Need to Hear

He knows, from the moment he sees them crumpled before the wardrobe, with a look in their eyes that any soldier, doctor, or priest would know. There is a look people have when their world has been shaken to its root and all they knew has to be reordered. And perhaps the children of bombed London know that look, but Digory does not think anything so mundane has disordered his houseguests.

He offers his hand to the girls with a slight bow, the old Victorian courtesy that he hardly uses anymore, except with the grand old dames of Society, and then only when the university or Polly's beloved zoo needs funding. He escorts them all to his study, nevermind how it will shock Mrs. Macready, and sends Margaret for a tea tray, with the good china. "Five cups?" she asks dubiously, eyeing the littlest ones, and "Five," he replies, firmly.

He pours them tea and makes no demands of speech beyond the polite murmurs of 'cream?' and 'sugar?' — there are times to ignore rationing, and this is one of them — and sits quietly, waiting for them to come back to the here and now as gently as they can.

They look to him for answers, and what is he to tell them? His own adventure was a brief candle, a weekend's outing. What gives him the right to counsel men and women who have lived a lifetime and been returned to childhood? Fumbling for words, he tells them the best things he can think of, half comforting platitude and half advice for a world that he knows is not kind to the exceptional ones. Of course you will go back. Of course there is a reason. But you must not dwell on it. You must live in the now.

It is what they need to hear, he tells himself, and wonders if he believes it any more than they do.