war would break out between the colonials and the Red Coats? That the Red Coats would actually fire into a crowd and kill five men?
- About those dead five men: two of those bodies get displayed for public viewing—well, sort of. You have to pay a fee to see the corpses.
- Which Bono does.
- He says paying threepence isn't much to see history.
- The whole chapter ends with a quote from Seneca, about how waiting for war is way worse than war itself.
Part 2, Chapter 12
- The next few years suck—so much so that Octavian doesn't even like talking about it.
- Mr. Gitney's a shadow of his old self. Yeah, sure, he's still doing his experiments, but it's clear that he answers to Mr. Sharpe, the real head honcho of the house.
- Or to be exact—Mr. Sharpe may be the head honcho of the house, but he actually represents a bunch of other men, who let Mr. Sharpe be Mr. Sharpe.
- Some of these men are actually Gitneys too, but in the past, they weren't really relevant to the College.
- Now, though—now they're around all the time, getting into College business.
- Most of the investors are absent though.
- Cassiopeia has changed too. She's quiet a lot and mostly hangs out in her room; she's still pretty, but she doesn't show it that much.
- She also sews for the entire house.
- At church (which is also new, since Mr. Sharpe thought their old church was too Anglican and therefore too close to Catholicism), Cassiopeia sits with the other slaves.
- She's no longer all sunshine and giggles (not that she was ever totally that)—and this is especially true after she finds out about the Somerset decision, which basically allows any American slave on the British Isles to sue the government for freedom, which the slave will get as long as he or she stayed on British land.
- She really regrets not going to London with Lord Cheldthorpe, especially because she feels she owed it to Octavian.
- She starts crying, rocking, and apologizing to Octavian about saying no to Lord Cheldthorpe, only she can't even say the verb that would describe what Lord Cheldthorpe wanted from her…
Part 2, Chapter 13
- Bono's quiet too, but only because he doesn't want the masters to know his plans.
- We don't know what his plan is either, but it has something to do with his habit of reading and clipping articles after Mr. Gitney is done with them.
- After he clips them, Bono pastes the clippings into this big book.
- One day, Mr. Sharpe sees him pasting an article into the book, and though Bono tries to redirect his attention, Mr. Sharpe isn't fooled. He takes the book, reads it, and then orders Bono to go get Mr. Gitney so he can get a whipping.
- Bono's mad (for good reason).
- Octavian finally sees the book after they all leave the kitchen area; he sees that the articles are all about the horrors of slavery—with graphic pictures.
- Mr. Gitney burns the book an hour later, but Octavian can't forget the horrors he sees because those pictures are the "common property of them all."
Part 2, Chapter 14
- It's starting… Octavian's feeling rebellious, particularly since seeing the pictures of slavery in Bono's book.
- All of a sudden, he doesn't want to weigh his poop anymore.
- He goes to Cassiopeia and silently signals that this is it; Cassiopeia gets him and tells him to go to Mr. Gitney.
- So Octavian goes to Mr. G. and tells him he doesn't want to do it anymore, but Mr. Gitney tells him it's not Octavian's choice to stop the experiment—everyone knows it's Mr. Sharpe calling the shots these days.
- Which brings Octavian to a question he has: Why does Mr. Sharpe want him to fail?
- Mr. Gitney beats around the bush a little bit, but Octavian won't give up on the question.
- So Mr. Gitney admits that Mr. Sharpe now represents a group of men—a lot of them from the South, plantation owners and merchants—who are invested in the experiment of Octavian in a different way.
- Rather than wanting to prove Octavian's intelligence, these men want to prove Octavian's lack of intelligence.
- So all the changes to Octavian's education go back to that point: these men do want to see Octavian fail.
- But Mr. Gitney—who doesn't agree with these men—assures Octavian that he's on Octavian's side and that he thinks Octavian's clear intelligence will defeat these men.
- Octavian leaves the room, but not without leaving the book in which he records all his poop weigh-ins.
- The chapter ends with a paraphrase of Empedocles, about how babies have a backbone that's fused into one long bone in the womb, but that—through the pain of a birth that breaks that backbone into bits—gain a spine.
Part 2, Chapter 15
- After his talk with Mr. Gitney, Octavian recalls all the last texts he read under Dr. Trefusis's tutelage. There were: (1) Livy's history of the Tarquins, in which a slave boy was set on fire, but survived and went on to become the King of Rome; (2) the slave revolt of King Antiochus; (3) the Greek slaves who taught their Roman masters' children the classics and the arts'; (4) the love poems to bonded (slave) girls; (5) Plutarch's account of the slave-gladiator Spartacus; and (6) the account of philosopher Diogenes the Cynic, who—after being sold into slavery—said that a useful skill he had was "ruling men."
Part 2, Chapter 16
- It's party time, Shmoopsters—specifically Boston Tea Party time.
- Octavian doesn't hear about it until the day after, and even then, doesn't really understand what it all means.
- He just thinks it's the same old shenanigans by the Sons of Liberty.
- Dr. Trefusis and he walk along the wharves talking about their usual stuff.
- In the harbor, tea litters the water completely; men in boats are trying to shove it underwater.
Part 2, Chapter 17
- Months go by. Life goes on as usual for Octavian and Cassiopeia, while around them, everyone is gearing up for war.
- Merchants are stockpiling because the city's in lockdown.
- People are expecting riot, famine, and sickness, and rumors of smallpox spreading are in the air.
- On June 1st, the Port of Boston closes and, basically, England withdraws all of its governmental support in the town, instead installing a General to oversee the city.
- Families leave the city, and the only people who stay or move to the city are Tories, a.k.a. people loyal to the English crown.
- There are public prayers, fasts; other cities send Boston flour and rice.
- The College flees into the countryside, packing everything up to go to the house of one of Mr. Gitney's brothers.
- The house is in Canaan, Massachusetts, where they set everything up like they're back at the College.
- They hear news about the colonials rising up against the remaining signs of British government—courts, government officials.
- In the middle of all of it, Bono is given away as a Christmas gift to a trustee of the College.
Part 2, Chapter 18
- What got Mr. Sharpe and Mr. Gitney to give Bono away?
- Octavian doesn't know exactly, but he does know that the War plus the closure of the Port has made all funding dry up for the College.
- And you know what no money means to Mr. Gitney: anxiety and desperation.
- Mr. Sharpe too. In fact, both men are in total grovel-mode with the investors, to the point that they give Bono away to some gentleman in the Virginia Colony.
- Bono and Octavian sit in the garden and talk.
- Octavian's trying to lift Bono's spirits—after all, Bono's going to be a gentleman's valet. Plus, who knows? They may not be slaves for too long.
- But Bono sees the writing on the wall, and he doesn't like it—he sees the West Indies in his future, where slaves die because no one cares to feed them.
- Cue: prayer time.
- Octavian prays to God that Bono not be sent to the West Indies.
- He also tells Bono that Bono's been like a… but he can't figure out whether he wants to say brother or father.
- Bono tells him to stop speaking.
- He says that he's not going anywhere he doesn't want to go, and then he takes Octavian to look out at the pastures.
- There's a rock at their feet; Bono pushes Octavian down to the rock and tells him to memorize this "magic rock."
- Octavian doesn't get why, but Bono tells him that when he really needs to pray in the future, he should go to this rock and hold it to his belly.
- According to Bono, the rock will give him everything he wants; Octavian agrees.
- Bono tells him that the first week Bono got to the College, the scholars were lighting some kind of gas on fire and that he thought these guys were gods, that he'd made it to heaven.
- They look out at the apple trees against the winter sky.
- Then Bono says he's going to go in and put a bow in his hair—you know, to show himself off as a gift.
Part 2, Chapter 19
- The next day, Bono's taken to Salem to take a ship bound for Virginia.
- Dr. Trefusis gets Mr. Gitney to let Octavian go, even if he only gets to sit on top of the carriage.
- When they get out at Salem, Octavian can tell Mr. Gitney and Bono have been arguing.
- Mr. Gitney asks Bono if he still won't tell what he's heard, but Bono says he doesn't know what Mr. Gitney means.
- Mr. Gitney scowls and tells him to enjoy the South.
- Octavian hugs Bono (Bono's shackled, so he can't respond), then Bono assures Octavian that the next time he sees him, Bono will have a new name.
- Bono goes aboard the ship and faces the sun.
Part 2, Chapter 20
- Now the days really stink—without Bono, both Octavian and Cassiopeia are lonely.
- The College is now settled in Canaan, a place full of Whigs and rebels; at night they can see rebels lugging cannons and hiding gunpowder.
- They also get reports from Boston about how soldiers round up Negroes wandering the city at odd hours and communicate with each other through whistles.
- They can hear the militia practicing their shots.
- It's late March, and while they wait for something bad to happen, Mr. Gitney sends his invitation out for a pox party.
Part 2, Chapter 21
- What's in Mr. Gitney's invitation to the pox party?
- In fact, what is a pox party?
- Here's the gist of the invitation (which is the chapter):
- Mr. Gitney's holding a pox vaccine party.
