Cook asks who’s there again, but Despereaux stays quiet. To herself, Cook says she’s just afraid of being caught making soup. Relieved, Despereaux leans against the spool of thread, and a breeze blows the smell of the soup toward him. It smells better than anything he’s ever smelled. Cook tries a spoonful of the soup and declares it’s missing something. As she salts the soup, Despereaux feels braver and continues to push the spool across the floor.
Cook is in a vulnerable position right now, since she could be in big trouble if anyone catches her making soup. But the soup, Despereaux discovers, is good—even if all he can do is smell it. It seems to give him the courage to keep going, if only because it’s keeping Cook occupied for now.
Again, Cook whirls around and asks who’s there. Despereaux hides behind the spool of thread as Cook lifts her candle, approaches, and asks whose ears are behind the spool. The light from the candle illuminates Despereaux’s face, and Despereaux prepares for his death. But instead of killing him, Cook laughs—a mouse won’t throw her in the dungeon for making soup. She laughs more, because Despereaux has no tail and has a needle around his waist. Calming down, Cook says that since these are “extraordinary” times, she’ll allow Despereaux to pass if he keeps quiet about her making soup. She returns to her soup pot.
Given how dangerous making soup is right now, finding a mouse in her kitchen is pretty much the best outcome for Cook. But she also severely underestimates Despereaux and what he plans to do when she laughs at him—it’s inconceivable to her that such a tiny mouse could be on such an important quest. This is why she laughs, and it’s also why she turns away and ignores him. He’s basically nothing to her except a laugh.
Despereaux is so afraid that he can’t move. He sits on the kitchen floor and cries. He expected Cook to kill him, but instead, she laughed—and it’s surprising how much that hurts.
Despereaux might not have expected wholehearted support from Cook, but he didn’t expect her to find him funny. Her behavior damages his confidence.