IN GREEN STREET
Uncertain whether the impression that Prosper Profond was dangerous should be traced to his attempt to give Val the Mayfly filly; to a remark of Fleur’s: “He’s like the hosts of Midian—he prowls and prowls around”; to his preposterous inquiry of Jack Cardigan: “What’s the use of keepin’ fit?” or, more simply, to the fact that he was a foreigner, or alien as it was now called. Certain, that Annette was looking particularly handsome, and that Soames—had sold him a Gauguin and then torn up the cheque, so that Monsieur Profond himself had said: “I didn’t get that small picture I bought from Mr. Forsyde.”
However suspiciously regarded, he still frequented Winifred’s evergreen little house in Green Street, with a good-natured obtuseness which no one mistook for naiv ete, a word hardly applicable to Monsieur Prosper Profond. Winifred still found him “amusing,” and would write him little notes saying: “Come and have a ‘jolly’ with us”—it was breath of life to her to keep up with the phrases of the day.
The mystery, with which all felt him to be surrounded, was due to his having done, seen, heard, and known everything, and found nothing in it—which was unnatural. The English type of disillusionment was familiar enough to Winifred, who had always moved in fashionable circles. It gave a certain cachet or distinction, so that one got something out of it. But to see nothing in anything, not as a pose, but because there was nothing in anything, was not English; and that which was not English one could not help secretly feeling dangerous, if not precisely bad form. It was like having the mood which the War had left, seated—dark, heavy, smiling, indifferent—in your Empire chair; it was like listening to that mood talking through thick pink lips above a little diabolic beard. It was, as Jack Cardigan expressed it—for the English character at large—“a bit too thick”—for if nothing was really worth getting excited about, there were always games, and one could make it so! Even Winifred, ever a Forsyte at heart, felt that there was nothing to be had out of such a mood of disillusionment, so that it really ought not to be there. Monsieur Profond, in fact, made the mood too plain in a country which decently veiled such realities.
When Fleur, after her hurried return from Robin Hill, came down to dinner that evening, the mood was standing at the window of Winifred’s little drawing-room, looking out into Green Street, with an air of seeing nothing in it. And Fleur gazed promptly into the fireplace with an air of seeing a fire which was not there.
Monsieur Profond came from the window. He was in full fig, with a white waistcoat and a white flower in his buttonhole.
“Well, Miss Forsyde,” he said, “I’m awful pleased to see you. Mr. Forsyde well? I was sayin’ to-day I want to see him have some pleasure. He worries.”