- Everyone will get vaccinated with the smallpox vaccine and stay at the Canaan house until they get over whatever after-effects they might suffer.
- The whole thing will be one big party, with food and entertainment and—better yet—inoculation against the disease.
Part 2, Chapter 22
- Octavian has never been able to figure out exactly why Mr. Gitney called for the pox party when he did—sure people were worried about smallpox, but word of the disease had only just reached Boston, so people weren't that worried yet.
- Mr. Gitney had other reasons for the party, reasons Octavian could only guess at as the party occurred.
- Whatever the reasons, Octavian as narrator tells us this whole thing ends up as a nightmare that ends the College for good.
- Feeling some shivers of fear yet?
- Now, back to the scene:
- Cassiopeia and Octavian write the invitations out, and they're delivered around the countryside and city.
- It's early spring, and everything's muddy.
- Most of the guests are of the Gitney clan—the Young Men.
- Most of them don't have anything to do because the War—especially the closing of the Ports—has stopped trade and therefore business.
- Mr. Gitney and Mr. Sharpe prepare the house and order a bunch of good food and wine, plus a glass of pox spores for the vaccine.
- An old slave is ordered to wax the floors in preparation for dancing; he puts a brush on one foot and a slipper on another in order to wax the floor.
- Octavian watches the old man as he skates around the room silently for three hours.
Part 2, Chapter 23
- It's the first of April, and this means it's party time again, Shmoopsters—pox party time, to be exact.
- People arrive in their fancy clothes, with trunks of stuff and loads of gossip; Mr. Gitney's at the front of the arrival line.
- He cuts each guest on the arm and puts a strand of hair, laced with smallpox, into the cut.
- He does the same to Octavian, while informing Octavian that the cure for smallpox came from Africa and that Constantinople also had smallpox parties.
- After everyone's been inoculated, a red banner that says "God Have Mercy Upon Us" is unfurled. That's what they do for houses infected with smallpox.
Part 2, Chapter 24
- The party is like a microcosm of the world.
- The Young Men play card games; servants stand waiting for orders; Mr. Gitney's in the lab, giving talks on what they discovered in their observations of the Transit of Venus.
- The women sit in the parlor, gabbing with each other and with Cassiopeia (though some of the women ignore her).
- Mr. Goff, the painter, goes around offering to paint portraits of the women before smallpox settles in and possibly permanently marks their faces.
- Aina, the cook, discovers there's another slave from Benin, where she is also from, so they get along famously.
- There are also all sorts of romantic intrigue, including a love triangle between Mr. Goff, a lady, and her husband.
- At night they hold dances, with Octavian on the violin, an indentured Irishman on fiddle, and a slave from another house on the flageolet (kind of like a flute).
- Around the dancing guests are all these signs of danger: objects that can produce as much electricity as lightning; skeletons; dead animals.
- And at the top of the stairs, three Young Men wait with lots of guns.
- Octavian doesn't know why they're there, though he does notice though that they stand watch over whatever's going on outside the house, including the servants in the yard.
Part 2, Chapter 25
- Mr. Gitney calls Octavian into his room one night.
- On the table is a pistol; Mr. Gitney looks really depressed.
- He asks Octavian if he's heard of anything, or read some kind of secret communication, but Octavian has no idea what Mr. Gitney is talking about.
- Mr. Gitney keeps asking him if he's sure he knows nothing—and Octavian assures him that this is so; he's completely in the dark.
- Then Mr. Gitney asks him if he knows how much Mr. Gitney likes him and how much freedom Octavian has had in the house.
- Octavian assures him again and starts talking about the dance he'll be playing at that evening.
- Then he leaves.
- Only, Octavian the narrator tells us that his young self just lied to Mr. Gitney.
Part 2, Chapter 26
- When Octavian gets back to the kitchen, he asks Aina if she knows what Mr. Gitney and the Young Men are anticipating.
- Aina responds by asking what they don't anticipate.
Part 2, Chapter 27
- The sickness begins.
- Kids start getting fevers and pock marks, and people stop showing up to dinner.
- Octavian's feeling sick too and even asks for a break from playing one of the dances.
- Dr. Trefusis offers to take him to the servants' quarters, but Octavian just observes his mother dancing with all the men.
- He notes that the men either hug her really closely now or just ignore her.
- He asks Dr. Trefusis if this was always the case or if she used to dance in a more proper way, but Dr. Trefusis just tells him to rely on his memories.
- Then Octavian tells him that all of this can't last long.
- Dr. Trefusis goes into how Hesiod thought there were different Ages of man (you know, the Golden Age, the Iron Age, etc.), but that now, he thinks there's a worse metal representing their age.
- Octavian asks him if Mr. Gitney and the others worry about some kind of rebellion.
- Dr. Trefusis lets on what we've all been waiting to know: the Young Men and Mr. Gitney are all worried about the rumor that the Brits are riling up the slaves to rebel against their masters.
- Octavian figures out that Bono was sent away because the College men thought Bono knew something about this uprising, though Dr. Trefusis assures him that Bono was sent away because he was a good valet too (but Octavian's not comforted by this).
- Then Dr. Trefusis lets him in on the real reason for the pox party: Mr. Sharpe and the Young Men have been planning this for a while because they think something's going to happen, and they want their slaves too weak to be able to do anything if a slave rebellion pops up.
- Meanwhile, around them, the young guests talk about total nonsense.
- Octavian fears that everything will change.
- Dr. Trefusis says that he predicts—even with all that might change—there will always be young people making petty small talk.
- Octavian points out that he's young and that, if he could, he'd want to be like one of the young guests at the party, totally oblivious to the seriousness of life.
- Dr. Trefusis winces at that.
- Then, Cassiopeia falls; she's fallen to the illness.
- So Dr. Trefusis and Octavian draw her out of the dance, which continues in their absence.
Part 2, Chapter 28
- After Dr. Gitney and Octavian make Cassiopeia comfortable on her bed, Dr. Gitney chews Octavian out for sitting down at the dance earlier.
- It doesn't matter that Octavian's sick—he's still a servant.
- Then Dr. Gitney tells Octavian to leave, so he does, feeling sick and low.
- He ends up in the yard; a group of Young Men and a girl are playing around and ask him to fetch some blindfolds so they can continue their game.
- Octavian isn't sure what to do (he's a little muddled from his illness), but he finds himself going away from the group and toward the edge of the garden, where he last spoke with Bono.
- There, he finds the rock Bono told him to pray to, so Octavian drops down and starts praying with the rock.
- He even picks it up and holds it against his body, like Bono told him to.
- And—lo and behold—there's something hidden under the rock, in the dirt: keys to the house.
- Octavian thinks is Bono's last gift to Octavian, some way out to freedom.
- But then he figures out that the keys don't really do much good, since it's not like he has anywhere to run to—there isn't a safe place anywhere.
- Plus it's not like the house is ever locked anyway; Mr. Gitney and the scholars don't even really notice if a slave disappears for a day.
- But Octavian keeps the keys anyway—he's going to try to put them to use one way or another—and meanwhile, he returns to the house and searches for those blindfolds the Young Men wanted.
Part 2, Chapter 29
- The smallpox is really hitting the guests now.
- People are sick all over the place—literally—and blood, pus, and open sores are everywhere.
- Most of the guests aren't too sick, though.
- Octavian himself isn't bad off either, only he's forced to work, which makes things harder on him.
- Three people end up with a bad form of the smallpox: the boy who first showed a pox mark; the guy from the little love triangle involving Mr. Goff; and Cassiopeia.
- Cassiopeia is having a tough time with the pox, stuck in the slave quarters.
- She asks Octavian to read her a fairytale, but Octavian can't—he has to go work and recall fairytales from Ovid.
- But hey, things could be worse—he could have had no break at all if he hadn't convinced Mr. Gitney that one of his experiments (the smallpox's effect on African slaves and the white masters of house) would only be accurate if the sick slaves (like Octavian) got the same treatment as the whites.
- This means Octavian gets to sleep, though he dreams about one of those slave torture devices he saw in Bono's book—a full metal helmet—is on his head.
Part 2, Chapter 30
- The smallpox is starting to pass in the house, and women are taking long walks and kids are playing outside again.
- That first kid who fell sick is dead, while the Young Man caught in that love triangle isn't doing much better and has open sores oozing pus and blood everywhere, plus he can't get any sleep.
- Cassiopeia's not doing well either; she has sores everywhere too and desperately tries not to scratch them because she knows they'll scar her face if the sores burst open.
- She tells Octavian that the itchiness fills the room like a god who is all knowing.
- It's a good thing she can sleep.
Part 2, Chapter 31
- Chaos strikes one early April morning.
- The Meeting House bell is ringing and there are warning muskets firing shots into the air; people are running around and shouting in the main house.
- Octavian stands by for orders, near Dr. Trefusis, who is super-calm and drawing a snakeskin.
- He tells Octavian that the British army is marching out of Boston, hoping to seize munitions from the colonials' militia.
- Mr. Gitney is totally agitated by this news—he refuses to be moved by this war—but Dr. Trefusis points out that the Brits have already forced them to leave their actual house, in Boston.
