...Lester ignored the Head Mouse. "Son," he said, "please." Despereaux looked at his father, at his gray-streaked fur and trembling whiskers and his front paws clasped together in front of his heart, and he felt suddenly as if his own heart would break in two. His father looked so small, so sad.
"Forgive me," said Lester again.
Forgiveness, reader, is, I think, something very much like hope and love, a powerful, wonderful thing.
And a ridiculous thing, too.
Isn't it ridiculous, after all, to think that a son could forgive his father for beating the drum that sent him to his death? Isn't it ridiculous to think that a mouse could ever forgive anyone for such perfidy?
But still, here are the words Despereaux Tilling spoke to his father. He said, "I forgive you, Pa."
And he said those words because he sensed that it was the only way to save his own heart, to stop it from breaking in two. Despereaux, reader, spoke those words to save himself.
And then he turned from his father and spoke to the whole Mouse Council. "You were wrong," he said. "All of you. You asked me to renounce my sins; I ask you to renounce yours. You wronged me. Repent."
"Never," said the Head Mouse.
Despereaux stood before the Mouse Council, and he realized that he was a different mouse than he had been the last time he faced them. He had been to the dungeon and back up out of it. He knew things that they would never know; what they thought of him, he realized, did not matter, not at all.
And so, without saying another word, Despereaux turned and left the room.
After he was gone, the Head Mouse slapped his trembling paw on the table. "Mice of the Council," he said, "we have been paid a visit by a ghost who has told us to repent. We will now take a vote. All in favor of saying that this visit did not occur, vote 'aye.'"
And from the members of the Mouse Council there came a tiny but emphatic chorus of "ayes".
Only one mouse said nothing. That mouse was Despereaux's father. Lester Tilling had turned his head away from the other members of the Mouse Council; he was trying to hide his tears.
He was crying, reader, because he had been forgiven.
-From The Tale of Despereaux, by Kate DiCamillo