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.
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.