Logo GenDocs.ru

Поиск по сайту:  


Загрузка...

Программa - tokenizer, putzer, htmlEnt2Char инструменты для корпусной лингвитики - файл en.lolita.utf8.txt


Загрузка...
Программa - tokenizer, putzer, htmlEnt2Char инструменты для корпусной лингвитики
скачать (2711.4 kb.)

Доступные файлы (73):

en.lolita.utf8.txt652kb.15.10.2011 20:23скачать
en.lolita.utf8.txt.tok
example.sh
ru.lolita.utf8.txt1276kb.15.10.2011 20:40скачать
ru.lolita.utf8.txt.tok
README.txt9kb.26.10.2011 02:24скачать
aclocal.m4
config.h
config.h.in
config.log
config.status
configure
configure.ac
COPYING
depcomp
htmlEnt2Char.Po
putzer.Po
TokenizeDeL1.Po
TokenizeDeU8.Po
TokenizeDeWin.Po
TokenizeEnL1.Po
TokenizeEnU8.Po
TokenizeEnWin.Po
tokenizer.Po
TokenizeRuI5.Po
TokenizeRuU8.Po
TokenizeRuWin.Po
htmlEnt2Char.c
htmlEnt2Char.l
INSTALL
install-sh
LC_ascii.h
LC_cp1251.h
LC_cp1252.h
LC_ISOcyrillic5.h
LC_ISOlatin1.h
LIESMICH
Makefile
Makefile.am
Makefile.in
missing
mkinstalldirs
putzer.c
putzer.l
README
stamp-h1
TokenizeDe.l
TokenizeDeL1.c
TokenizeDeL1.l
TokenizeDeU8.c
TokenizeDeU8.l
TokenizeDeWin.c
TokenizeDeWin.l
TokenizeEn.l
TokenizeEnL1.c
TokenizeEnL1.l
TokenizeEnU8.c
TokenizeEnU8.l
TokenizeEnWin.c
TokenizeEnWin.l
tokenizer.c
Tokenizer.h
TokenizerLang.h
TokenizerLexer.h
TokenizeRuI5.c
TokenizeRuI5.l
TokenizeRu.l
TokenizeRuU8.c
TokenizeRuU8.l
TokenizeRuWin.c
TokenizeRuWin.l
torture_de_l1.txt3kb.04.05.2007 11:14скачать
ylwrap

en.lolita.utf8.txt


        "Lolita,  or  the Confession of a White Widowed Male," such were the
two titles under which the writer of the present note received  the  strange
pages  it  preambulates.  "Humbert Humbert," their author, had died in legal
captivity, of coronary thrombosis, on November 16, 1952, a few  days  before
his  trial  was scheduled to start. His lawyer, my good friend and relation,
Clarence Choate Clark, Esq., now of the District of Columbia bar,  in  asking
me  to  edit  the  manuscript, based his request on a clause in his client's
will which empowered my eminent cousin to use the discretion in all  matters
pertaining  to  the  preparation of "Lolita" for print. Mr. Clark's decision
may have been influenced by the fact that the editor of his choice had  just
been  awarded  the  Poling  Prize  for  a  modest  work ("Do the Senses make
Sense?") wherein certain morbid states and perversions had been discussed.
     My task proved simpler than either of us had anticipated. Save for  the
correction of obvious solecisms and a careful suppression of a few tenacious
details  that  despite  "H.H."'s  own efforts still subsisted in his text as
signposts and tombstones (indicative of places or persons that  taste  would
conceal  and  compassion spare), this remarkable memoir is presented intact.
Its author's bizarre cognomen is his own invention;  and,  of  course,  this
mask--through  which  two hypnotic eyes seem to glow--had to remain unlifted
in accordance with its wearer's wish. While  "Haze"  only  rhymes  with  the
heroine's  real  surname,  her first name is too closely interwound with the
inmost fiber of the book to allow one to alter it; nor (as the  reader  will
perceive  for himself) is there any practical necessity to do so. References
to "H.H."'s crime may be looked up by the inquisitive in  the  daily  papers
for  September-October  1952;  its cause and purpose would have continued to
come under my reading lamp.
     For the benefit  of  old-fashioned  readers  who  wish  to  follow  the
destinies of the "real" people beyond the "true" story, a few details may be
given  as  received  from  Mr.  "Windmuller," or "Ramsdale," who desires his
identity suppressed so that "the  long  shadow  of  this  sorry  and  sordid
business" should not reach the community to which he is proud to belong. His
daughter,  "Louise," is by now a college sophomore, "Mona Dahl" is a student
in Paris. "Rita" has recently married the proprietor of a hotel in  Florida.
Mrs.  "Richard  F.  Schiller"  died in childbed, giving birth to a stillborn
girl, on Christmas Day 1952, in Gray  Star,  a  settlemen  in  the  remotest
Northwest.  "Vivian  Darkbloom"  has  written  a  biography, "My Cue," to be
publshed shortly, and critics who have perused the manuscript  call  it  her
best  book. The caretakers of the various cemeteries involved report that no
ghosts walk.
     Viewed simply as a novel, "Lolita" deals with situations  and  emotions
that  would  remain  exasperatingly vague to the reader had their expression
been etiolated by means  of  platitudinous  evasions.  True,  not  a  single
obscene term is to be found in the whole work; indeed, the robust philistine
who  is  conditioned  by  modern conventions into accepting without qualms a
lavish array of four-letter words in a banal novel, will be quite shocked by
their absence here. If, however, for this paradoxical  prude's  comfort,  an
editor  attempted to dilute or omit scenes that a certain type of mind might
call "aphrodisiac" (see in this respect  the  monumental  decision  rendered
December 6, 1933, by Hon. John M. Woolsey in regard to another, considerably
more  outspoken, book), one would have to forego the publication of "Lolita"
altogether, since those  very  scenes  that  one  might  ineptly  accuse  of
sensuous  existence  of  their own, are the most strictly functional ones in
the development of a tragic tale tending unswervingly to nothing less than
a moral apotheosis. The cynic may say that commercial pornography makes  the
same  claim;  the learned may counter by asserting that "H.H."'s impassioned
confession is a tempest in a test tube; that at least 12% of American  adult
males--a  "conservative"  estimate  according  to  Dr.  Blanche  Schwarzmann
(verbal communication)--enjoy yearly, in one way  or  another,  the  special
experience "H.H." describes with such despare; that had our demented diarist
gone,  in the fatal summer of 1947, to a competent psycho-pathologist, there
would have been no disaster; but then, neither would there  have  been  this
book.
     This  commentator  may be excused for repeating what he has stressed in
his own books and lectures, namely that  "offensive"  is  frequently  but  a
synonym for "unusual;" and a great work of art is of course always original,
and thus by its very nature should come as a more or less shocking surprise.
I  have  no  intention  to  glorify  "H.H."  No doubt, he is horrible, is is
abject, he is a shining example of moral leprosy, a mixture of ferocity  and
jocularity  that  betrays  supreme  misery  perhaps, but is not conducive to
attractiveness. He is ponderously capricious. Many of his casual opinions on
the people and scenery of this country are ludicrous.  A  desperate  honesty
that  throbs  through  his  confession  does  not  absolve  him from sins of
diabolical cunning. He is abnormal. He is not a gentleman. But how magically
his singing violin can conjure up a tendresse, a compassion for Lolita  that
makes us entranced with the book while abhorring its author!
     As  a  case  history,  "Lolita"  will  become,  no  doubt, a classic in
psychiatric circles. As a work of art, it transcends its expiatory  aspects;
and  still  more  important  to us than scientific significance and literary
worth, is the ethical impact the book should have on the serious reader; for
in this poignant personal study there lurks a general  lesson;  the  wayward
child,  the  egotistic  mother, the panting maniac--these are not only vivid
characters in a unique story: they warn us of dangerous trends;  they  point
out  potent  evils. "Lolita" should make all of us--parents, social workers,
educators--apply ourselves with still greater vigilance and  vision  to  the
task of bringing up a better generation in a safer world.

     John Ray, Jr., Ph.D.
     Widworth, Mass



         * PART ONE * 

        1

     Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta:
the tip  of  the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap,
at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.
     She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four  feet  ten  in  one
sock.  She  was  Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on
the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.
     Did she have a precursor? She did, indeed she did. In  point  of  fact,
there  might  have  been  no  Lolita  at  all had I not loved, one summer, a
certain initial girl-child. In a princedom by the sea.  Oh  when?  About  as
many  years before Lolita was born as my age was that summer. You can always
count on a murderer for a fancy prose style.
     Ladies and gentlemen of the  jury,  exhibit  number  one  is  what  the
seraphs, the misinformed, simple, noble-winged seraphs, envied. Look at this
tangle of thorns.

