Despite the mouse’s moment of fright, it returns to E block the next evening, on Percy’s night off. Paul has taken an extra hour to talk to The Chief, whom he can see is becoming increasingly scared and nervous as his date of execution approaches. Paul explains that six to eight in the evening is the best time to talk to inmates, since it is a relaxed time in between the activity of the day and the more indrawn, gloomy atmosphere of the night. When the Chief asks Paul if heaven consists of eternally reliving one’s happiest moment, Paul agrees with him even though he actually believes in the reality of hell.
Paul’s commitment to adopting a serious, respectful attitude with inmates has turned into a science of sorts, organized around a defined timetable. He even puts The Chief’s needs before his own beliefs, unafraid to lie as he tries to reassure the prisoner, who is becoming scared of death. Paul’s belief in hell suggests that he trusts in a divine justice greater than human law, capable of differentiating sinners from innocent people.
In the corridor, as Dean is telling Paul about what happened with Percy the night before, Toot-Toot, who sells snacks in the prison, comes in and sees the mouse. The Pres notes that it seems as though the mouse knows that Percy is not there. While Paul agrees internally with the inmate, he doesn’t dare to express his opinion out loud.
Paul begins to realize that his opinion of the mouse extends well beyond the boundaries of ordinary life, as he believes that the mouse is moved by preternatural intelligence but remains afraid to express this belief out loud, feeling that such faith is a sign of weakness or insanity.
Harry gives the mouse a bit of cinnamon apple and everyone laughs at the sight of the mouse eating it. Once again, though, when Toot-Toot offers the mouse a bit of bologna, the mouse refuses it. When Paul gives him a piece from the same sandwich, the mouse eats it, thereby seemingly confirming that it can tell the difference between floaters and regulars. When the mouse is done eating, it returns to the restraint room, stopping by each cell on its way as though it were looking for someone.
The mouse’s capacity to differentiate between floaters and regulars is never fully explained, but serves to define a group of people who are trustworthy. The fact that the mouse later includes Delacroix in this circle is striking, suggesting that Delacroix, a criminal, is just as worthy of trust as the guards—and certainly more deserving of it than Percy Wetmore.
As the days go by and the mouse keeps on appearing on days when Percy is absent, it becomes more and more difficult to call the mouse’s timing a coincidence. Despite the extraordinary nature of the animal’s behavior and timely appearances, the men implicitly decide not to talk about the mouse, as doing so would spoil its uniqueness and beauty.
The men are struck by awe at the mouse’s behavior. Their decision not to talk about it only reinforces the unity of the group of guards, which revolves around a shared secret that none of them can quite comprehend. The mouse proves that, just like horror and crime, beauty, too, can come unbidden into humans’ lives.