Furlough misses the worst of Despereaux’s behavior. While the mouse council drumbeat sounds through the castle walls and as King Phillip continues to play and sing, the Princess Pea reaches out and gently picks Despereaux up. She compliments his small, velvety ears, and Despereaux feels ready to faint—nobody has ever complimented his ears. To steady himself, he puts his tail against the Pea’s wrist. He can feel her pulse, and moments later, his heart starts beating in rhythm with hers.
The Princess Pea looks at Despereaux with a perspective he’s not used to. As a human who’s much bigger than he is, she thinks every part of him looks small and cute—even the parts of him that seem large to other mice. Being seen with the Pea’s fresh eyes causes Despereaux to fall more deeply in love with her, and to trust her even more.
When King Phillip is done playing music, the Princess Pea announces that she’s going to keep Despereaux as a friend. The king, however, says that Despereaux is a rodent and tells his daughter to put “it” down. They argue until the king reminds the Pea of her mother, the queen. Mice, he says, are rodents and so are related to rats—and the Pea must never forget the family’s “dark history with rats.” It’s essential, he continues, for royalty to not get involved with one’s enemies’ distant relatives. The princess puts Despereaux down, and the king tells Despereaux to go away. This makes the Princess Pea cry. Her tears move Despereaux to break the final mouse rule.
Despereaux’s love for the Pea seems somewhat one-sided; she sees him as a friend, rather than a romantic interest. But regardless, the Pea is still willing to step outside of what her father suggests is the normal, accepted way that their family does things to try to befriend him. The king, on the other hand, is more like Despereaux’s father in that he insists he and the Pea should adhere to established codes of conduct. This is why he calls Despereaux an “it,” rather than a being—he doesn’t see rodents as friends due to whatever event he alludes to when he mentions rats.
Despereaux begs the Princess Pea to not cry and offers her his handkerchief. King Phillip shouts at Despereaux to not speak to his daughter, as rodents don’t speak to princesses in a normal world. The king stomps his foot and, terrified, Despereaux races for the hole in the wall. Before he enters it, he shouts at the Pea that his name is Despereaux, and that he honors her. This is what the knight says to the maiden in the library book. The king shouts that rodents don’t know anything about honor, but Despereaux stops just inside the hole and looks back at the princess. She’s holding his handkerchief and seems to stare right into his soul. Despereaux says again that he honors her, and then he bows low. He’s deeply in love.
As King Phillip loses his temper with Despereaux, he again demonstrates how intent he is on upholding the status quo. In his mind, there’s no room to step outside of established codes of conduct and allow a mouse and a person to speak. But this just motivates Despereaux even more, especially as he relates his love for the Pea to the love the knight in the story feels for the maiden. Despereaux is following the knight’s example and is standing up for what he believes in: love, even if his love isn’t conventional or accepted.