The Cook and the Mouse have a brief, uneasy truce
“Hmmmmph,” said Cook. “Nothing. It’s nothing at all. Just my nervous Nellie ears playing tricks on me. You’re an old fool,” she said to herself as she turned back to the stove. “You’re just an old fool afraid of being caught making soup.
Despereaux slumped against the spool of thread. And as he leaned there, his heart pounding, his paws shaking, a small wonderful something occurred. A midnight breeze entered the kitchen and danced over the stove and picked up the scent of the soup and then swirled across the floor and delivered it right directly to the mouse’s nose.
Despereaux put his head up in the air. He sniffed. He sniffed some more. He had never in his life smelled anything so lovely, so inspiring. With each sniff he took, he felt himself growing stronger, braver.
There’s something about great art (or in this case, great food) that can spur us on to greatness ourselves,
And Despereaux, feeling emboldened by the smell of the soup, again set to work pushing the spool of thread.
“Quickly,” he said to himself, rolling the spool across the floor, “do it quickly. Do not think. Just push.”
Cook whirled, the saltshaker in her hand, and shouted, “Who goes there?“
Despereaux stopped pushing. He hid behind the spool of thread as Cook took a candle from the stove and held it up high.
The light came to rest directly on Despereaux’s big ears sticking up from behind the spool of thread.
“Ho,” said Cook, “whose ears are those?”
And the light of the candle shone full in Despereaux’s face.
“A mouse,” said Cook, “a mouse in my kitchen.”
Despereaux closed his eyes. He prepared for death.
He waited, reader. And waited. And then he heard the sound of laughter.
He opened his eyes and looked at Cook.
“Ho,” said Cook. “Ho-hee. For the first time in my life, I am glad to see a mouse in my kitchen.
“Why,” she asked, “why am I glad?”
“Ho-hee. Because a mouse is not a king’s man here to punish me for making soup. That it why. Because a mouse is not a king’s man here to take me to the dungeon for owning a spoon. Ho-hee. A mouse. I, Cook, am glad to see a mouse.”
But this laughter in the face of his quest (and after he was certain he would die a moment ago) result in a strange (or not so strange) reaction.
Despereaux did not move. He could not move. He was paralyzed by fear. He sat on the kitchen floor. One small tear fell out of his left eye. He had expected Cook to kill him.
Instead, reader, she had laughed at him.
And he was surprised how much her laughter hurt.
Next time: some soup…