- But Mr. Gitney's moved on to other things.
- Mr. Sharpe sends Octavian to the kitchen, where all the other slaves have gathered, under the watch of two Young Men with guns.
- The slaves are cooking everyone's breakfast even though it's so cramped in the kitchen.
- News is all over the place. A few men from the next town over, Acton, have been killed; the Brits are on the rise; the Brits are in retreat.
- What's next? The battles of Concord and Lexington (so get your history books ready).
- Octavian tells us that the Brits were at Lexington, met with resistance, and fired at the local militia.
- He hears that a woman saw her husband get shot and that he crawled, dying, to his wife, while Patriots stepped over him to fire at the Brits. Afterward, the man died in his wife's arms.
- Then the whole shebang moves to Concord, where more killing occurs, enough so that the Brits move back to Boston.
- The events are pretty gory.
- Octavian hears that one Patriot boy scalps a Redcoat who is already dying (only not quickly enough).
- Soldiers shoot at every house because they don't know who's inside.
- A soldier sees an old man who's down, tries to patch him up, and then the old man shoots the soldier.
- A little boy peers out a window to look at the Brits marching by and a soldier shoots him in the head (not knowing it was a little boy).
- All this stuff is going on outside, but inside, in the house, Octavian can only think about his mother.
- He doesn't notice the crying on the street or the wagon with three corpses rolling by, because all he can hear are his mother's cries.
- She looks terrible. (What do you expect? She has open sores all over her face.)
- He sits by her, keeping her company, while the house is in total disorder. (It's a good thing maybe, because no one really notices Octavian's absence.)
- One evening, he tries to get her to tell him about the Empire of Oyo—you know, their homeland—but she's not willing to talk about it because she says the place is lost.
- But Octavian nags her; he especially wants to know what she sat on because he knows she didn't sit on an orchid.
- She's quiet.
- Then Octavian looks at her and, all of a sudden, it's like they're communicating telepathically—he can see her past through her eyes.
- Then she says this one last thing: their language isn't speech, it's music, which is why learning English was so difficult.
- Octavian tells us that they looked at each other as strangers — because sometimes strangers, who are more objective, know more about you than your loved ones.
Part 2, Chapter 32
- Refugees from Boston are everywhere; everyone up and down the coastline is preparing for the war.
- In the Virginia Colony, the Governor took over the local militia's gunpowder supply during the night—he said he was trying to prevent slaves from having access to the militia's munitions, but the local rebels don't trust him, and think he was trying to disarm them so that they'd be helpless against a slave uprising.
- In the Gitney house though, there's this weird, muted kind of joy.
- People are starting to regain their health—except for Cassiopeia, that is, who's starting to smell because of all her open, infected sores.
- Mr. Gitney has finally taken an interest in finding a cure for her, but it's too late—Cassiopeia can't talk or swallow anymore because of all the sores in her throat.
- This—by the way—is the beginning of the cross-outs. Throughout the rest of the book, huge chunks of the book are crossed out with angry, heavy, black scrawls—enough so that, most of the time, you can't read what's underneath.
- This time, the scrawls cover a couple of unfinished sentences; they show that Octavian knows death isn't far off, so he's hoping for a final "interview" with his mother, that the living are responsible for some type of burden (but Octavian doesn't finish that thought).
- The next paragraph, though, is clear.
- Octavian writes that the disease is so bad that you can't tell anymore that it's Cassiopeia because her face is so messed up.
- There's no decency to this type of ending; in fact, the whole thing just seems like some descent into a demonic world of the body, in which the body overtakes anything that used to be graceful and human.
- From here to the end of the chapter—which is three and a half more pages—the paragraphs are all heavily crossed out.
- A few words can be read though: "When they moved her from her bed so that they might"; and "but it was to no avail."
Part 2, Chapter 33
- Octavian begins this chapter with heavy cross-outs, though we can read: "raised hand"; "by the cupboard"; "and never again."
- The rest of the chapter is an excerpt of an article written by Mr. Gitney and Mr. Sharpe, titled "Observations Upon the Progression of the Smallpox in Homo Afri."
- The article details the experiment of the pox party: the number of whites and blacks (with whites as the control group) and an explanation of the three people who died from the smallpox.
- It really goes into detail about all the ways Mr. Gitney tried to "cure" Cassiopeia, cures that included giving her all sorts of doses of chemicals (one even made her lose her hair and teeth) and taking her from extreme heat into extreme cold.
- (Cassiopeia didn't get it easy at the end, that's for sure.)
- The article goes on, though, to describe an incident that interrupts the experiment, which goes like this: Octavian bursts into the laboratory to see Cassiopeia, since he hasn't seen her in three days. He turns catatonic when he sees her though because she's clearly dead and in the middle of being dissected. Mr. Sharpe comments that Octavian's stupor shows he's clearly returned to his natural, dumb, savage state, but Octavian hears this and goes ballistic on Mr. Sharpe, screaming and trying to attack the man. Then Mr. Sharpe steps back and says that, clearly, Octavian's actions show how truly savage he is.
- If you feel like all this is a little unfair to Octavian, you're not alone.
- Octavian stops everything and notes aloud that it doesn't matter what he does—stay silent, get angry—because whatever he does will be seen as "savage," as some sign of his naturally, dumb, African self (according to the men in the room).
- So he turns around and leaves.
- Mr. Gitney sends Dr. Trefusis (who didn't want to take part in the dissection) after Octavian, to comfort him.
- Only Dr. Trefusis falls asleep at some point in the night, so Octavian escapes.
- The article returns to the experiment and notes that Mr. Sharpe took over for Mr. Gitney at this point because Mr. Gitney had to go deal with the missing Octavian.
Part 2, Chapter 34
- This chapter is all a letter from Dr. Trefusis to Dr. Matthias Fruhling—that guest from the Boston days who wrote a letter criticizing the College in Book I.
- Dr. Trefusis tells Dr. Fruhling that an incident of great significance was left out of Mr. Gitney and Mr. Sharpe's article on smallpox and the African.
- Apparently, the day before the men dissected Cassiopeia, Mr. Gitney sat next to Cassiopeia, held her hand, cried, and said, "'I love you. I loved you. I love you.'"
- Dr. Trefusis thinks Mr. Gitney was wrong to leave this incident out of the article and that it merits attention.
- Because a man in grief still shows physical signs that could be measured, like how much his muscles and ligaments contract or how salty his tears actually are.
Part 2, Chapter 35
- Most of this chapter (two pages in all) is crossed out.
- But at the end, there's a poem from Theognis stating that it's better not to be born, or if born, to die straightaway.
- Not exactly a life-affirming poem.
Part 3, Chapter 1
- Note: Each chapter in this section is either a note, a letter, or some other personal document.
- This chapter is a public notice that Octavian's run away.
- There isn't anything we don't know already, except that he's described as handsome, lanky, really tall, wearing a frock-coat and breeches of green satin, with a waistcoat that has silk and floral embroidery on it.
- Oh—and that he's the property of Josiah Gitney, so people better not deal with the run away or else they'll have to deal with the law.
- If they do give him up to Gitney, they'll get five pounds (£).
Part 3, Chapter 2
- From a dairy entry of some farmer in Acton, Massachusetts:
- It's May 3, 1775; it's cloudy and wet.
- The farmer is out in the fields when a Negro boy asks for work.
- (The boy, by the way, is obviously Octavian, but the farmer doesn't know that.)
- The farmer's trying to pull out stumps to make a new field, so he asks Octavian if he knows how.
- Octavian says yes, but he clearly doesn't know what he's doing, so the farmer asks him if he can chop wood.
- Octavian says yes again, but again he's obviously lying.
- The farmer figures out that Octavian can't do anything outdoorsy, so he tells him to run or he'll whip Octavian.
- Octavian just turns and walks slowly across the field.
- The farmer concludes that he and John pulled the rest of the stumps out; that the Jersey's baby is sick; and that, even though the rain is hard, it loosened the mud and let him pull the stumps out more easily.
Part 3, Chapter 3
- An excerpt of a letter, dated May 4, from a woman in Stow, Massachusetts:
- She writes that around noon, a Negro boy comes begging for work.
- She asks if he's free, but she knows he's lying when he says he's lost his papers.
- So she tells him there's no work for him—only he looks so pitiful that she gives him some Indian pudding before sending him away.
- According to this woman, there are a lot of these "vagrants" streaming in from Boston.
- Some of them have passes from General Gage, but many are fleeing the city because everyone expects something really bad to happen.
Part 3, Chapter 4
- A letter from Elijah Tolley to Mr. Gitney, May 6, 1775, Lincoln, Massachusetts:
- Tolley describes to Mr. Gitney how his son found a "beast" in their smokehouse.
- When Tolley gets there, he notices that it isn't an animal but a Negro boy, about fifteen or seventeen years old, who looks just about dead.
- Tolley figures out that they boy is probably a gentleman's valet because he's dressed in fancy clothes.