        2

     I  was  born  in  1910,  in  Paris.  My father was a gentle, easy-going
person, a salad of racial genes:  a  Swiss  citizen,  of  mixed  French  and
Austrian descent, with a dash of the Danube in his veins. I am going to pass
around  in  a  minute some lovely, glossy-blue picture-postcards. He owned a
luxurious hotel on the Riviera. His father and  two  grandfathers  had  sold
wine,  jewels  and silk, respectively. At thirty he married an English girl,
daughter of Jerome Dunn, the  alpinist,  and  granddaughter  of  two  Dorset
parsons,  experts  in  obscure  subjects--paleopedology  and  Aeolian harps,
respectively. My very photogenic mother died in a  freak  accident  (picnic,
lightning) when I was three, and, save for a pocket of warmth in the darkest
past,  nothing  of her subsists within the hollows and dells of memory, over
which, if you can still stand my style (I am writing under observation), the
sun of my infancy had set: surely, you all know those redolent  remnants  of
day  suspended,  with  the  midges,  about  some  hedge in bloom or suddenly
entered and traversed by the rambler, at the bottom of a hill, in the summer
dusk; a furry warmth, golden midges.
     My mother's elder sister, Sybil, whom  a  cousin  of  my  father's  had
married  and  then  neglected,  served  in  my immediate family as a kind of
unpaid governess and housekeeper. Somebody told me later that she  had  been
in love with my father, and that he had lightheartedly taken advantage of it
one  rainy  day  and  forgotten  it  by  the time the weather cleared. I was
extremely fond of her, despite the rigidity--the fatal rigidity--of some  of
her  rules.  Perhaps  she  wanted  to make of me, in the fullness of time, a
better widower than my father. Aunt Sybil had pink-rimmed azure eyes  and  a
waxen  complexion.  She  wrote poetry. She was poetically superstitious. She
said she knew she would die soon after my sixteenth birthday, and  did.  Her
husband,  a  great  traveler in perfumes, spent most of his time in America,
where eventually he founded a firm and acquired a bit of real estate.
     I grew, a happy, healthy child in a bright would of illustrated  books,
clean  sand,  orange  trees,  friendly  dogs,  sea vistas and smiling faces.
Around me the splendid Hotel Mirana revolved as a kind of private  universe,
a  whitewashed  cosmos within the blue greater one that blazed outside. From
the aproned pot-scrubber to the flanneled  potentate,  everybody  liked  me,
everybody  petted  me. Elderly American ladies leaning on their canes listed
towards me like towers of Pisa. Ruined Russian princesses who could not  pay
my father, bought me expensive bonbons. He, mon cher petit papa, took
me out boating and biking, taught me to swim and dive and water-ski, read to
me  Don Quixote and Les Miserables, and I adored and respected
him and felt glad for him whenever I  overheard  the  servants  discuss  his
various  lady-friends,  beautiful  and  kind  beings who made much of me and
cooed and shed precious tears over my cheerful motherlessness.
     I attended an English day school a few miles from  home,  and  there  I
played  rackets and fives, and got excellent marks, and was on perfect terms
with schoolmates and teachers alike. The only definite sexual events that  I
can  remember  as  having  occurred  before my thirteenth birthday (that is,
before I first saw my little Annabel) were: a solemn,  decorous  and  purely
theoretical  talk  about pubertal surprises in the rose garden of the school
with an American kid, the son of a then  celebrated  motion-picture  actress
whom  he  seldom  saw  in  the three-dimensional world; and some interesting
reactions on the part of my  organism  to  certain  photographs,  pearl  and
umbra,  with  infinitely  soft  partings, in Pichon's sumptuous La Beautи
Humaine that that I had filched from under a  mountain  of  marble-bound
Graphics  in  the  hotel  library.  Later, in his delightful debonair
manner, my father gave me all the information he thought I needed about sex;
this was just before sending me, in the autumn of 1923, to a lycиe in
Lyon (where we were to spend three winters); but alas, in the summer of that
year, he was touring Italy with Mme de R. and her daughter, and I had nobody
to complain to, nobody to consult.

        3

     Annabel  was,  like  the  writer,  of  mixed  parentage:  half-English,
half-Dutch,  in  her case. I remember her features far less distinctly today
than I did a few years ago, before I knew Lolita. There  are  two  kinds  of
visual  memory:  one when you skillfully recreate an image in the laboratory
of your mind, with your eyes open (and then I see Annabel  in  such  general
terms  as:  "honey-colored  skin,"  "think arms," "brown bobbed hair," "long
lashes," "big bright mouth"); and the other when you instantly  evoke,  with
shut eyes, on the dark inner side of your eyelids, the objective, absolutely
optical  replica  of  a  beloved face, a little ghost in natural colors (and
this is how I see Lolita).
     Let me therefore primly limit myself, in describing Annabel, to  saying
she  was a lovely child a few months my junior. Her parents were old friends
of my aunt's, and as stuffy as she. They had rented a  villa  not  far  from
Hotel  Mirana.  Bald  brown  Mr.  Leigh  and  fat, powdered Mrs. Leigh (born
Vanessa van Ness). How I loathed them! At first, Annabel  and  I  talked  of
peripheral  affairs.  She  kept lifting handfuls of fine sand and letting it
pour  through  her  fingers.  Our  brains  were  turned  the  way  those  of
intelligent  European preadolescents were in our day and set, and I doubt if
much individual genius should be assigned to our interest in  the  plurality
of  inhabited worlds, competitive tennis, infinity, solipsism and so on. The
softness and fragility of baby animals caused us the same intense pain.  She
wanted  to  be  a  nurse  in some famished Asiatic country; I wanted to be a
famous spy.
     All at once we were madly, clumsily, shamelessly, agonizingly  in  love
with  each  other;  hopelessly,  I should add, because that frenzy of mutual
possession might have been  assuaged  only  by  our  actually  imbibing  and
assimilating  every  particle  of  each other's soul and flesh; but there we
were, unable even to mate as slum children would have  so  easily  found  an
opportunity  to  do.  After one wild attempt we made to meet at night in her
garden (of which more later), the only privacy we were allowed was to be out
of earshot but not out of sight on the populous part  of  the  plage.
There,  on  the  soft sand, a few feet away from our elders, we would sprawl
all morning, in a petrified paroxysm of desire, and take advantage of  every
blessed  quirk  in space and time to touch each other: her hand, half-hidden
in the sand, would creep toward me, its slender brown  fingers  sleepwalking
nearer  and nearer; then, her opalescent knee would start on a long cautious
journey; sometimes a chance rampart built by  younger  children  granted  us
sufficient  concealment  to  graze each other's salty lips; these incomplete
contacts drove our healthy and inexperienced young bodies to such a state of
exasperation that not even the cold blue water, under which we still  clawed
at each other, could bring relief.
     Among  some  treasures  I lost during the wanderings of my adult years,
there was a snapshot taken by my aunt which showed Annabel, her parents  and
the  staid,  elderly,  lame  gentleman,  a  Dr. Cooper, who that same summer
courted my aunt, grouped around a table in a sidewalk cafe. Annabel did  not
come  out well, caught as she was in the act of bending over her chocolat
glacи, and her thin bare shoulders and the parting  in  her  hair  were
about  all  that  could  be identified (as I remember that picture) amid the
sunny blur into which her lost loveliness graded; but  I,  sitting  somewhat
apart  from  the  rest,  came out with a kind of dramatic conspicuousness: a
moody, beetle-browed boy in a  dark  sport  shirt  and  well-tailored  white
shorts,  his legs crossed, sitting in profile, looking away. That photograph
was taken on the last day of our fatal summer and just a few minutes  before
we  made our second and final attempt to thwart fate. Under the flimsiest of
pretexts (this was our very last chance, and  nothing  really  mattered)  we
escaped  from  the  cafe to the beach, and found a desolate stretch of sand,
and there, in the violet shadow of some red rocks forming a  kind  of  cave,
had  a  brief  session  of  avid  caresses,  with  somebody's  lost  pair of
sunglasses for only witness. I  was  on  my  knees,  and  on  the  point  of
possessing  my darling, when two bearded bathers, the old man of the sea and
his brother, came out of the sea with exclamations of ribald  encouragement,
and four months later she died of typhus in Corfu.

