As Despereaux’s family prepares to take action against him, he also inadvertently turns his love’s father against him
Reader, I must report that Furlough had not seen the worst of it. Despereaux sat with the princess and the king and listened to song after song. At one point, gently, oh so gently, the Pea picked up the mouse in her hand. She cupped him in her palm and scratched his oversize ears.
“You have lovely ears,” the Pea said to him. “They are like small pieces of velvet.”
Of course, no one’s ever complimented his ears before, let alone called them small, and it is too precious.
“Papa,” said the Pea when the music was over, “I am going to keep this mouse. We are going to be great friends.”
The king looked at Despereaux cupped in his daughter’s hands. “A mouse,” he muttered. “A rodent.“
“What?” said the Pea.
“Put it down,” the king commanded.
“No,” said the Pea, who was a person not at all used to being told what to do. “I mean, why should I?”
“I wasn’t thinking,” said the king.
“Thinking of what?”
“Your mother. The queen.”
“My mother,” said the Pea sadly.
I love how DiCamillo conveys the tragic death of the queen just in that last line.
“Mice are rodents,” said the king. He adjusted his crown. They are related to . . . rats. You know how we feel about rats. You know of our own dark history with rats.”
The Pea shuddered.
The princess tries to reason with her father, pointing out that rats and mice are very different, but he still insists that mice are “related” to rats and thus are enemies. She reluctantly sets him down.
The king stamped his foot. “Scat!” he shouted.
“Papa,” said the princess, “please, don’t be mean to him.” And she began to weep.
Despereaux, seeing her tears, broke the last of the great, ancient rules of a mice. He spoke. To a human.
“Please,” said Despereaux, “don’t cry.” He held out his handkerchief to the princess.
These kids are so sweet. But alas, society must tear them apart. Or else it would ruin the story.
“Rodents do not speak to princesses. We will not have this becoming a topsy-turvy, wrong-headed world. There are rules. Scat. Get lost, before my common sense returns to me and I have you killed.”
The king stamped his foot again. Despereaux found it alarming to have such a big foot brought down with so much force and anger so close to his own small head. He ran toward the hole in the wall.
But he turned before he entered it. He turned and shouted to the princess. “My name is Despereaux!”
“Despereaux?” she said.
“I honor you!” shouted Despereaux.
“I honor you” was what the knight said to the fair maiden in the story that Despereaux read every day in the book in the library. Despereaux had muttered the phrase often to himself, but he had never before this evening had occasion to use it when speaking to someone else.
“Get out of here!” shouted the king, stamping his foot harder and then harder still so it seemed as if the whole castle, the very world, were shaking. “Rodents know nothing of honor.”
“I honor you,” whispered Despereaux. “I honor you.” He put his paw over his heart. He bowed so low that his whiskers touched the floor.
He was, alas, a mouse deeply in love.
Until next time…