- He tells the boy that he's caught and points his gun at the boy, but Octavian (obviously it's him) just stands up.
- And when he does, Octavian's so tall that Tolley gets scared.
- He tells Octavian that he'll shoot, but that doesn't scare Octavian—in fact, that's what Octavian wants, and he puts his chest against the gun and asks Tolley to fire the gun.
- But Tolley refuses to do it because it would be a sin.
- But Octavian's not budging, so finally Tolley goes to hit him over the head, but Octavian fights him off and runs away.
- Tolley and his son, along with their neighbors, try to catch him, but he escapes.
- They look through the papers for ads and find Mr. Gitney's public notice about Octavian.
- They figure it's him and apologize to Mr. Gitney about losing him, although they hope that they might get some financial reward for leading Mr. Gitney in the right direction.
Part 3, Chapter 5
- It's the first letter of a series from Private Evidence Goring to his sister Fruition (or Shun, for short)—and yes—those are really their names.
- This letter is dated May 11, 1775.
- Priv. Goring describes what high spirits he has, marching along the road.
- He's a militiaman, passionate about the war against the Brits, and he tells Fruition to send word to their family that all is well and to pass a couple of loving messages from some hometown friends in the militia to their family members.
- He describes two guys who keep picking at their blisters.
- Then he asks after their mother.
- Finally he gets to the meaty part of the letter—how the Kedron company (that's the name of his group) met with Octavian.
- The company stops at an inn for a night and listens to a fiddler play music on a fiddle fashioned out of what looks like spare furniture parts.
- The fiddler, by the way, is Octavian, so of course everyone is completely wowed by his music.
- The only thing is, his music is incredibly sad—even the happy songs sound sad.
- The innkeeper isn't down with this downer, and tells him to play something happy, but Octavian just can't play the music the way the innkeeper wants him to.
- So the innkeeper says he's withholding dinner from Octavian.
- Poor Octavian—that's what all the guys in the Kedron company think at least.
- In fact, Captain Draper of the company offers to pay for Octavian's dinner and asks him to play the last song again.
- When it's time to sleep, the men of the company notice that the innkeeper is still on Octavian's case.
- This time, the innkeeper has him sleep outside and berates Octavian for having a bad cough.
- The men feel bad for Octavian so they convince Captain Draper (the "Kindest of Men!") to hire Octavian as their company musician.
- They give him a fife (a small flute), which—even though he's never played one before—Octavian plays well.
- Captain Draper even gives him a pep talk about how all men, slave or not, have to stand together for Liberty (yes, a big "L") against the Brits because Parliament protected and had interests in the slave trade.
- As a result, Octavian joins the company as their music man and does a good job of making everyone happy.
- The company passes a lot of other companies along the way, until they get to a place called Menotomy, where—in the middle of a road—a guy sits at a desk waiting for them.
- He basically organizes the companies—tells them where to go or what supplies to pick up.
- Another guy appears from a shed on the side of the road and tells the Kedron company to go north to the shoreline, where they'll meet up with the New Hampshire company and wait for orders.
- Their goal will be to take over a town called Dulwich.
- At this point, Goring ends his letter because it's time for him to sleep.
- Except for a final note: He wants Shun to tell some girl they know called Liz that he's a great brother and a fine man, full of all those great qualities you want in a nice guy.
- Then he showers the love on his sister and signs off.
Part 3, Chapter 6
- Another letter from Private Goring to his sister, only now they've reached Dulwich—it's May 15, 1775.
- Goring gives his sister a general description of Boston, which they saw while marching toward Dulwich.
- He writes that he can't quite tell what's going on in Boston since they were across the River Charles when they saw the city, but the word on the street is that Boston's a prison—no one in or out, unless that person has a special pass from General Gage.
- Women and children are supposedly being held hostage too, so that the militia won't dare to bomb the city.
- Meanwhile, Goring's not enjoying camp life because it's really cramped.
- He shares a tent with John, Shem (Shun's boyfriend), and Octavian.
- John and Shem are really annoying, especially because they won't stop teasing Octavian about his silence.
- Goring offers to switch positions in the tent with Octavian to sleep near the flap, where all the rain and wetness enters.
- Why? Because Octavian's sick and Goring feels for him (yep—time to go aw…).
- Captain Draper has also tasked Goring to look out for Octavian, which Goring thinks is kind of funny since Goring would be speaking for two people while Octavian would speak for none (since he doesn't really speak at all).
- Goring thinks Shun would totally melt (in a good way) if she met poor Octavian.
- He notes that Octavian never sleeps, even at night; he just sits and stares at the walls.
- As for Octavian's name? He tells Goring that his name is Prince.
Part 3, Chapter 7
- On the back of Private Goring's last letter, there's a list of questions and answers that Goring titles "Prince's Catechism."
- The Captain has asked Goring to get more information out of Octavian, just in case an "Adjutant" (a military officer) asks questions about Octavian.
- Octavian doesn't answer most of the questions though, questions like: where he's from, if he fled Boston, where he learned to play the violin, if he has papers stating he's free, where he lived, and if he lived in a house.
- Octavian does, however, answer affirmatively to the question of whether or not he lived outside.
- He's also asked if he lived in a house with family, and this question causes Octavian to look down and reply that he's "'never even dwelt inside [him]self.'"
- Both the Captain and Goring think that Octavian escaped from some tyrant master.
- But Goring doesn't say this to Octavian, though he does tell him that slavery will be gone soon (oh, how wrong he is).
- Then Goring gets seriously Biblical—like fire and brimstone-y, preacher-style—about how God will punish those who have slaves.
Part 3, Chapter 8
- A letter from Mr. Sharpe to Mr. Clepp Asquith, a trustee of the College:
- Mr. Sharpe informs Mr. Asquith that Octavian has disappeared, but that they are doing whatever they can to track Octavian down.
- They think that Octavian headed east toward the coast and may be with the militiamen.
- They've already dispatched people to search the towns of Roxbury, Charlestown, Cambridge, Salem, and Newburyport.
- If Octavian's with the militia, Mr. Sharpe thinks they'll get him in a few days.
Part 3, Chapter 9
- Another letter from Goring to his sis—the letter is dated May 18, 1775:
- Goring's imagining that his sister is sitting in the cooperage (the family business is coopering—making wooden vessels, like barrels and casks), wood all around her, eating a big, fat mushroom.
- Yes, that's his fantasy. We know—it's a little odd.
- He tells her that they haven't heard much from Boston, except they can see Redcoats marching the streets and encamped in the Common; officers fishing off balconies; ladies rubbing ointment on their elbows—in other words, nothing newsy.
- In camp, his life is all about drills and more drills, but at night they go to their mess hall and play or listen to music.
- Octavian plays on his fiddle; he'll even play one of his classical pieces, but Goring thinks that's more for Octavian's ears than theirs.
- Goring (once again) states that Shun would just melt if she knew Prince (or Octavian).
- Goring imagines that Octavian must have suffered really badly because he's so gloomy all the time.
- One day, he offers to take Octavian shopping for new clothes with the little money Octavian's made in the regiment.
- Octavian really doesn't want to go, but Goring points out that Octavian's clothes—torn, dirty silk stockings, satin breeches, and fancy jacket—pretty much announce his runaway slave status.
- Octavian can't compete with that logic, so they go buy some cheap, humble clothing, typical of a Negro.
- Octavian's still sad and silent.
- In the evenings, Goring and Mr. Wheeler have to teach Octavian how to cook because he clearly doesn't know how.
- The night before, they ate squab that Octavian cooked (badly—it was like eating a leather sandal).
- Octavian stops chewing the squab at one point, so Goring tells him that if he chews, the food will go down better.
- Octavian is silent, but finally he points out that they all eat the flesh of animals; therefore, their human bodies are burial grounds for those animals. (Budding vegan maybe?)
- The other men around the mess are shocked and just gape at him.
- Octavian takes the meat out of his mouth and leaves it on his plate; it looks like all life has left Octavian's body.
- Poor Octavian.
- Then Goring quotes a Psalmist, who basically says that when you're silent, your bones grow old all throughout the livelong day.
- As Goring points out to his sister, that's definitely not his style.
Part 3, Chapter 10
- It's May 21, 1775, and Goring has another letter for his sister:
- Goring can't stand all the waiting and the drills; he can't help but remember that they're going to battle soon.
- Last night, the men were preparing and eating oysters for dinner.
- Turns out, Mr. Wheeler can play the flute, so he plays some songs for them.
- Goring turns to Octavian and asks him to play something—Octavian wants to know what he should play, so Goring tells him to play whatever pleasures him.
- Octavian says that he doesn't experience pleasure, so Goring says to play Octavian's favorite.
- But Octavian says all that classical European stuff won't be fun enough after those pleasant songs Mr. Wheeler played, at which point Goring gets impatient and tells Octavian to get out of his head and listen to his heart.
- That doesn't work either because Octavian says his heart isn't simple.
- Goring says that Octavian hasn't listened then.
- But Octavian says he has listened to his heart and he can't understand what it's saying.
- So Goring says he hasn't been hearing his Heart.