        4

     I  leaf  again  and  again  through  these miserable memories, and keep
asking myself, was it then, in the glitter of that remote summer,  that  the
rift  in  my  life began; or was my excessive desire for that child only the
first evidence of an inherent singularity? When I  try  to  analyze  my  own
cravings,  motives,  actions  and  so  forth,  I  surrender  to  a  sort  of
retrospective imagination which feeds the analytic  faculty  with  boundless
alternatives  and  which  causes  each  visualized route to fork and re-fork
without end in the maddeningly complex prospect of my past. I am  convinced,
however, that in a certain magic and fateful way Lolita began with Annabel.
     I  also  know  that  the  shock  of  Annabel's  death  consolidated the
frustration of that nightmare summer, made of it a permanent obstacle to any
further romance throughout the cold years of my youth. The spiritual and the
physical had  been  blended  in  us  with  a  perfection  that  must  remain
incomprehensible  to  the matter-of-fact, crude, standard-brained youngsters
of today. Long after her death I felt her thoughts  floating  through  mine.
Long  before  we met we had had the same dreams. We compared notes. We found
strange affinities. The same June of the same year (1919) a stray canary had
fluttered into her house and mine, in two widely  separated  countries.  Oh,
Lolita, had you loved me thus!
     I have reserved for the conclusion of my "Annabel" phase the account of
our unsuccessful  first tryst. One night, she managed to deceive the vicious
vigilance of her family. In a nervous and slender-leaved mimosa grove at the
back of their villa we found a perch on the  ruins  of  a  low  stone  wall.
Through  the  darkness  and  the tender trees we could see the arabesques of
lighted windows which, touched up by the colored inks of  sensitive  memory,
appear  to  me  now like playing cards--presumably because a bridge game was
keeping the enemy busy. She trembled and twitched as I kissed the corner  of
her  parted  lips  and  the  hot  lobe of her ear. A cluster of stars palely
glowed above us, between the silhouettes of long thin leaves;  that  vibrant
sky  seemed as naked as she was under her light frock. I saw her face in the
sky, strangely distinct, as if it emitted a faint radiance of its  own.  Her
legs,  her  lovely  live legs, were not too close together, and when my hand
located what it  sought,  a  dreamy  and  eerie  expression,  half-pleasure,
half-pain,  came  over those childish features. She sat a little higher than
I, and whenever in her solitary ecstasy she was led to  kiss  me,  her  head
would  bend  with  a sleepy, soft, drooping movement that was almost woeful,
and her bare knees caught and compressed my wrist, and slackened again;  and
her  quivering  mouth,  distorted by the acridity of some mysterious potion,
with a sibilant intake of breath came near to my  face.  She  would  try  to
relieve the pain of love by first roughly rubbing her dry lips against mine;
then  my  darling  would draw away with a nervous toss of her hair, and then
again come darkly near and let me feed on  her  open  mouth,  while  with  a
generosity  that  was ready to offer her everything, my heart, my throat, my
entrails, I have her to hold in her awkward fist the scepter of my passion.
     I recall the scent of some kind of toilet powder--I believe  she  stole
it  from  her  mother's  Spanish  maid--a sweetish, lowly, musky perfume. It
mingled with her own biscuity odor, and my senses were  suddenly  filled  to
the  brim;  a  sudden  commotion  in  a  nearby  bush  prevented  them  from
overflowing--and as we drew away from each  other,  and  with  aching  veins
attended  to what was probably a prowling cat, there came from the house her
mother's voice calling her, with  a  rising  frantic  note--and  Dr.  Cooper
ponderously  limped  out into the garden. But that mimosa grove--the haze of
stars, the tingle, the flame, the honey-dew, and the ache remained with  me,
and  that  little  girl  with her seaside limbs and ardent tongue haunted me
ever since--until at last, twenty-four years later, I  broke  her  spell  by
incarnating her in another.

        5

     The  days of my youth, as I look back on them, seem to fly away from me
in a flurry of pale repetitive scraps like those morning snow storms of used
tissue paper that a train  passenger  sees  whirling  in  the  wake  of  the
observation  car.  In  my  sanitary  relations  with  women I was practical,
ironical and brisk. While a college  student,  in  London  and  Paris,  paid
ladies  sufficed  me.  My  studies were meticulous and intense, although not
particularly fruitful. At first, I planned to take a  degree  in  psychiatry
and  many  manquи  talents do; but I was even more manquи than
that; a peculiar exhaustion, I am  so  oppressed,  doctor,  set  in;  and  I
switched  to  English  literature,  where  so  many  frustrated poets end as
pipe-smoking teachers in tweeds. Paris suited me. I discussed Soviet  movies
with  expatriates.  I  sat  with  uranists  in  the Deux Magots. I published
tortuous essays in obscure journals. I composed pastiches:

     ...Frдulen von Kulp
     may turn, her hand upon the door;
     I will not follow her. Nor Fresca. Nor
     that Gull.

