TOLD BY JUKE (IN HIS PRIVATE JOURNAL)
It is always rather amusing dining at Aylesbury House, with my stimulating family. Especially since Chloe, my present stepmother, entered it, three years ago. Chloe is great fun; much more entertaining than most variety artists. I know plenty of these, because Wycombe, my eldest brother, introduces them to me. As a class they seem pleasant and good-humoured, but a little crude, and lacking in the subtler forms of wit or understanding. After an hour or so of their company I want to yawn. But Chloe keeps me going. She is vulgar, but racy. She is also very kind to me, and insists on coming down to help with theatrical entertainments in the parish. It is so decent of her that I can’t say no, though she doesn’t really fit in awfully well with the O.U.D.S. people, and the Marlowe Society people, and the others whom I get down for theatricals. In fact, Elizabethan drama isn’t really her touch. However, the parish prefers Chloe, I need hardly say.
I dined there on Chloe’s birthday, October 15th, when we always have a family gathering. Family and other. But the family is heterogeneous enough to make quite a good party in itself. It was represented on that particular evening by my father and Chloe, my young sister Diana, my brothers Wycombe and Tony, Tony’s wife, myself, my uncle Monsignor Juke, my aunt the Marchesa Centurione and a daughter, and my Aunt Cynthia, who had recently, on her own fiftieth birthday, come out of a convent in which she had spent twenty-five years and was preparing to see Life. Besides the family, there were two or three theatrical friends of Chloe’s, and two friends of my father’s—a youngish literary man called Bryan, and the cabinet minister to whom Tony was secretary, but whom I will not name, because he might not care for it to be generally known that he was an inmate of so fast a household.
My Aunt Cynthia, having renounced her vows, and having only a comparatively short time in which to enjoy the world, the flesh and the devil, is making the most of it. She has only been out of her convent a year, but is already a spring of invaluable personal information about men and manners. She knows everything that is being said of everybody else, and quite a lot that hasn’t even got as far as that. Her Church interests (undiminished in keenness) provide a store of tales inaccessible to most of my family and their set (except my Uncle Ferdinand, of course, and his are mostly Roman not Anglican). Aunt Cynthia has a string of wonderful stories about Cowley Fathers biting Nestorian Bishops, and Athelstan Riley pinching Hensley Henson, and so forth. She is as good as Ronnie Knox at producing or inventing them. I’m not bad myself, when I like, but Aunt Cynthia leaves me out of sight.