- This makes Octavian bitter—he points out that the heart is simply a muscle that constricts, that he has seen a heart on a plate, jolted with electricity, and he can say that it's as much dead as it is alive.
- Goring doesn't want to know more about Octavian's scary past and backs off about playing any more music.
- Later that night, he sees Octavian sneak out of their tent into the dark.
- He follows Octavian because he's worried Octavian's going to run away, but Octavian just goes down to the docks and looks out at the sea and the moon.
- Goring puts his hand on Octavian's shoulder, and Octavian responds: "'God forgive me. Her name—I never knew her Name.'"
- Goring doesn't know what Octavian means, but his heart breaks anyway.
- At the end of the letter, Goring includes a cheesy, hand-drawn map complete with a tiny drawing of himself waving from Dulwich.
Part 3, Chapter 11
- Even though it's only four days later (May 25, 1775), Goring writes another letter to his sister and, this time also to his mother.
- He tells them that other companies are joining them, and his company will be in charge of finding food and supplies.
- He doesn't have much else to say except that he loves them and will always love them.
- He also can't believe that just three months ago, he was sitting around the cooperage with Mr. Porringer discussing old stories and battles about damsels, Jerusalem, Jericho and the like.
- Now they're waiting for battle and the men will know soon what it feels like to be ripped apart.
- He can't help thinking of Shun and his mother and their fireside.
Part 3, Chapter 12
- Mr. Clepp Asquith is not happy with Mr. Sharpe, and he isn't afraid to write about it to Mr. Sharpe.
- Mr. Asquith can't believe that they lost Octavian, after all those years of research and investment into the kid.
- He also shares that Pro Bono, who was sent to him before, has also escaped; Bono took some silverware and left the house a total mess.
- Mr. Asquith thinks Bono's gone to Governor Dunmore because Dunmore has announced that he will grant all slaves their freedom if they go to him.
- He's afraid that Dunmore—who has all their gunpowder—will leave the colonials defenseless against a slave rebellion.
- In fact, he can't even look at his Negro woodchopper without thinking about the woodchopper sharpening his axe for Asquith's daughter.
- By the way, just so you know, Asquith's daughter has grown into a sweet girl.
- The Governor's palace is totally guarded by Negroes and Shawnee Indians, and even though he's sent a letter to the Governor asking after Bono, he hasn't gotten a reply.
- It's clear, at least to him, that the Governor doesn't care at all about their "property" anymore.
- Talk about oppression… The royals reduce them to slavery while lording the colonials' slaves over their heads. (To be perfectly clear, we're being sarcastic—Asquith, however, is not.)
- Asquith vows that they'll break the royals' backs and show them rebellion…
Part 3, Chapter 13
- It's May 28, 1775 and Goring can't help but write another letter to his sister.
- That's because they're actually going to battle against the Redcoats.
- Okay, not exactly.
- His company isn't actually going to fight the Redcoats—his company's job is to cut off the food supply for Boston and drive the soldiers there to starvation.
- The hope is that once the soldiers start to starve, England will have to take notice of the Patriots' demands.
- Even Octavian seems different—more fiery, more determined, not sad; he wants his freedom at any cost.
- When Goring looks at Octavian, he can't help but feel that much more inspired and energized for the march.
- Finally they get to the shore of Boston Harbor, where they can see Hog Island, their destination.
- Mr. Gower calls out that they're about to jump into the waters of open rebellion.
- The sun is burning above Massachusetts Bay; there are grassy hills with grazing beasts—it looks pastoral, but then, so probably did the River Rubicon before Caesar crossed it and conquered Rome. (Goring's not subtle with his historical references.)
Part 3, Chapter 14
- We're still reading the same letter from Goring to his sis (it's a long one):
- Goring's describing their march to Noddle's Island; everyone's silent and a little tense. No wonder—they keep expecting shots fired at them (it is a war after all).
- Other companies are moving in the same direction too.
- Then there's stampede of sheep—Parliament sheep that another company flushed out—that rushes by them. The sheep completely break the tension in the group. (Who can keep a straight face when you have fluffy white cuteness flying by you?)
- But once the sheep pass, it's silent again… and then there's a popping sound.
- The Captain tells Shem to survey the area, and Shem says the Redcoats are on the move.
- The company continues moving in the direction of the Redcoats, but the horses are going crazy after all the popping sounds from earlier.
- The men don't have a halter to control the horses, so the Captain says they have to shoot the horses since they can't not complete their mission.
- The whole thing is pretty gory, and once the men start shooting, horses starting running everywhere, breaking their legs and smashing their skulls.
- Foals get blasted and mares cry for their babies.
- The men are then ordered to retreat and run around a hill.
- The Corporal isn't happy; he thinks it was a waste of gunpowder to shoot the horses, but Captain Draper isn't taking the Corporal's backtalk—he says the Corporal will be another, as in another waste of a shot too.
- They pass over a valley and some fields when they see smoke ahead of them; patriots have burned a barn full of hay down.
- The men keep going to the edge of the island.
- Fires are everywhere and livestock is streaming out of the hills toward Hog Island, and people are guiding the livestock across the Channel.
- The men get into the water too, with the sheep.
- Patriots from behind yell at them to keep running because Marines are behind them.
- The men are freaked out and try to wade through the water is fast they can.
- Ships start firing at the shoreline.
- The men make it to the shoreline of Hog Island, where they throw themselves into a ditch and just lie there silently.
- Goring tells Shun that while he was lying in that ditch, all he could think of was her and their mother and being home, working together in the garden, joking around—being at home, alive.
Part 3, Chapter 15
- Goring's still writing the same letter:
- They lie in that ditch for hours, unaware that other companies have ambushed the Marines and driven the ships back into the Bay.
- All they know is that they're safe in the ditch, with gunshots all around them.
- The men start talking about their loved ones, because what else do you do when you're just passing time in a ditch?
- They even talk about the act of conception—yep—we mean babies.
- The conversation gets pretty raunchy, as you might expect from a group of fighting men, though Mr. Bullock says birth is "magical."
- Mr. Symes turns the conversation to this story about one of the Roman emperors who cut his mother's belly open because he was so curious about what the womb looked like.
- You can probably guess what happens next.
- The whole cutting open of the mother story—that's a conversation killer for Octavian.
- Goring asks him which emperor it is, but Octavian's eyes are huge and his breathing isn't right; finally he whispers that it was the Emperor Nero.
- Then he turns away and falls silent.
- Everyone is silent at that point.
- But then Octavian stands up—totally naked—and starts walking away saying the story is in Suetonius.
- The men try to call him back because they're worried he'll attract the enemy (he is really tall), and ultimately Goring grabs him by the ankles and topples him, while the others glare at him.
- After that, no one speaks.
- In the evening the firing gets worse because General Putnam arrives with reinforcements against the Parliament's schooner.
- Goring describes the firing overhead and how he can't help thinking of a poem about how the sea and sky will perish and how flames will melt down the skies. You know, cheery stuff.
- More gunshots and cannons firing; more blasting, commands, and then a huge clap of thunder.
- That sets John off. He gets up and runs screaming toward the battle and the enemy, only to get shot in the hip and go down.
- The Redcoats start to advance on John, until Octavian gets up and walks normally toward John—now the Redcoats are focused on Octavian.
- Octavian clearly wants to die so he doesn't halt when shots are fired at him; somehow he doesn't get hit.
- He draws his saber and just stands there between the enemy and his company.
- Captain Draper takes the moment and says they should rise up, start shooting, and surprise the enemy.
- Goring doesn't know how he does it, but he gets up and runs toward Octavian and throws both of them in the mud.
- "'Life,'" he tells Octavian, "'is worth at least threepence.'"
- Firing is going on around them, from who knows where, while Octavian lies sobbing beneath Goring.
- They lie there until the whole thing is over.
- Eventually the Redcoats start firing at another company and go away on Noddle's Island toward the Bay.
- The two men get up; a bunch of other militiamen meet up with them and start celebrating because they just drove the Redcoats back to the other island and they've pushed back the boats too.
- They send John (who survives this whole thing screaming in pain), Shem, and Octavian off in a boat.
- The rest of them stay behind and beat more animals out of the bush and onto boats so they can be taken to land.
- As they cross the Channel, Goring thinks of the Israelites fleeing and a prayer in which God turns the sea into land and the people go toward Him and rejoice in Him because God has delivered them to safety.
- Goring then addresses his sister; he asks her if she and their mother—at night—go down the stairs and outside to think about Goring in battle, and whether they pray.
- Because if they do pray, Goring wants them to know that he hears their prayers and is safe.
- Whew—that was a long letter.
Part 3, Chapter 16
- Goring's not done yet though—he writes another letter, dated May 31, 1775, to his sister and his mother.
- With this letter, he's enclosed a bunch of letters from the other men, so that Shun can pass the letters on to their loved ones.
- He would also like Shun to pass word onto Liz about how heroic he was in that last battle. (Hey, he may not be home, but that doesn't mean he can't still use a wing (wo)man.)