     A paper of mine entitled "The Proustian theme in a letter from Keats to
Benjamin Bailey" was chuckled over by the six or seven scholars who read it.
I launched upon an "Histoire abregиe de la  poиsie  anglaise"  for  a
prominent publishing firm, and then started to compile that manual of French
literature  for  English-speaking  students  (with  comparisons  drawn  from
English writers) which was to occupy me throughout the forties--and the last
volume of which was almost ready for press by the time of my arrest.
     I found a job--teaching English to a group of adults in Auteuil. Then a
school for boys employed me for a couple of winters. Now  and  then  I  took
advantage  of  the  acquaintances  I  had  formed  among  social workers and
psychotherapists to visit in their company  various  institutions,  such  as
orphanages  and  reform  schools,  where  pale  pubescent  girls with matted
eyelashes could be stared at in perfect impunity remindful of  that  granted
one in dreams.
     Now  I  wish to introduce the following idea. Between the age limits of
nine and fourteen there occur maidens who, to certain  bewitched  travelers,
twice  or  many times older than they, reveal their true nature which is not
human, but nymphic (that is, demoniac); and these chosen creatures I propose
to designate as "nymphets."
     It will be marked that I substitute time terms  for  spatial  ones.  In
fact,   I   would   have  the  reader  see  "nine"  and  "fourteen"  as  the
boundaries--the mirrory beaches  and  rosy  rocks--of  an  enchanted  island
haunted  by  those  nymphets  of  mine  and surrounded by a vast, misty sea.
Between those age limits, are all girl-children  nymphets?  Of  course  not.
Otherwise,  we  who are in the know, we lone voyagers, we nympholepts, would
have long gone insane. Neither are good looks any criterion; and  vulgarity,
or  at  least  what  a given community terms so, does not necessarily impair
certain mysterious characteristics, the  fey  grace,  the  elusive,  shifty,
soul-shattering,  insidious  charm  that  separates  the  nymphet  from such
coevals of hers as are incomparably more dependent on the spatial  world  of
synchronous phenomena than on that intangible island of entranced time where
Lolita  plays  with her likes. Within the same age limits the number of true
nymphets is trickingly inferior to that  of  provisionally  plain,  or  just
nice,  or  "cute,"  or  even  "sweet"  and "attractive," ordinary, plumpish,
formless, cold-skinned, essentially human little  girls,  with  tummies  and
pigtails,  who  may or may not turn into adults of great beauty (look at the
ugly dumplings in black stockings and white hats that are metamorphosed into
stunning stars of the screen). A normal man  given  a  group  photograph  of
school  girls  or  Girl Scouts and asked to point out the comeliest one will
not necessarily choose the nymphet among them. You have to be an artist  and
a  madman, a creature of infinite melancholy, with a bubble of hot poison in
your loins and a super-voluptuous flame permanently  aglow  in  your  subtle
spine  (oh,  how you have to cringe and hide!), in order to discern at once,
by  ineffable  signs--the  slightly  feline  outline  of  a  cheekbone,  the
slenderness  of  a downy limb, and other indices which despair and shame and
tears of tenderness forbid me to tabulate--the little deadly demon among the
wholesome children; she stands unrecognized by them  and  unconscious
herself of her fantastic power.
     Furthermore,  since  the  idea  of  time plays such a magic part in the
matter, the student should not be surprised to learn that there  must  be  a
gap  of several years, never less than ten I should say, generally thirty or
forty, and as many as ninety in a few known cases, between maiden and man to
enable the latter to come under a nymphet's spell. It is a question of focal
adjustment, of a certain distance that the inner eye  thrills  to  surmount,
and  a  certain  contrast  that  the  mind perceives with a gasp of perverse
delight. When I was a child and she was a child, my little  Annabel  was  no
nymphet  to  me;  I  was  her equal, a faunlet in my own right, on that same
enchanted island of time; but today, in September  1952,  after  twenty-nine
years have elapsed, I think I can distinguish in her the initial fateful elf
in  my  life.  We  loved  each  other  with  a  premature  love, marked by a
fierceness that so often destroys adult  lives.  I  was  a  strong  lad  and
survived; but the poison was in the wound, and the wound remained ever open,
and  soon  I found myself maturing amid a civilization which allows a man of
twenty-five to court a girl of sixteen but not a girl of twelve.
     No wonder, then, that my adult life during the European  period  of  my
existence  proved  monstrously  twofold.  Overtly,  I  had  so-called normal
relationships with a number of terrestrial women having  pumpkins  or  pears
for  breasts;  inly,  I was consumed by a hell furnace of localized lust for
every passing nymphet whom as a law-abiding poltroon I never dared approach.
The human females I was allowed to wield were but palliative  agents.  I  am
ready to believe that the sensations I derived from natural fornication were
much  the  same  as  those  known  to normal big males consorting with their
normal big mates in that routine rhythm which shakes the world. The  trouble
was  that  those  gentlemen had not, and I had, caught glimpses of an
incomparably more poignant bliss. The dimmest of my pollutive dreams  was  a
thousand times more dazzling than all the adultery the most virile writer of
genius  or  the  most talented impotent might imagine. My world was split. I
was aware of not one but two sexes, neither of which was mine; both would be
termed female by the anatomist. But to me, through the prism of  my  senses,
"they were as different as mist and mast." All this I rationalize now. In my
twenties  and  early  thirties,  I  did  not  understand  my throes quite so
clearly. While my body knew what it craved for, my mind rejected  my  body's
every  plea.  One  moment  I  was ashamed and frightened, another recklessly
optimistic.  Taboos  strangulated   me.   Psychoanalysts   wooed   me   with
pseudoliberations  of pseudolibidoes. The fact that to me the only object of
amorous tremor were sisters of  Annabel's,  her  handmaids  and  girl-pages,
appeared  to me at times as a forerunner of insanity. At other times I would
tell myself that it was all a question of attitude, that  there  was  really
nothing  wrong in being moved to distraction by girl-children. Let me remind
my reader that in England, with the passage of the Children and Young Person
Act in 1933, the term "girl-child" is defined as "a girl who is  over  eight
but  under  fourteen  years"  (after  that,  from fourteen to seventeen, the
statutory definition is "young person").  In  Massachusetts,  U.S.,  on  the
other  hand,  a  "wayward  child"  is,  technically,  one "between seven and
seventeen years of age" (who, moreover, habitually associates  with  vicious
or immoral persons). Hugh Broughton, a writer of controversy in the reign of
James  the  First,  has  proved that Rahab was a harlot at ten years of age.
This is all very interesting, and I daresay you see me already  frothing  at
the  mouth in a fit; but no, I am not; I am just winking happy thoughts into
a little tiddle cup. Here are some more pictures. Here is Virgil  who  could
the  nymphet sing in a single tone, but probably preferred a lad's perineum.
Here are two of  King  Akhnaten's  and  Queen  Nefertiti's  pre-nubile  Nile
daughters  (that royal couple had a litter of six), wearing nothing but many
necklaces of bright beads, relaxed on cushions, intact after three  thousand
years,  with their soft brown puppybodies, cropped hair and long ebony eyes.
Here are some brides of ten compelled to seat themselves  on  the  fascinum,
the  virile  ivory  in  the  temples  of classical scholarship. Marriage and
cohabitation before the age of puberty are still  not  uncommon  in  certain
East  Indian  provinces.  Lepcha  old  men  of eighty copulate with girls of
eight, and nobody minds. After all, Dante fell madly in love  with  Beatrice
when  she  was nine, a sparkling girleen, painted and lovely, and bejeweled,
in a crimson frock, and this was in 1274, in Florence, at a private feast in
the merry month of May. And when  Petrarch  fell  madly  in  love  with  his
Laureen, she was a fair-haired nymphet of twelve running in the wind, in the
pollen and dust, a flower in flight, in the beautiful plain as descried from
the hills of Vaucluse.
     But  let  us  be  prim  and civilized. Humbert Humbert tried hard to be
good. Really and truly, he id.  He  had  the  utmost  respect  for  ordinary
children,  with  their  purity and vulnerability, and under no circumstances
would he have interfered with the innocence of a child,  if  there  was  the
least risk of a row. But how his heart beat when, among the innocent throng,
he  espied  a  demon  child,  "enfant charmante et fourbe," dim eyes,
bright lips, ten years in jail if you only show her you are looking at  her.
So  life went. Humbert was perfectly capable of intercourse with Eve, but it
was Lilith he longed for. The bud-stage of breast development appears  early
(10.7 years) in the sequence of somatic changes accompanying pubescence. And
the  next  maturational  item available is the first appearance of pigmented
pubic hair (11.2 years). My little cup brims with tiddles.
     A shipwreck. An atoll.  Alone  with  a  drowned  passenger's  shivering
child.  Darling,  this  is  only  a  game!  How  marvelous  were  my fancied
adventures as I sat on a hard park bench pretending  to  be  immersed  in  a
trembling  book.  Around the quiet scholar, nymphets played freely, as if he
were a familiar statue or part of an old tree's shadow  and  sheen.  Once  a
perfect  little  beauty  in  a  tartan frock, with a clatter put her heavily
armed foot near me upon the bench to dip her slim  bare  arms  into  me  and
righten  the  strap of her roller skate, and I dissolved in the sun, with my
book for fig leaf, as her auburn ringlets fell all over  her  skinned  knee,
and  the  shadow  of leaves I shared pulsated and melted on her radiant limb
next to my chameleonic cheek. Another time a  red-haired  school  girl  hung
over  me in the metro, and a revelation of axillary russet I obtained
remained in my blood for weeks.  I  could  list  a  great  number  of  these
one-sided  diminutive romances. Some of them ended in a rich flavor of hell.
It happened for instance that from my  balcony  I  would  notice  a  lighted
window  across  the  street  and  what  looked  like a nymphet in the act of
undressing before a co-operative mirror. Thus isolated,  thus  removed,  the
vision  acquired  an  especially keen charm that made me race with all speed
toward my lone gratification. But abruptly, fiendishly, the  tender  pattern
of  nudity  I  had  adored would be transformed into the disgusting lamp-lit
bare arm of a man in his underclothes reading his paper by the  open  window
in the hot, damp, hopeless summer night.
     Rope-skipping,  hopscotch. That old woman in black who sat down next to
me on my bench, on my rack of joy (a nymphet was groping under me for a lost
marble), and asked if I had stomachache, the  insolent  hag.  Ah,  leave  me
alone  in  my  pubescent  park,  in my mossy garden. Let them play around me
forever. Never grow up.

