Furlough comes to collect his brother.
Despereaux was reading the story out loud to himself. He was reading from the beginning so that he could get to the end, where the reader was assured that the knight and the fair maiden lived happily ever after.
Despereaux wanted to read those words. Happily ever after. He needed to say them aloud; he needed some reassurance that this feeling he had for the Princess Pea, this love, would come to a good end. And so he was reading the story as if it were a spell and the words of it, spoken aloud, could make magic happen.
I, too, frequently revisit the stories I love, for various reasons, but one of them is definitely comfort. Still, I often prefer sharing them with others, because it’s a way of sharing my feelings, too. Unfortunately, Despereaux has no one who could be bothered to listen to him (except, perhaps, the Pea).
“The Mouse Council has called you to sit with them.”
“Me?” said Despereaux.
“I’m busy right now,” said Despereaux, and he bent his head again to the open book.
Furlough sighed. “Geez,” he said. “Cripes. Nothing makes sense to this guy. Nothing. I was right to turn him in. He’s sick.”
It’s so sad that his whole family thinks he’s “sick”, but they never even try to get him help, let alone try to understand him, before just throwing him under the bus.
“Hey,” he said. “The Mouse Council isn’t asking. They’re telling. They’re commanding. You have to come with me. Right now.”
Despereaux turned to Furlough. “Do you know what love is?” he said.
Furlough shook his head. “You’re asking the wrong question,” he said. “The question you should be asking is why the Mouse Council wants to see you.”
“There is somebody who loves me,” said Despereaux. “And I love her and that is the only thing that matters to me.”
“Somebody who loves you? Somebody who you love? What difference does that make? What matters is that you’re in a lot of trouble with the Mouse Council.”
Furlough says what he thinks is the wrong question, but obviously the author is implying that Despereaux’s question is, if not the right one, at the very least in the right spirit.
“Cripes,” said Furlough, “you’re missing the whole point of everything here. You’re missing the point of being a mouse. You’re missing the point of being called to sit with the Mouse Council. You’ve got to come with me. It’s the law. You’ve been called.”
Despereaux sighed. He reached out and touched the words fair maiden in the book. He traced them with one paw. And then he put his paw to his mouth.
He quietly rejects “the point of being a mouse,” preferring to answer the call of love, no matter where it might lead.
He allowed his brother to lead him to his fate.
Until next time…