- He'll also be able to receive letters soon since they'll be in Cambridge the next few days.
- Then he describes what happens after the battle.
- The Captain congratulates them for their success, and then he, Shem, Sally, and Octavian visit John in a house, where he's surrounded by ladies tending to his wound.
- John says that his leg will be cut off (it's dead already—he can't feel it), which he's scared about; he also wants to beg forgiveness from the Captain for being such an idiot.
- Goring says he's sure the Captain will grant him this since the Captain is the kindest man ever, but he also tells John that they were all in that ditch, so no one should really judge him for going off the deep end.
- The men say bye to John and go back to Dulwich.
- On the way back to Dulwich, Octavian tells Goring how grateful he is to Goring because he would have been blown to pieces if not for Goring.
- Goring mentions that Octavian was planning to become a martyr and kill himself the other day, but Octavian looks ashamed, which prompts Goring to comfort him.
- Goring tells him not to worry about it, that Octavian's actions ended up saving John.
- There's a little bit of a back and forth between the two of them, with Octavian trying to say thank you and Goring trying to brush it all off as nothing anyone else wouldn't do.
- They walk toward the shore, where they see kids playing with a bunch of entrails from dead fish and dead sheep (some of those sheep didn't survive that trip across the channel, we guess).
- The kids run up to Octavian, and Octavian teaches them the parts and organs of the fish and which of the entrails are actually from sheep.
- The kids are interested in Octavian even though they're a little wary of the fact that he's dark-colored.
- Octavian—born teacher that he is—even tells them the names of all those parts in Latin and Greek while answering all their questions about gills.
- Goring can't imagine what happened to Octavian in his past; he fears even thinking about it.
- He does know that they had the most pleasant evening though, with the kids and Shem throwing entrails at each other.
- One boy even takes some of the entrails, wraps them around his neck, and walks into the sea like the sea is welcoming him.
- Meanwhile, above them, Goring describes the last rays of the sun receding like "Judgment Scrolls across the Horizon."
Part 3, Chapter 17
- Goring writes another letter to his sister, dated June 2, 1775.
- The company has now arrived at Cambridge, which is a pretty awesome town.
- Cambridge has mansions, gardens, trees—all inhabited by New England Rebels, so it's all safe.
- It's fun here too, and the town is full of variety—people from different parts of New England going about their business.
- The company is camped out in the town and waiting to do battle with General Gage, who—they hear—will march out of Boston soon to take them over.
- The waiting is hard, so the men hope to hear from their families soon.
Part 3, Chapter 18
- Another letter to Shun, dated June 12, 1775—also from Cambridge:
- Goring tells Shun that he appreciates the letter she sent him (finally).
- The men are still waiting for orders to fight; they hear about all sorts of action on the islands nearby, but not much more than that.
- The Brits are still in Boston, waiting for who knows what reason.
- Meanwhile, the company goes through a lot of drills.
- Octavian has been called to work with another group of men—other Negroes and Irishmen—to build ditches and fortifications.
- They've built up fortifications in Roxbury, all while keeping the Brits in sight.
- The Brits, for some reason, are entrenched in the middle of the neck of Boston, which doesn't seem to be a good thing for them, for as Goring points out a city can't thrive when its neck is slit.
- Goring sees Octavian occasionally during the day, and sometimes in the evenings Shem or Goring will steal Octavian away.
- Goring really likes Octavian's company, probably because Octavian's the only one who will sit and listen to Goring sermonize.
- They trade stories with each other too—Octavian tells him of Roman times, while he tells Octavian stories about his village, the cooperage, and the mill.
- Octavian's a changed man now because he has a purpose.
- Others may have their reasons for being—whether it's talking (like Goring) or their children or their spouses—but Octavian doesn't desire anything.
- He goes from total sadness and joylessness to anger.
- And it's this new anger that keeps Octavian digging those ditches, chopping those trees, and building those fortifications—he does all of this for freedom.
- That's how they all spend their days.
- Meanwhile, the city just sits there like a spider, without change.
- That's the life of a soldier.
Part 3, Chapter 19
- A short note, dated June 15, 1775, from Goring to his sister:
- Nothing's going on.
- Of course there are these small skirmishes that go on around them.
- And at night, sometimes the Brits fire cannons for no apparent reason—it doesn't seem like the Brits have much of a strategy.
- They'll wake up at night because there are rumors that the Brits are marching, but nothing actually happens; the Brits still sit over in Boston, doing nothing.
- Goring feels low and fearful…
Part 3, Chapter 20
- Goring writes a letter, dated June 17, 1775, from Cambridge, to his mother and sister:
- The company is on the move.
- They don't know their destination or purpose, but they've fallen in line with a bunch of wagons carrying empty barrels.
- Those barrels make him think how much it would stink to die for empty barrels, since the dead—without their souls—are a lot like empty barrels.
- They're led to Cobble Hill, and then to Charlestown Mill Pond, where they fill the barrels with water and bring the barrels back to the hill.
- This is all done at night; he can see men everywhere working to build things—they're fortifying the Hill in one night, and it's a crazy amount of work.
- In the middle of all this work, he sees Octavian in the middle of digging.
- He doesn't call out to him though, because he notices how silent everyone is and how there's a white man with a cane overseeing Octavian and his group.
- The next morning, men start taking up arms, ready to defend the fort they've just built.
- Goring's company is in charge of bringing water to everyone.
- Then dawn comes and everyone just stops because their fort is open for anyone to see.
- As the sun rises, they see people scurrying around on the ships, crying out because they've just seen the militiamen on Bunker Hill.
- The militia are all ready: company after company, made up of regular villagers, looking down at the Bay, ready to defend their homeland.
- The Brits start firing cannons at them.
- Goring tells Shun that there will never be another morning like this one.
- The Adjutant tells his company—which controls the provisions—to fall back to Cambridge, and as Goring's company returns, he can hear the fighting starting up.
- While on the road, he also sees Octavian in his new group.
- Octavian holds up his hands, which are blistered and bloody, and—for the first time—he smiles at Goring.
- That's because he's finally found his cause.
- Goring holds his hand out to Octavian, but Octavian's Corporal orders him back in line.
- Goring's now back at camp and only hears confusing reports of how the Redcoats are in Charlestown and trying to storm the Hill.
- Goring then ends the letter with a Biblical line asking the Lord to help guide them to establish their work through their hands.
Part 3, Chapter 21
- It's the next day.
- The camp is full of dying people since the Brits overtook their fort on the Hill, but Goring hears that the Brits had heavy losses too.
- Goring may cry, but they stood their ground.
- The scene is nuts—everyone's thirsty; wheelbarrows are filled with screaming, bloody boys; stretchers are dumped on garden beds; men hobble everywhere.
- By the surgeon's tent, where someone is always screaming, they also can see a basket with twelve feet—the soles are still muddy, but without any bodies.
- (Go ahead; retch away.)
- Goring, however, is still—wholly—Shun's brother.
Part 3, Chapter 22
- That same evening, Goring writes another letter to his sister (he just can t stay away from pen and paper).
- Because he's depressed by all the bloodshed in town, Goring goes and finds Octavian and drags him to supper.
- He gets Octavian to bring his violin back to Goring's camp, where they intend to party down a little and drown their sorrows.
- Everyone's depressed.
- They're most scared of the inevitability of it all—the screaming, the ranks of Redcoats with their uniforms and bayonets, their slow approach and relentless stabbing.
- Mr. Symes starts talking about last summer, when the Brits marched into a noisy, cheering crowd.
- The Brits hung their heads for whatever crimes they committed, and the people decided that they would administer their own Justice, without the help of people selected by some distant English ruler.
- Feeling inspired, Goring rises up too and starts talking about what they're fighting for—and it's a huge list. They're fighting for: the beauty of New England; the hills and forests; the fields and valleys and ponds; the rocks and coasts; the seasons; his cooperage; the clabber girls with their skirts tucked in for work; the threshers; the apple orchards; the birds; the friendly insects (yeah—even the insects); their haunted woods; the lakes; the coves; the barns; the groves; and a thousand things more (Goring can talk).
- Finally he cries out to the men and Octavian: Doesn't even New England snow look good enough to eat?
- It's a good thing Prince (or Octavian, we mean) cuts in. He tells Goring that sometimes sorrow is best expressed through silence (and we couldn't agree more).
- Goring gets it and feels grateful Octavian stops him; it's a serious bonding moment for them.
- Then Octavian gets up and starts playing his violin.
- The men sing and dance, while Octavian plays whatever they ask him to play; he even invents songs on the spot.
- They sing about every little thing around them (just imagine Goring's long speech set to a bunch of different tunes).
- Isn't this all worth dying for? Goring asks.
- He thinks so.
Part 3, Chapter 23
- It's June 19, 1775—another day, another letter to Goring's sister.
- Goring's done a good deed.
- What is it?
- Well, some guy from the Cambridge Committee of Safety visited him and asked him about a Negro fiddler.
- He wants to know where this guy is, but Goring's suspicious and wants to protect Octavian.
- Then this Cambridge dude tells him it s all for a good cause.