        6

     A propos: I have often wondered what became of those nymphets later? In
this wrought-iron would of criss-cross cause and effect, could  it  be  that
the hidden throb I stole from them did not affect their future? I had
possessed  her--and  she  never  knew  it.  All right. But would it not tell
sometime later? Had I not somehow tampered with her fate  by  involving  her
image  in  my  voluptas?  Oh,  it  was,  and  remains, a source of great and
terrible wonder.
     I learned, however, what they looked  like,  those  lovely,  maddening,
thin-armed nymphets, when they grew up. I remember walking along an animated
street on a gray spring afternoon somewhere near the Madeleine. A short slim
girl  passed  me  at a rapid, high-heeled, tripping step, we glanced back at
the same moment, she stopped and I accosted her. She came hardly  up  to  my
chest  hair  and  had  the kind of dimpled round little face French girls so
often have, and I liked her long lashes  and  tight-fitting  tailored  dress
sheathing  in  pearl-gray  her young body which still retained--and that was
the nymphic echo, the chill of delight, the leap  in  my  loins--a  childish
something  mingling  with  the professional fretillement of her small
agile rump. I asked her price,  and  she  promptly  replied  with  melodious
silvery  precision  (a  bird, a very bird!) "Cent." I tried to haggle
but she saw the awful lone longing in my lowered eyes, directed so far  down
at  her  round  forehead  and rudimentary hat (a band, a posy); and with one
beat of her lashes: "Tant pis," she said, and  made  as  if  to  move
away.  Perhaps  only  three  years earlier I might have seen her coming home
from school! That evocation settled the matter. She  led  me  up  the  usual
steep  stairs,  with the usual bell clearing the way for the monsieur
who might not care to meet another monsieur, on the mournful climb to
the abject room, all bed and bidet. As usual, she asked at  once  for
her petit cadeau, and as usual I asked her name (Monique) and her age
(eighteen).   I   was   pretty   well  acquainted  with  the  banal  way  of
streetwalkers. They all answer "dix-huit"--a trim twitter, a note  of
finality  and  wistful  deceit  which they emit up to ten times per day, the
poor little creatures. But in Monique's case there could  be  no  doubt  she
was,  if  anything,  adding one or two years to her age. This I deduced from
many details of her compact, neat, curiously immature body. Having shed  her
clothes  with fascinating rapidity, she stood for a moment partly wrapped in
the dingy gauze of the window curtain listening with infantile pleasure,  as
pat  as  pat  could  be,  to an organ-grinder in the dust-brimming courtyard
below. When I examined her small hands  and  drew  her  attention  to  their
grubby  fingernails,  she  said  with  a  naive  frown "Oui, ce n'est pas
bien," and went to the wash-basin, but I said it did not matter, did not
matter at all. With her brown bobbed hair, luminous gray eyes and pale skin,
she looked perfectly charming. Her hips were  no  bigger  than  those  of  a
squatting  lad;  in  fact,  I do not hesitate to say (and indeed this is the
reason why I linger gratefully in that gauze-gray room of memory with little
Monique) that among the eighty or so grues I had had operate upon me,
she was the only one that gave me a pang of genuine pleasure.  "Il иtait
malin,  celui  qui a inventи ce truc-la," she commented amiably, and got
back into her clothes with the same high-style speed.
     I asked for another, more elaborate, assignment later the same evening,
and she said she would meet me at the corner cafe at nine, and swore she had
never pose un lapin in all her young life. We returned  to  the  same
room,  and  I  could  not  help  saying how very pretty she was to which she
answered demurely: "Tu es bien gentil de dire ca" and then,  noticing
what  I  noticed  too  in the mirror reflecting our small Eden--the dreadful
grimace of clenched-teeth tenderness that distorted my mouth--dutiful little
Monique (oh, she had been a nymphet, all  right!)  wanted  to  know  if  she
should remove the layer of red from her lips avant qu'on se couche in
case  I  planned  to kiss her. Of course, I planned it. I let myself go with
her more completely than I had with any  young  lady  before,  and  my  last
vision  that night of long-lashed Monique is touched up with a gaiety that I
find seldom associated with any event in my  humiliating,  sordid,  taciturn
love  life.  She  looked tremendously pleased with the bonus of fifty I gave
her as she trotted out into the April night  drizzle  with  Humbert  Humbert
lumbering in her narrow wake. Stopping before a window display she said with
great  gusto: "Je vais m'acheter des bas!" and never may I forget the
way her Parisian childish lips exploded on "bas," pronouncing it with
an appetite that all but changed the "a" into a brief buoyant  bursting  "o"
as in "bot".
     I had a date with her next day at 2.15 P.M. in my own rooms, but it was
less successful,  she  seemed  to  have grown less juvenile, more of a woman
overnight. A cold I caught from her led me to cancel  a  fourth  assignment,
nor  was  I  sorry to break an emotional series that threatened to burden me
with heart-rending fantasies and peter out in dull  disappointment.  So  let
her  remain,  sleek,  slender  Monique,  as  she  was for a minute or two: a
delinquent nymphet shining through the matter-of-fact young whore.
     My brief acquaintance with her started a train of thought that may seem
pretty obvious to the reader who knows the ropes. An advertisement in a lewd
magazine landed me, one brave day, in the office of a Mlle Edith  who  began
by  offering  me to choose a kindred soul from a collection of rather formal
photographs  in  a  rather  soiled  album  ("Regardez-moi   cette   belle
brune!".  When  I pushed the album away and somehow managed to blurt out
my criminal craving, she looked as if about to show me  the  door;  however,
after  asking  me what price I was prepared to disburse, she condescended to
put me in touch with a person qui pourrait arranger  la  chose.  Next
day,  an  asthmatic  woman,  coarsely  painted, garrulous, garlicky, with an
almost farcical Provenгal accent and a black mustache above  a  purple  lip,
took  me  to  what  was  apparently  her  own  domicile,  and  there,  after
explosively kissing the bunched tips of  her  fat  fingers  to  signify  the
delectable rosebud quality of her merchandise, she theatrically drew aside a
curtain  to reveal what I judged was that part of the room where a large and
unfastidious family usually slept. It was now empty save for  a  monstrously
plump,  sallow, repulsively plain girl of at least fifteen with red-ribboned
thick black braids who sat on a chair perfunctorily  nursing  a  bald  doll.
When  I  shook  my  head  and  tried  to shuffle out of the trap, the woman,
talking fast,  began  removing  the  dingy  woolen  jersey  from  the  young
giantess' torso; then, seeing my determination to leave, she demanded son
argent.  A  door  at the end of the room was opened, and two men who had
been dining in the kitchen joined in  the  squabble.  They  were  misshapen,
bare-necked, very swarthy and one of them wore dark glasses. A small boy and
a begrimed, bowlegged toddler lurked behind them. With the insolent logic of
a  nightmare,  the enraged procuress, indicating the man in glasses, said he
had served in the police, lui, so that I had better do as I was told.
I went up to Marie--for that was her stellar name--who by then  had  quietly
transferred  her  heavy haunches to a stool at the kitchen table and resumed
her interrupted soup while the toddler picked up the doll. With a  surge  of
pity   dramatizing  my  idiotic  gesture,  I  thrust  a  banknote  into  her
indifferent hand. She surrendered my gift to the ex-detective,  whereupon  I
was suffered to leave.


        7

     I  do  not  know if the pimp's album may not have been another link in
the daisy-chain; but soon after, for my own safety, I decided to  marry.  It
occurred to me that regular hours, home-cooked meals, all the conventions of
marriage, the prophylactic routine of its bedroom activities and, who knows,
the  eventual  flowering  of  certain  moral  values,  of  certain spiritual
substitutes, might help me, if not to  purge  myself  of  my  degrading  and
dangerous  desires,  at  least  to keep them under pacific control. A little
money that had come my way after my father's death (nothing very  grand--the
Mirana  had  been  sold long before), in addition to my striking if somewhat
brutal good looks, allowed me to enter upon my quest with equanimity.  After
considerable  deliberation,  my  choice  fell  on  the  daughter of a Polish
doctor: the good man happened to be treating me for spells of dizziness  and
tachycardia. We played chess; his daughter watched me from behind her easel,
and  inserted eyes or knuckles borrowed from me into the cubistic trash that
accomplished misses then painted instead of lilacs and lambs. Let me  repeat
with  quiet  force:  I  was,  and  still am, despite mes malheurs, an
exceptionally handsome male; slow-moving, tall, with soft dark  hair  and  a
gloomy  but  all  the  more seductive cast of demeanor. Exceptional virility
often reflects in the subject's displayable features a sullen and  congested
something  that  pertains  to  what he has to conceal. And this was my case.
Well did I know, alas, that I could obtain at the snap  of  my  fingers  any
adult  female  I  chose; in fact, it had become quite a habit with me of not
being too attentive to women lest they come  toppling,  bloodripe,  into  my
cold lap. Had I been a franгais moyen with a taste for flashy ladies,
I  might  have  easily  found, among the many crazed beauties that lashed my
grim rock, creatures far more fascinating than Valeria. My choice,  however,
was  prompted by considerations whose essence was, as I realized too late, a
piteous compromise. All of which goes to show  how  dreadfully  stupid  poor
Humbert always was in matters of sex.

