Study Guide

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: Traitor to the Nation, Volume I: The Pox Party Part 3, Chapter 15

By M.T. Anderson

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.

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