- You see, the Royal Army also has a band that plays music to lift up the spirits of the Brits—their band is made up of soldiers, but also some Negro fiddlers.
- One of the fiddlers has fallen sick, so this Cambridge guy is here to find Octavian, who they think can fill in for that sick Negro fiddler and infiltrate the British Army.
- In other words, they want Octavian to be a spy.
- Now that's a good cause if Goring's ever heard one, so he spills the beans about Octavian's location.
- (Do you have a bad feeling about this? We have a bad feeling about this.)
- Goring's so excited for this cause that his excitement cools the Cambridge guy down a little.
- The Cambridge guy wants to make sure Octavian's the right guy, so Goring tells him everything—and we mean everything (you know how Goring can talk)—about Octavian, like how Octavian is so smart, how he knows Latin, and much more.
- Finally this guy—Mr. Turner—confirms that this is the Negro he's been looking for.
- Octavian notes that this Mr. turner turns to his side—in fact, throughout their whole conversation, Mr. Turner is always turning to one side or another (kind of like Mr. Sharpe…).
- Mr. Turner gets Goring to come with him and four soldiers so that Goring can identify Octavian for him; he also gets Goring to go speak to Octavian first about this whole spying deal.
- Goring is so excited about it all that he does so willingly.
- He convinces Octavian to volunteer himself as a spy, even though Octavian's kind of wary about the whole thing (you know, he's not into the whole 24/7 lying thing).
- One of the soldiers goes forward to usher Octavian away; Goring sees how quickly Octavian eyes the open gates toward Boston and thinks Octavian can practically feel Liberty in his grasp.
- Before Octavian leaves, Goring holds his hand and asks him what he most desires.
- Octavian says he doesn't desire anything, but Goring isn't letting him go without an answer, so Octavian stops and thinks and says that he wishes that one day he'll live by a river, in the pines, with hawks around him; that he'll have a small, one-room house; that he'll get to play the violin; that someone else will play the harpsichord; that they'll be far from the rest of humankind; and that their only company will be the buzzing of the rushes.
- One soldier laughs and says that rushes don't buzz; another soldier jokes about wanting the simple things in life, like a harpsichord.
- And that's how Goring and Octavian part—Octavian on his way to Mr. Turner, in the garden of a house, and toward his future.
- Goring skips supper so that he can walk the shoreline and look out at Boston.
- The sky is dark above the sea; the sun is setting; the Marines are out on the water; there's the grass and the water—everything's in motion—and above all of that, clouds in the green (yes, green) skies.
Part 3, Chapter 24
- A letter, dated June 29, 1775 from Mr. Sharpe (in Canaan) to Mr. Asquith:
- They've caught Octavian. (You saw this coming, right?)
- Mr. Sharpe reports that a Canaan militiaman saw a Negro fiddler in one of the companies, who could play both folk songs and the works of European masters.
- Hearing that, Mr. Sharpe quickly went to the militiamen's camp in Cambridge and found Private Goring, who told him everything he needed to know to confirm Octavian's identity.
- He doesn't think, by the way, that Goring worked with Octavian to hide Octavian's identity, so he doesn't think that they should take legal action against Goring.
- Anyway, he thinks Goring is foolish, temperamental, childish, and too trusting.
- Oh—and Octavian didn't really struggle either.
- He did a little at first, sure, but once he saw that he didn't have a chance, he stopped and has since fallen into silent submission.
Part 3, Chapter 25
- A letter, posted from Canaan and dated June 29, 1775, between two slave-catchers:
- Davey, who helped catch Octavian, is writing to tell Lew—a friend and slave-catcher, who was also looking for Octavian—to stop looking for Octavian since he and Mr. Sharp found him.
- Note: Davey's not a good speller, so his whole letter is full of mistakes, including a misspelling of Mr. Sharpe's name.
- Davey points out that Octavian doesn't have any high airs around him now.
- In fact, Octavian doesn't eat, move, or do anything—he just lies shackled on the floor, with his head in an iron mask.
- Oh and by the way—Davey's also five pounds richer.
Part 4, Chapter 1
- The College men have bound Octavian's hand and feet, and they've put an iron mask over his face and a metal bit between his lips; they've also left him alone in the dark.
- Octavian points out that the men gave him a "tongue" (or the power of speech), but then shut him up so they wouldn't have to hear him crying.
Part 4, Chapter 2
- This chapter is basically a prayer Octavian has adapted from Psalm 88, in which he asks the Lord for salvation.
- He points out that he's suffered alone and borne all of God's terror and wrath on him since his childhood.
- Then he ends the prayer, but instead of the typical Amen, he states that God has prevented him from having a lover and friend near him.
- In fact, darkness is his only companion now.
Part 4, Chapter 3
- If you felt like we were in Octavian's head before, now we're really in it—Octavian's getting seriously philosophical about his current state.
- His conclusions?
- First, even though his body is all shackled, it's still solid, with color, resistance, motion—in other words, it's still a body that has bodily characteristics, even in the absence of all senses.
- But that's not anything special.
- What is unique is this second point: He can't feel anything.
- All the pain from the bit and shackles has faded because the mask has become an extension of his body; it's become a part of him.
- What's more, his body—even though totally senseless—is still conscious and aware; it's just that it's bereft (of what exactly, Octavian doesn't specify).
- What does all this show?
- There is no separation between different forms of matter; it's a lot like he's returned to an original, unified state.
- You can't differentiate between what binds you and what is you.
- (Deep, huh?)
Part 4, Chapter 4
- Octavian's recalling a memory of Mr. 03-01 (or Mr. Gitney) teaching him about matter.
- They're in the kitchen, and 03-01 holds up an egg.
- He asks Octavian how he knows if the egg exists, and Octavian responds that it's because 03-01 is holding the egg.
- This sets 03-01 up to go on about how the egg has solidity and form, and about how matter extends into space and how it also gives resistance.
- He taps the egg's shell at this point.
- Cassiopeia's there too; she says that the egg will offer up less resistance if it's with bacon.
- And then, out of nowhere, 03-01 throws the egg—hard—right at Octavian's face.
- The egg breaks and oozes down Octavian's face.
- 03-01 goes on without any emotion and asks if the egg is a chicken now.
- Octavian can only look down and shake his head; what he really wants to do is cry, but he knows he shouldn't.
- 03-01, still in the middle of the lesson, goes on to explain that the egg has the substance of a chicken, but not the form.
- (We wonder if there's a better way to teach that point, but anyway, moving on…)
- Octavian wraps up the chapter with a summary of all the things these men taught him, like: substance and form, matter and its physical properties, shape and essence, the motion of light, how color is an illusion of the eye or in the perceiver's mind, and how color isn't real because it doesn't have a physical body.
- Then this: The men imprisoned him in darkness, where there isn't color, but Octavian was still black and the men were still white—and because of that, the men bound and gagged him.
Part 4, Chapter 5
- Octavian can't believe he's back in the Canaan house.
- There's no freedom, especially no freedom of movement, and it's like he never left the house.
- It's the worst. He really just can't believe that he's back in the house where…
- But Octavian doesn't show what he writes because he's scratched it out completely.
- But we can guess what he means…
- He means Cassiopeia, because he goes on to tell us about how, the last time he was imprisoned, it was in the ice house at that place in Boston.
- Back then, he had his mother there with him, and she would speak comforting words to him.
- He moans again about returning to "that house of death."
- And then, these last words, lightly scratched out: "There is no."
Part 4, Chapter 6
- Two boys are in the room with Octavian, and they're trying to feed him.
- One boy points out that Octavian's "gaping," and the other one tells the first boy to "leave it."
- The "it" is some warm pudding, which Octavian gets to eat without the mask and bit on.
- One of the boys asks if he's awake.
- After that, Octavian blanks out for the rest of the conversation.
Part 4, Chapter 7
- Octavian turns super Observant—so much so that he can't really observe anything.
- We know—it seems like a contradiction, but Octavian has his reason, which is that he doesn't know if his senses don't work properly or if they're so sensitive and open that they have no limits to what they're sensing.
- In other words, Octavian has observed that he doesn't know what he's observing.
- His senses are just starting to return.
- He notices that there's light all around him, but he doesn't know if before he was only awake at night, or if maybe his sight and other senses just shut down with all the trauma.
- All he knows is that he's not in the cellar (where he thought he was) but in an upper bedroom.
- It's summer and super-hot in the room; he can hear cicadas and crickets in the fields outside—he can practically imagine the scene that would greet him if he looked past the shutters.
- What Octavian can't stop thinking about though, is the fact that he's back at the house.
Part 4, Chapter 8
- Octavian hasn't eaten for three days.
- We know this because "they" say so.
- Octavian replies that he's "Observing," just like they taught him to.
- So they ask him what he's observed.
- Octavian states that solidity of his shackles increase the solidity of his body, which is not something he notices when he's walking freely.
- "They" agree with him and point out that shackles are all about resistance—and Octavian tells them not to talk to him about resistance.
Part 4, Chapter 9
- For four days, Octavian refuses to eat or drink, but on the fifth day, he can't help himself from eating some oatmeal.
