They were all waiting for Despereaux.
Furlough pushed through the crowd of mice. Despereaux clung to his brother’s tail.
“Make way, make way!” shouted Furlough. “I have him right here. I have Despereaux Tilling, who has been called to sit with the Mouse Council.”
He led Despereaux to the front of the room. “Honored members of the Mouse Council,” shouted Furlough, “I have brought you Despereaux Tilling, as you requested, to sit with you.” He looked over his shoulder at Despereaux. “Let go of me,” Furlough said.
I didn’t miss the lousy parents/families of series past (mainly Fruits Basket). This isn’t the worst case, except possibly in terms of outcome, as his family forsakes him, not even giving him a kind word as he heads off to his doom.
This is easily the longest chapter thus far – it’s mostly just covering the technicalities of the “trial,” though the crowd seems eager to get to the sentencing already.
“We, the fourteen members of the Mouse Council, have discussed your behavior. First, we will give you a chance to defend yourself against these rumors of your egregious acts. Did you or did you not sit at the foot of the human king?”
“I did,” said Despereaux, “but I was listening to the music, sir. I was there to hear the song that the king was singing.”
At least they mention that they’re only going off of “rumors”…
“Did you allow [the princess] to touch you?”
“Yes, sir,” said Despereaux. “I let her touch me. It felt good.”
A gasp arose from the assembled mice.
Despereaux heard his mother’s voice. “Mon Dieu, it is not the end of the world. It was a touch, what of it?”
“It is simply not done!” came Aunt Florence’s voice from the crowd.
“To the dungeon,” said a mouse in the front row.
It’s still sad that the only one willing to say a word on his behalf is his mother, who seems to be right – Despereaux doesn’t seem to be hurting anyone else through his relationship with the princess.
“Do you, Despereaux Tilling, understand the sacred, never-to-be-broken rules of conduct for being a mouse?”
“Yes, sir.” said Despereaux. “I guess so. But . . .”
“Did you break them?”
“Yes, sir,” said Despereaux. He raised his voice. “But . . . I broke the rules for good reasons. Because of music. And because of love.”
“We are not here to talk about love. This trial is not about love. This trial is about you being a mouse,” shouted the Most Very Honored Head Mouse from high atop the bricks, “and not acting like one!!!”
That’s apparently enough to warrant a guilty verdict and a sentence to the dungeon, but of course they still ask if he wants to renounce his “crimes.”
“Repent. Say that you are sorry you sat at the foot of the human king. Say that you are sorry you allowed the human princess to touch you. Say that you regret these actions.”
Despereaux felt hot and then cold and then hot again. Renounce her? Renounce the princess?
“Mon Dieu!” shouted his mother. “Son, do not act the fool. Renounce! Repent!”
“What say you, Despereaux Tilling?”
“I say . . . I say . . . I say . . . no,” whispered Despereaux. […] “No,” said Despereaux. And this time, he did not whisper the word. “I am not sorry. I will not renounce my actions. I love her. I love the princess.”
Well, at least he’s honest. And besides, the Pea has actually shown she cares about him (even if she might not care about him as much as he does her), and his own mother hasn’t even done as much.
“To the dungeon. To the dungeon. To the dungeon.”
The words pounded through Despereaux’s body with each beat of his heart.
“Very well,” said the Most Very Honored Head Mouse. “You will die, then, with a black heart. Threadmaster,” he called, “bring out the thread.”
Despereaux marveled at his own bravery.
He admired his own defiance.
And then, reader, he fainted.
And this is part of why I find him relatable: He has a legitimately weak body! Even if he has a strong will, he’s far from invincible.
Until next time…