Madame Defly was one of Pierre¶s most generous patrons, and took a rather personal interest. She fancied herself a psychologist after a short-lived attachmentto one, but was (despite her overabundance of theories) rather stymied. She begandiscussing Pierre and the black beret with her latest paramour, Jacques, saying witha puzzled expression (oblivious to Jacques¶ obvious attempts to kiss her)² ³I still can¶t place my finger on why Pierre won¶t go anywhere without that beret. Is it some childhood attachment? The poor thing. No, perhaps it is a giftfrom a dead friend. But we are Pierre¶s friends, and we are all alive. What do youthink, Jacques?´ And Jacques, much offended, muttered something incoherent andslunk off.In the literary circles, where Pierre¶s friend Paul-Henri chatted with authorsand professors of literature, they all elevated the black beret to the status of metaphor or symbol. It had to
something in the greater story of his life, it hadto be his Scarlet Letter of sorts, his minister¶s Black Veil, if you took a Hawthorne-ish approach.To the painters whom Pierre worked with, the black beret was some kind of muse, some higher artistic inspiration. They considered it very romantic, artistic,and perhaps just a little bit frightening for the awesome power which it held²toshut up Madame Defly, the chattiest woman in all of Marseille? No matter what position you took on the black beret, everyone agreed that itwas very strange how he took it everywhere. He went to dinner with the friends,the beret was there; he was painting in his studio, the beret was there. Childhoodaffliction, mark of sin, or artistic muse, the black beret did
have to come withhim everywhere he went. The friends decided it was time for an intervention.The intervention would not be walking into a room and confronting him, asthough he were a drug addict; no, there was no way they could say a word aboutthe black beret with the beret right there, in front of them. No, their interventionwould be far easier, far more straightforward. They would steal the black beret andsee what Pierre¶s reaction was to it. If he showed signs of frenzied searching anddepression, then they would know that it was something unhealthy, and ask himstraight out what the problem was. If he didn¶t make a big deal about it, then thatwas that. The black beret would be locked away safe in someone¶s closet.