AKA: Enter the plot!
Despereaux’s family has finally given up on trying to make a proper mouse out of him, and thus he’s more or less free to do as he pleases, enjoying the stained-glass windows and the storybook.
And he discovered, finally, the source of the honey-sweet sound.
The sound was music.
The sound was King Phillip playing his guitar and singing to his daughter, the Princess Pea, every night before she fell asleep.
He hides in a hole in the Princess’s bedroom to listen.
“Oh,” he said, “it sounds like heaven. It smells like honey.”
He stuck his left ear out of the hole in the wall so that he could hear the music better, and then he stuck his right ear out so that he could hear better still. And it wasn’t too long before one of his paws followed his head and then another paw and then, without any real planning on Despereaux’s part, the whole of him was on display, all in an effort to get closer to the music.
Now, while Despereaux did not indulge in many of the normal behaviors of mice, he did adhere to one of the most basic and elemental of all mice rules: Do not ever, under any circumstances, reveal yourself to humans.
But . . . the music, the music. The music made him lose his head and act against the few small mouse instincts he was in possession of, and because of this he revealed himself; and in no time at all, he was spied by the sharp-eyed Princess Pea.
He disregards his survival instincts (because staying out of sight is generally the best way to for a mouse to stay alive) due to the beauty of the music. And the Princess points him out.
“That, my dear Pea, is a bug, not a mouse. It is much too small to be a mouse.”
“No, no, it’s a mouse.”
“A bug,” said the king, who liked to be right.
“A mouse,” said the Pea, who knew that she was right.
As for Despereaux, he was beginning to realize that he had a very grave error. He trembled. He shook. He sneezed. He considered fainting.
The king is near-sighted, so he doesn’t see the world as clearly as his daughter, just as the other mice can’t perceive the world as clearly as Despereaux. But he still wants to survive.
But when the Pea notices how scared the little mouse is, she asks her father to play for him.
“A king play music for a bug?” King Phillip wrinkled his forehead. “Is that proper, do you think? Wouldn’t that make this into some kind of topsy-turvy, wrong-headed world if a king played music for a bug? […] Oh, well, if it will make you happy, I, the king, will play music for a bug.”
This man would do anything for his little girl and it is just precious.
The king adjusted his heavy gold crown. He cleared his throat. He strummed the guitar and started to sing a song about stardust. The song was as sweet as light shining through a stained-glass window, as captivating as the story in a book.
Despereaux forgot all his fear. He only wanted to hear the music.
He crept closer and then closer still, until, reader, he was sitting right at the foot of the king.
Next time: What Furlough saw…