        8

     Although  I told myself I was looking merely for a soothing presence, a
glorified pot-au-feu, an animated merkin, what really attracted me to
Valeria was the imitation she gave of a little girl. She gave it not because
she had divined something about me; it was just her style--and  I  fell  for
it. Actually, she was at least in her late twenties (I never established her
exact  age  for  even her passport lied) and had mislaid her virginity under
circumstances that changed with her reminiscent moods. I, on my part, was as
naive as only a pervert can be. She looked fluffy  and  frolicsome,  dressed
a  la  gamine,  showed  a  generous amount of smooth leg, knew how to
stress the white of a bare instep by the black  of  a  velvet  slipper,  and
pouted,  and  dimpled,  and  romped, and dirndled, and shook her short curly
blond hair in the cutest and tritest fashion imaginable.
     After a brief ceremony at the mairie, I  tool  her  to  the  new
apartment I had rented and, somewhat to her surprise, had her wear, before I
touched  her, a girl's plain nightshirt that I had managed to filch from the
linen closet of an orphanage. I derived some fun from that nuptial night and
had the idiot in hysterics by sunrise. But reality soon asserted itself. The
bleached curl revealed its melanic root; the down turned to  prickles  on  a
shaved  shin;  the mobile moist mouth, no matter how I stuffed it with love,
disclosed ignominiously its resemblance  to  the  corresponding  part  in  a
treasured  portrait  of  her toadlike dead mama; and presently, instead of a
pale little gutter girl, Humbert Humbert had on his hands  a  large,  puffy,
short-legged, big-breasted and practically brainless baba.
     This  state  of  affairs lasted from 1935 to 1939. Her only asset was a
muted nature which did help to produce an odd sense of comfort in our  small
squalid  flat:  two  rooms,  a  hazy view in one window, a brick wall in the
other, a tiny kitchen, a shoe-shaped bath tub,  within  which  I  felt  like
Marat  but  with  no white-necked maiden to stab me. We had quite a few cozy
evenings together, she deep in her Paris-Soir, I working at a rickety
table. We went to movies, bicycle races and boxing matches.  I  appealed  to
her stale flesh very seldom, only in cases of great urgency and despair. The
grocer  opposite  had  a little daughter whose shadow drove me mad; but with
Valeria's help I did find after all  some  legal  outlets  to  my  fantastic
predicament.  As  to cooking, we tacitly dismissed the pot-au-feu and
had most of our meals at a crowded place in rue Bonaparte where  there  were
wine  stains  on the table cloth and a good deal of foreign babble. And next
door,  an  art  dealer  displayed  in  his  cluttered  window  a   splendid,
flamboyant,  green,  red,  golden and inky blue, ancient American estampe--a
locomotive with a gigantic smokestack, great baroque lamps and a  tremendous
cowcatcher,  hauling  its mauve coaches through the stormy prairie night and
mixing a lot of spark-studded black smoke with the furry thunder clouds.
     These burst. In the summer of 1939  mon  oncle  d'Amиrique  died
bequeathing  me  an  annual  income of a few thousand dollars on condition I
came to live in the States and showed some interest in  his  business.  This
prospect was most welcome to me. I felt my life needed a shake-up. There was
another  thing,  too:  moth  holes  had appeared in the plush of matrimonial
comfort. During the last weeks I had kept noticing that my fat  Valeria  was
not her usual self; had acquired a queer restlessness; even showed something
like  irritation  at  times,  which  was quite out of keeping with the stock
character she was supposed to impersonate.  When  I  informed  her  we  were
shortly  to  sail  for New York, she looked distressed and bewildered. There
were some tedious difficulties with her papers. She had a Nansen, or  better
say  Nonsense, passport which for some reason a share in her husband's solid
Swiss citizenship could not easily transcend;  and  I  decided  it  was  the
necessity  of  queuing in the prиfecture, and other formalities, that
had made her so listless, despite my patiently describing  to  her  America,
the  country  of  rosy children and great trees, where life would be such an
improvement on dull dingy Paris.
     We were coming out of some office building one morning, with her papers
almost in order, when Valeria, as she waddled by my side, began to shake her
poodle head vigorously without saying a word. I let her go on  for  a  while
and  then  asked  if  she  thought she had something inside. She answered (I
translate from her French which was, I imagine, a translation in its turn of
some Slavic platitude): "There is another man in my life."
     Now, these are ugly words for a husband  to  hear.  They  dazed  me,  I
confess.  To  beat  her  up  in  the  street,  there  and then, as an honest
vulgarian might have done, was not feasible. Years of secret sufferings  had
taught  me  superhuman  self-control. So I ushered her into a taxi which had
been invitingly  creeping  along  the  curb  for  some  time,  and  in  this
comparative  privacy  I  quietly  suggested  she  comment  her  wild talk. A
mounting fury was suffocating me--not because I had any particular  fondness
for that figure of fun, Mme Humbert, but because matters of legal and
illegal  conjunction were for me alone to decide, and here she was, Valeria,
the comedy wife, brazenly preparing to dispose in her own way of my  comfort
and  fate. I demanded her lover's name. I repeated my question; but she kept
up a burlesque babble, discoursing on her unhappiness with me and announcing
plans for an immediate divorce. "Mais qui est-ce?" I shouted at last,
striking her on the knee with my fist; and she, without even wincing, stared
at me as if the answer were too simple for words, then gave  a  quick  shrug
and  pointed  at  the thick neck of the taxi driver. He pulled up at a small
cafи and introduced himself. I do not remember his ridiculous name but after
all those years I still  see  him  quite  clearly--a  stocky  White  Russian
ex-colonel  with  a  bushy  mustache and a crew cut; there were thousands of
them plying that fool's trade in Paris. We sat down at a table; the  Tsarist
ordered  wine, and Valeria, after applying a wet napkin to her knee, went on
talking--into me rather than  to  me;  she  poured  words  into  this
dignified receptacle with a volubility I had never suspected she had in her.
And  every  now  and  then  she would volley a burst of Slavic at her stolid
lover. The situation was preposterous and  became  even  more  so  when  the
taxi-colonel,  stopping  Valeria  with  a  possessive smile, began to unfold
his views and plans. With an atrocious accent to his careful  French,
he  delineated  the  world  of love and work into which he proposed to enter
hand in hand with his child-wife Valeria. She by now was  preening  herself,
between  him  and  me, rouging her pursed lips, tripling her chin to pick at
her blouse-bosom and so forth, and he spoke of her as if  she  were  absent,
and  also  as if she were a kind of little ward that was in the act of being
transferred, for her own good, from one wise guardian to another even  wiser
one;  and  although  my  helpless  wrath may have exaggerated and disfigured
certain impressions, I can swear that  he  actually  consulted  me  on  such
things  as her diet, her periods, her wardrobe and the books she had read or
should read. "I think," - he said, "She will like  Jean  Christophe?"
Oh, he was quite a scholar, Mr. Taxovich.
     I  put  an  end to this gibberish by suggesting Valeria pack up her few
belongings immediately,  upon  which  the  platitudinous  colonel  gallantly
offered  to carry them into the car. Reverting to his professional state, he
drove the Humberts to their residence and all the way  Valeria  talked,  and
Humbert  the  Terrible  deliberated  with  Humbert the Small whether Humbert
Humbert should kill her or her lover, or both, or neither. I  remember  once
handling an automatic belonging to a fellow student, in the days (I have not
spoken  of  them,  I  think,  but  never mind) when I toyed with the idea of
enjoying his little sister, a most diaphanous nymphet with a black hair bow,
and then shooting myself. I now wondered if Valechka (as the colonel  called
her)  was  really  worth  shooting, or strangling, or drowning. She had very
vulnerable legs, and I decided I would limit  myself  to  hurting  her  very
horribly as soon as we were alone.
     But  we  never were. Valechka--by now shedding torrents of tears tinged
with the mess of her rainbow make-up,--started to fill anyhow a  trunk,  and
two  suitcases, and a bursting carton, and visions of putting on my mountain
boots and taking a running kick at her rump were of course impossible to put
into execution with the cursed colonel  hovering  around  all  the  time.  I
cannot  say he behaved insolently or anything like that; on the contrary, he
displayed, as a small sideshow in the theatricals I had been inveigled in, a
discreet old-world civility, punctuating his movements  with  all  sorts  of
mispronounced  apologies (j'ai demande pardonne--excuse me--est-ce
que j'ai puis--may I--and so forth), and  turning  away  tactfully  when
Valechka  took  down  with  a flourish her pink panties from the clothesline
above the tub; but he seemed to  be  all  over  the  place  at  once,  le
gredin,  agreeing  his frame with the anatomy of the flat, reading in my
chair my newspaper, untying a knotted string, rolling a cigarette,  counting
the  teaspoons,  visiting  the  bathroom,  helping  his  moll to wrap up the
electric fan her father had given her, and carrying streetward her  luggage.
I  sat  with  arms  folded,  one  hip  on the window sill, dying of hate and
boredom. At last both were out of the quivering apartment--the vibration  of
the  door  I  had  slammed  after  them still rang in my every nerve, a poor
substitute for the backhand slap with which I ought to have hit  her  across
the  cheekbone  according  to  the  rules of the movies. Clumsily playing my
part, I stomped to the bathroom to check if they had taken my English toilet
water; they had not; but I noticed with a spasm of fierce disgust  that  the
former  Counselor  of the Tsar, after thoroughly easing his bladder, had not
flushed the toilet. That solemn pool of alien  urine  with  a  soggy,  tawny
cigarette  butt  disintegrating  in it struck me as a crowning insult, and I
wildly looked around for a weapon. Actually I daresay  it  was  nothing  but
middle-class  Russian  courtesy  (with  an  oriental tang, perhaps) that had
prompted the good colonel (Maximovich! his name suddenly taxies back to me),
a very formal person as they all are, to muffle his private need in decorous
silence so as not to underscore the small size of his host's  domicile  with
the  rush  of a gross cascade on top of his own hushed trickle. But this did
not enter my mind at the moment, as  groaning  with  rage  I  ransacked  the
kitchen  for  something  better  than  a broom. Then, canceling my search, I
dashed  out  of  the  house  with  the  heroic  decision  of  attacking  him
barefisted;  despite my natural vigor, I am no pugilist, while the short but
broad-shouldered Maximovich seemed made of pig iron. The void of the street,
revealing nothing of my wife's departure except a rhinestone button that she
had dropped in the mud after preserving it for three unnecessary years in  a
broken box, may have spared me a bloody nose. But no matter. I had my little
revenge  in  due  time.  A  man  from  Pasadena  told  me  one day that Mrs.
Maximovich nиe Zborovski had died in childbirth around 1945; the couple  had
somehow  got  over  to  California and had been used there, for an excellent
salary, in a year-long experiment  conducted  by  a  distinguished  American
ethnologist.  The experiment dealt with human and racial reactions to a diet
of bananas and dates in a constant position on all fours.  My  informant,  a
doctor,  swore he had seen with his own eyes obese Valechka and her colonel,
by then gray-haired and also quite corpulent, diligently crawling about  the
well-swept  floors  of  a  brightly lit set of rooms (fruit in one, water in
another, mats in a third and so on) in the company of  several  other  hired
quadrupeds,  selected from indigent and helpless groups. I tried to find the
results of these tests in the Review of Anthropology; but they appear
not to have been published yet. These scientific  products  take  of  course
some  time  to  fructuate.  I hope they will be illustrated with photographs
when they do get printed, although it is  not  very  likely  that  a  prison
library  will  harbor  such  erudite works. The one to which I am restricted
these days, despite my lawyer's favors, is  a  good  example  of  the  inane
eclecticism  governing the selection of books in prison libraries. They have
the Bible, of course, and Dickens (an ancient set,  N.Y.,  G.W.  Dillingham,
Publisher,  MDCCCLXXXVII); and the Children's Encyclopedia (with some
nice photographs of sunshine-haired Girl Scouts in shorts), and A  Murder
Is  Announced  by  Agatha  Christie; but they also have such coruscating
trifles as A vagabond  in  Italy  by  Percy  Elphinstone,  author  of
Venice  Revisited,  Boston,  1868,  and a comparatively recent (1946)
Who's Who in the Limelight--actors, producers, playwrights, and shots
of static scenes. In looking through the latter volume, I was  treated  last
night  to one of those dazzling coincidences that logicians loathe and poets
love. I transcribe most of the page:

     Pym, Roland. Born in Lundy, Mass., 1922.  Received  stage  training  at
Elsinore  Playhouse,  Derby,  N.Y.  Made debut in Sunburst. Among his
many appearances are Two Blocks from Here, The Girl in  Green,  Scrambled
Husbands, The Strange Mushroom, Touch and Go, John Lovely, I Was Dreaming of
You.
     Quilty,  Clare,  American  dramatist.  Born  in Ocean City, N.J., 1911.
Educated at Columbia University. Started on a commercial career  but  turned
to   playwriting.  Author  of  The  Little  Nymph,  The  Lady  Who  Loved
Lightning (in collaboration with Vivian  Darkbloom),  Dark  Age,  The
strange Mushroom, Fatherly Love, and others. His many plays for children
are notable. Little Nymph (1940) traveled 14,000 miles and played 280
performances  on  the  road  during  the  winter  before ending in New York.
Hobbies: fast cars, photography, pets.
     Quine, Dolores. Born in 1882, in Dayton, Ohio.  Studied  for  stage  at
American  Academy.  First  played  in Ottawa in 1900. Made New York debut in
1904 in Never Talk to Strangers. Has disappeared since in [a list  of
some thirty plays follows].

     How  the look of my dear love's name even affixed to some old hag of an
actress, still makes me rock with helpless pain!  Perhaps,  she  might  have
been an actress too. Born 1935. Appeared (I notice the slip of my pen in the
preceding  paragraph,  but  please  do  not  correct it, Clarence) in The
Murdered Playwright. Quine the Swine. Guilty of killing Quilty.  Oh,  my
Lolita, I have only words to play with!

        9

     Divorce  proceedings  delayed  my  voyage, and the gloom of yet another
World War had settled upon the globe when,  after  a  winter  of  ennui  and
pneumonia  in  Portugal, I at last reached the States. In New York I eagerly
accepted the soft job fate offered me: it consisted mainly  of  thinking  up
and   editing   perfume   ads.   I  welcomed  its  desultory  character  and
pseudoliterary aspects, attending to it whenever I had nothing better to do.
On the other hand, I was urged by a  war-time  university  in  New  York  to
complete  my  comparative  history of French literature for English-speaking
students. The first volume took me a couple of years during which I  put  in
seldom  less than fifteen hours of work daily. As I look back on those days,
I see them divided tidily into ample  light  and  narrow  shade:  the  light
pertaining  to the solace of research in palatial libraries, the shade to my
excruciating desires and insomnias of which enough has been said. Knowing me
by now, the reader can easily imagine how dusty and hot  I  got,  trying  to
catch  a  glimpse of nymphets (alas, always remote) playing in Central Park,
and how repulsed I was by the glitter of deodorized career girls that a  gay
dog  in  one  of the offices kept unloading upon me. Let us skip all that. A
dreadful breakdown sent me to a sanatorium for more than a year; I went back
to my work--only to be hospitalized again.
     Robust outdoor life seemed  to  promise  me  some  relief.  One  of  my
favorite  doctors,  a charming cynical chap with a little brown beard, had a
brother, and this brother was  about  to  lead  an  expedition  into  arctic
Canada.  I was attached to it as a "recorder of psychic reactions." With two
young botanists and an old carpenter I  shared  now  and  then  (never  very
successfully)   the  favors  of  one  of  our  nutritionists,  a  Dr.  Anita
Johnson--who was soon flown back, I am glad to say. I had little  notion  of
what   object  the  expedition  was  pursuing.  Judging  by  the  number  of
meteorologists upon it, we may have been tracking to its lair (somewhere  on
Prince  of  Wales'  Island,  I  understand)  the  wandering and wobbly north
magnetic pole. One group, jointly with the Canadians, established a  weather
station on Pierre Point in Melville Sound. Another group, equally misguided,
collected plankton. A third studied tuberculosis in the tundra. Bert, a film
photographer--an insecure fellow with whom at one time I was made to partake
in   a   good   deal   of   menial   work   (he,   too,   had  some  psychic
troubles)--maintained that the big men on our  team,  the  real  leaders  we
never  saw,  were  mainly  engaged  in  checking  the  influence of climatic
amelioration on the coats of the arctic fox.
     We lived in prefabricated timber cabins amid a  Pre-Cambrian  world  of
granite.  We had heaps of supplies--the Reader's Digest, an ice cream
mixer, chemical toilets,  paper  caps  for  Christmas.  My  health  improved
wonderfully  in spite or because of all the fantastic blankness and boredom.
Surrounded  by  such  dejected  vegetation  as  willow  scrub  and  lichens;
permeated, and, I suppose, cleansed by a whistling gale; seated on a boulder
under  a  completely  translucent  sky  (through  which, however, nothing of
importance showed), I felt curiously aloof from my own self. No  temptations
maddened  me.  The  plump, glossy little Eskimo girls with their fish smell,
hideous raven hair and guinea pig faces, evoked even less desire in me  than
Dr. Johnson had. Nymphets do not occur in polar regions.
     I  left  my betters the task of analyzing glacial drifts, drumlins, and
gremlins, and kremlins, and for a time tried  to  jot  down  what  I  fondly
thought  were  "reactions"  (I  noticed, for instance, that dreams under the
midnight  sun  tended  to  be  highly  colored,  and  this  my  friend   the
photographer  confirmed).  I was also supposed to quiz my various companions
on a number of  important  matters,  such  as  nostalgia,  fear  of  unknown
animals,  food-fantasies,  nocturnal  emissions,  hobbies,  choice  of radio
programs, changes in outlook and so forth. Everybody got so fed up with this
that I soon dropped the project completely, and only toward the  end  of  my
twenty  months  of  cold  labor  (as  one  of the botanists jocosely put it)
concocted a perfectly spurious and very racy report  that  the  reader  will
find  published in he Annals of Adult Psychophysics for 1945 or 1946,
as well as in the  issue  of  Arctic  Explorations  devoted  to  that
particular  expedition;  which, in conclusion, was not really concerned with
Victoria Island copper or anything like that, as I  learned  later  from  my
genial  doctor;  for  the  nature  of  its  real  purpose was what is termed
"hush-hush," and so let me add merely that whatever it was, that purpose was
admirably achieved.
     The  reader  will  regret  to  learn  that  soon  after  my  return  to
civilization I had another bout with insanity (if to melancholia and a sense
of  insufferable  oppression  that  cruel  term  must  be applied). I owe my
complete restoration to a discovery I  made  while  being  treated  at  that
particular  very  expensive  sanatorium.  I  discovered there was an endless
source of robust enjoyment in trifling with psychiatrists: cunningly leading
them on; never letting them see that you know all the tricks of  the  trade;
inventing  for  them  elaborate  dreams,  pure classics in style (which make
them, the dream-extortionists, dream and wake up shrieking);  teasing
them  with  fake  "primal  scenes";  and  never  allowing them the slightest
glimpse of one's real sexual predicament. By bribing a nurse I won access to
some  files  and  discovered,  with  glee,  cards  calling  me  "potentially
homosexual"  and  "totally  impotent."  The  sport  was  so  excellent,  its
results--in my case--so ruddy that I stayed  on  for  a  whole  month
after  I  was  quite well (sleeping admirably and eating like a schoolgirl).
And then I added another week just for the pleasure of taking on a  powerful
newcomer, a displaced (and, surely, deranged) celebrity, known for his knack
of making patients believe they had witnessed their own conception.

