Study Guide

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: Traitor to the Nation, Volume I: The Pox Party Part 2, Chapter 31

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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.

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