Study Guide

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: Traitor to the Nation, Volume I: The Pox Party Part 3, Chapter 23

By M.T. Anderson

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 N**** 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 N**** 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 N**** 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 N**** 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.

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