The Mouse Council is scared of what they cannot control.
Lester relates what Despereaux did (up until the Pea first touched him), to the horror of the rest of the Council.
“Something,” intoned the Most Very Honored Head Mouse, “is wrong with your son. He is not well. This goes beyond his fevers, beyond his large ears and his lack of growth. He is deeply disturbed. His behavior endangers us all. Humans cannot be trusted. We know this to be an indisputable fact. A mouse who consorts with humans, a mouse who would sit right at the foot of a man, a mouse who would allow a human to touch him” – and here, the entire Mouse Council indulged in a collective shiver of disgust – “cannot be trusted. That is the way of the world, our world.”
“Fellow mice, it is my most fervent hope that Despereaux has not spoken to these humans. But obviously, we can assume nothing. And this is a time to act, not wonder.”
To be fair, if this world is anything like ours, they’re right to be scared of humans. But they don’t mean to discipline Despereaux, but to cast him out.
“We have no choice,” said the Head Mouse. “He must go to the dungeon.” He pounded his fisted paw on the table. “He must go to the rats. Immediately. Members of the council, I will now ask you to vote. Those in favor of Despereaux being sent to the dungeon, say ‘aye.'”
There was a chorus of sad “ayes.”
“Those opposed say ‘nay.'”
Silence reigned in the room.
The only noise came from Lester. He was crying.
Well, he never stuck up for his son before.
Reader, can you imagine your own father not voting against your being sent to a dungeon full of rats? Can you imagine him not saying one word in your defense?
Despereaux’s father wept and the Most Very Honored Head Mouse beat his paw against the table again and said, “Despereaux Tilling will appear before the mouse community. He will hear of his sins; he will be given a chance to deny them. If he does not deny them, he will be allowed to renounce them so that he may go to the dungeon with a pure heart.”
It occurred to me that Lester’s told them a secondhand account, and the punishment is based entirely on that hearsay. They’re convinced he’s guilty already, without even listening to him. And they imply that his heart is “impure” for breaking their laws.
At least Lester had the decency to weep at his of perfidy. Reader, do you know what “perfidy” means? I have a feeling you do, based on the little scene that just unfolded here.
Ever the educational narrator…but funny enough, the Oxford online dictionary defines it as “deceit” or “untrustworthiness”, whereas she clearly means it as “a betrayal”.
Until next time…