- He reasons that starving to death is kind of a cowardly act since he wouldn't be meeting his challenges head-on.
- He thinks instead about how he got to where he is right now.
- There's no way around it: the Sons of Liberty sold him out to the College out of gratitude for the College's donations to the cause.
- Octavian ponders all this fighting for liberty and this is what he concludes: Blacks and whites worked, ate, and lived together for liberty, but all this togetherness was more out of habit than anything else.
- In fact, everyone's pretty much in the same situation—all going about the dirty business of war.
- Sometimes his friend Goring would visit him; those were good times, with Goring going on about how equality and liberty would come for them all.
- But was Goring right?
- Sure everyone worked together for the war, but the slaves risked their lives for the war without any guarantee that they would be free afterward—in fact, many of them were fighting because their masters ordered them to do so.
- What Goring didn't know was that, when whites weren't around, the slaves talked about rumors, like: how some colonies would only fight the Brits if slavery could continue after the war; how slave-masters were part of the Continental Congress in Philadelphia; how those same slave-masters, who had slaves in their fields, would complain about how the Brits enslaved the colonials; how slave-masters slept with their slaves and had kids, who might be killed by those same men; and how there might be a slave rebellion (which the masters were scared of).
- Octavian can't get the images of slaves being tortured, raped, and killed in houses all over the colonies out of his head, and he can't stop imagining all the fear and grief they must be experiencing.
- Goring's a good guy—a great guy, even—but he doesn't know about any of these things or how Negroes are treated differently than whites in the camps.
- Octavian recalls an old man he saw on the road, after the fight at Bunker Hill.
- The old man had an actual hole in his chest (you could see his skeleton), but he still managed to lift his hat at some white men passing by; plus he gave them directions to a road.
- Octavian helped the old man, named Hosiah Lister, walk to a doctor's tent.
- The doctor wasn't hopeful (Lister lost too much blood), but he patched him up anyway.
- Lister told Octavian about his childhood, which was all about catching flying insects with a jar full of chemicals; then Lister died.
- The doctor later came by and wrote in his account book: "Hosiah Lister, now dead, rec'd his freedom."
Part 4, Chapter 10
- Octavian's being interrogated about Bono.
- Bono's escaped his master in Virginia.
- They think it's suspicious that he fled at the same time Octavian did.
- Octavian doesn't know a thing about the whole deal, but he does know that he's happy.
- After all, Bono is his "brother."
Part 4, Chapter 11
- Octavian doesn't know why the Young Men keep him in such horrible conditions for so long, unless they're just trying to break his will.
- One of the Irish boys who feeds him though, tells him that the men get together in the day to talk about Octavian, and says that they're going to interview him.
- But how does one prepare for an interview in Octavian's condition?
- Octavian does it by getting angry.
- He thinks about all the slaves who died in the war, about Hosiah Lister, whose freedom only came through death.
- Octavian the narrator tells us that in Latin, slave—or servus—means spared one.
- Back then, slaves were automatically seen as the dead.
- So Rome was actually built by dead men, just like Rome's children were taught by dead men… until the Romans finally died and joined the dead themselves.
- That's the case for the slaves Octavian worked side-by-side with—they were like the dead too, and they were being asked to die again for the war effort.
- He recalls the epitaph the doctor wrote about Hosiah Lister, and he feels this deep sadness, not just for Lister, but for all the slaves who can only experience freedom through a total lack of being, through death.
- Finally the Irish boy fetches him for the interview.
Part 4, Chapter 12
- They're all back in the lab room—you know, the room where Cassiopeia was dissected.
- Only now the room is also full of couches and tea settings.
- Octavian hobbles in like a geisha girl.
- The people in the room are: Mr. Gitney, Mr. Sharpe, and Mr. Trefusis.
- Mr. Trefusis is sitting in the back of the room, with his chair tilted; he looks totally without worries.
- Then Mr. Gitney starts.
- He goes on about how Phaeton flew too close to the sun—against his father's orders—and fell from the sky, and that's how Africans became black, because Phaeton burned the earth and the Africans on his way down.
- What's Mr. Gitney's point?
- Octavian doesn't care; he only wants to know what they're going to do with him.
- Now it's Mr. Sharpe's turn, and he's way more direct.
- He says that Octavian's made a big mess for them.
- Octavian points out that they may call themselves the "Sons of Liberty," but they're total hypocrites.
- Mr. Sharpe though thinks it's all okay though—their cause is so they can all be free of the Brits.
- But Mr. Gitney doesn't totally agree; he feels badly and tells Octavian that they don't actually believe in slavery.
- But you know, if they were to free Octavian, Mr. Gitney would have to pay a huge price and he just doesn't have that kind of money to throw around.
- Mr. Sharpe interrupts and starts a really long lecture about how slavery is necessary to America's economy and how, without it, America would totally collapse.
- Plus there's all this evidence that blacks are inferior—after all, they have all that data from Octavian's youth.
- Octavian groans at this point (we don't blame him).
- Mr. Gitney tries to interrupt and tell Octavian they didn't mean anything by the experiment, but he just can't stop Mr. Sharpe from going on.
- It's a good thing Dr. Trefusis jumps in and asks if anyone wants tea.
- Mr. Sharpe is going on about how this is all about the Great Chain of Being, which Octavian's really not hot about because—after all—he knows all about chains.
- Mr. Sharpe and Octavian have a back-and-forth about whether slavery is all about business and profit, and Octavian points out that he's never gotten any profit from slavery and that he never agreed to sell his body for profit either.
- Dr. Trefusis really wants to pour the tea at this point.
- Mr. Sharpe and Mr. Gitney both drink the tea that Dr. Trefusis poured.
- The argument between Mr. Sharpe and Octavian continues, to the point that Mr. Sharpe orders the Irish boys to come back in and put the iron mask back on Octavian's head.
- While Mr. Sharpe continues to speak, Octavian falls on the ground and starts vomiting into the mask.
- While Mr. Sharpe goes on and on, he drinks his tea.
- Octavian notices something strange though—Mr. Gitney is trying to talk but can't, and he's also trying to move, but seems unable to do so.
- In fact, he's starting to convulse behind Mr. Sharpe (who's still talking).
- But even Mr. Sharpe is starting to act weird—his speech is faltering, and he trips over Mr. Gitney, who's now on the floor like a slug.
- Mr. Sharpe turns to Dr. Trefusis and says "The tea."
- Yup—Dr. Trefusis, wily guy that he is, drugged Mr. Sharpe and Mr. Gitney with the tea.
- Mr. Sharpe's seriously delusional now and thinks he's in heaven, so Dr. Trefusis wryly notes that Mr. Sharpe has earned his wings, and then Mr. Sharpe and Mr. Gitney fall asleep.
- Dr. Trefusis frees Octavian's feet and face, and together they tie up the other two men.
- Octavian still has the shackles on his wrists because, as he points out, it'll be easier for them to escape if he looks like he's not free.
- Dr. Trefusis sees his point and gets him out of the house and into a carriage (all the while cracking philosophical jokes—this guy's got a wicked sense of humor).
- A couple of the Young Men stop Dr. Trefusis before he and Octavian get into the carriage.
- They want to know what's up with Mr. Gitney, so Dr. Trefusis tells them not to bother Mr. Sharpe and Mr. Gitney since they're busy in the lab.
- The Young Men say they'll wait—but not for long.
- Dr. Trefusis and Octavian get away finally, but they definitely don't have much time.
- Dr. Trefusis tells the driver that they're heading to Worcester, but that's just a false trail—he's about to redirect the driver to Cambridge.
- The plan is to go from Cambridge and into Boston (Brit territory), but Octavian points out that they should really go to Roxbury or Dorchester instead because there's a floating fort full of Patriots at Cambridge so they could get caught more easily there.
- Dr. Trefusis is excited—ah, a strategic mind. He's incredibly happy that Octavian's with him, and they go to Roxbury instead.
- When they get to Roxbury, Dr. Trefusis pays the driver and tells him that Mr. Gitney doesn't need the carriage for another day.
- Octavian's starting to feel calm, and he can feel his brain working clearly.
- His plan is this: Get into Boston, find an inn, then a position in the Brits' military orchestra, get some money from that, and then find some more permanent housing.
- He knows that once they're settled, he'll get some other ideas.
- Dr. Trefusis and he hide in the bulrushes, to wait until late at night when there aren't any militiamen around.
- While they're waiting, Octavian points out that they're not actually in the rushes—they're in the middle of grass.
- He knows this because Mr. Gitney taught him all about these plants.
- Dr. Trefusis starts cracking up (it is a pretty funny moment), and he says Octavian's a gem and that it would be an honor if he could be by Octavian's side.
- Finally the moment comes.
- Dr. Trefusis and Octavian run to the water and swim toward Boston.
- Octavian doesn't know what he's running toward; he doesn't even really know what freedom means or what his future will look like—he only knows that he and Dr. T. are running toward a clear goal.
- They leave the Patriots behind.
- It's all about the city in front of them now…