        10

     Upon  signing  out,  I  cast  around  for some place in the New England
countryside or sleepy small town (elms, white church) where I could spend  a
studious  summer  subsisting  on a compact boxful of notes I had accumulated
and bathing in some nearby lake. My work had begun to interest  me  again--I
mean  my scholarly exertions; the other thing, my active participation in my
uncle's posthumous perfumes, had by then been cut down to a minimum.
     One of his former employees,  the  scion  of  a  distinguished  family,
suggested I spend a few months in the residence of his impoverished cousins,
a  Mr.  McCoo,  retired,  and  his wife, who wanted to let their upper story
where a late aunt  had  delicately  dwelt.  He  said  they  had  two  little
daughters,  one  a baby, the other a girl of twelve, and a beautiful garden,
not far from a beautiful lake, and I said it sounded perfectly perfect.
     I  exchanged  letters  with  these  people,  satisfying  them   I   was
housebroken,  and  spent  a  fantastic  night on the train, imagining in all
possible detail the enigmatic nymphet I would coach in French and fondle  in
Humbertish.  Nobody  met  me at the toy station where I alighted with my new
expensive bag, and nobody answered the  telephone;  eventually,  however,  a
distraught   McCoo   in   wet  clothes  turned  up  at  the  only  hotel  of
green-and-pink Ramsdale with  the  news  that  his  house  had  just  burned
down--possibly,  owing to the synchronous conflagration that had been raging
all night in my veins. His family, he said, had fled to a farm he owned, and
had taken the car, but a friend of his wife's, a grand person, Mrs. Haze  of
342  Lawn  Street, offered to accommodate me. A lady who lived opposite Mrs.
Haze's  had  lent  McCoo  her  limousine,   a   marvelously   old-fashioned,
square-topped affair, manned by a cheerful Negro. Now, since the only reason
for  my  coming  at  all  had  vanished,  the  aforesaid  arrangement seemed
preposterous. All right, his house would have to be completely  rebuilt,  so
what?  Had  he  not  insured  it sufficiently? I was angry, disappointed and
bored, but being a polite European, could not refuse to be sent off to  Lawn
Street  in  that  funeral  car, feeling that otherwise McCoo would devise an
even more elaborate means of getting rid of me. I saw him scamper away,  and
my chauffeur shook his head with a soft chuckle. En route, I swore to myself
I  would  not  dream of staying in Ramsdale under any circumstance but would
fly  that  very  day  to  the  Bermudas  or  the  Bahamas  or  the   Blazes.
Possibilities of sweetness on technicolor beaches had been trickling through
my  spine  for  some  time  before, and McCoo's cousin had, in fact, sharply
diverted that train of thought with his well-meaning but  as  it  transpired
now absolutely inane suggestion.
     Speaking  of  sharp turns: we almost ran over a meddlesome suburban dog
(one of those who like in wait for cars) as we swerved into Lawn  Street.  A
little  further,  the  Haze  house,  a white-frame horror, appeared, looking
dingy and old, more gray than white--the kind of place you know will have  a
rubber  tube  affixable  to  the  tub faucet in lieu of shower. I tipped the
chauffeur and hoped he would immediately drive away so that I  might  double
back  unnoticed to my hotel and bag; but the man merely crossed to the other
side of the street where an old lady was calling to him from her porch. What
could I do? I pressed the bell button.
     A colored maid let me in--and left me standing on  the  mat  while  she
rushed  back  to  the  kitchen where something was burning that ought not to
burn.
     The front hall  was  graced  with  door  chimes,  a  white-eyed  wooden
thingamabob of commercial Mexican origin, and that banal darling of the arty
middle  class,  van Gogh's "Arlиsienne." A door ajar to the right afforded a
glimpse of a living room, with some more Mexican trash in a  corner  cabinet
and  a  striped sofa along the wall. There was a staircase at the end of the
hallway, and as I stood mopping my brow (only now did I realize how  hot  it
had  been  out-of-doors)  and staring, to stare at something, at an old gray
tennis ball that lay on an oak chest, there came from the upper landing  the
contralto  voice  of  Mrs.  Haze,  who  leaning  over the banisters inquired
melodiously, "Is that Monsieur Humbert?" A bit of cigarette ash dropped from
there in addition. Presently,  the  lady  herself--sandals,  maroon  slacks,
yellow  silk  blouse, squarish face, in that order--came down the steps, her
index finger still tapping upon her cigarette.
     I think I had better describe her right away, to get it over with.  The
poor  lady  was  in  her  middle thirties, she had a shiny forehead, plucked
eyebrows and quite simple but not unattractive features of a type  that  may
be  defined as a weak solution of Marlene Dietrich. Patting her bronze-brown
bun, she led me into the parlor and we talked for a minute about  the  McCoo
fire  and  the  privilege of living in Ramsdale. Her very wide-set sea-green
eyes had a funny way of traveling all over you, carefully avoiding your  own
eyes.  Her  smile  was  but  a  quizzical jerk of one eyebrow; and uncoiling
herself from the sofa as she talked, she kept  making  spasmodic  dashes  at
three  ashtrays  and the near fender (where lay the brown core of an apple);
whereupon she would sink back again, one leg  folded  under  her.  She  was,
obviously,  one  of those women whose polished words may reflect a book club
or bridge club, or any other deadly conventionality,  but  never  her  soul;
women who are completely devoid of humor; women utterly indifferent at heart
to  the  dozen  or  so  possible subjects of a parlor conversation, but very
particular  about  the  rules  of  such  conversations,  through  the  sunny
cellophane  of  which  not  very  appetizing  frustrations  can  be  readily
distinguished. I was perfectly aware that if by any wild chance I became her
lodger, she would methodically proceed to do in regard to me what  taking  a
lodger probably meant to her all along, and I would again be enmeshed in one
of those tedious affairs I knew so well.
     But there was no question of my settling there. I could not be happy in
that type  of  household with bedraggled magazines on every chair and a kind
of horrible hybridization between the comedy of so-called "functional modern
furniture" and the tragedy of decrepit rockers and rickety lamp tables  with
dead lamps. I was led upstairs, and to the left--into "my" room. I inspected
it  through  the  mist  of my utter rejection of it; but I did discern above
"my" bed Renи Prinet's "Kreutzer Sonata." And she called that servant maid's
room a "semi-studio"! Let's get out of here at once, I firmly said to myself
as I pretended to deliberate over the absurdly,  and  ominously,  low  price
that my wistful hostess was asking for board and bed.
     Old-world  politeness, however, obliged me to go on with the ordeal. We
crossed the landing to the right side of the house (where "I and Lo have our
rooms"--Lo being presumably the maid), and  the  lodger-lover  could  hardly
conceal  a shudder when he, a very fastidious male, was granted a preview of
the only bathroom, a tiny oblong between the landing and "Lo's"  room,  with
limp  wet  things  overhanging  the dubious tub (the question mark of a hair
inside); and there were the expected coils of  the  rubber  snake,  and  its
complement--a pinkish cozy, coyly covering the toilet lid.
     "I  see you are not too favorably impressed," said the lady letting her
hand rest for a moment upon my sleeve: she combined a cool  forwardness--the
overflow  of what I think is called "poise"--with a shyness and sadness that
caused her detached way of selecting her words to seem as unnatural  as  the
intonation  of  a  professor  of  "speech." "This is not a neat household, I
confess," the doomed ear continued, "but I assure  you  [she  looked  at  my
lips],  you  will be very comfortable, very comfortable, indeed. Let me show
you the garden" (the last more brightly, with a kind of winsome toss of  the
voice).
     Reluctantly  I  followed her downstairs again; then through the kitchen
at the end of the hall, on the right side of the house--the side where  also
the dining room and the parlor were (under "my" room, on the left, there was
nothing  but  a  garage).  In  the kitchen, the Negro maid, a plump youngish
woman, said, as she took her large glossy black purse from the knob  of  the
door  leading  to  the  back porch: "I'll go now, Mrs. Haze." "Yes, Louise,"
answered Mrs. Haze with a sigh. "I'll settle with you Friday." We passed  on
to a small pantry and entered the dining room, parallel to the parlor we had
already  admired.  I  noticed  a white sock on the floor. With a deprecatory
grunt, Mrs. Haze stooped without stopping and threw it into a closet next to
the pantry. We cursorily inspected a mahogany table with a fruit vase in the
middle, containing nothing but the still glistening stone  of  one  plum.  I
groped  for  the  timetable I had in my pocket and surreptitiously fished it
out to look as soon as possible for a train. I was still walking behind Mrs.
Haze though the dining room when, beyond it, there came a  sudden  burst  of
greenery--"the  piazza,"  sang  out  my  leader, and then, without the least
warning, a blue sea-wave swelled under my heart and, from a mat in a pool of
sun, half-naked, kneeling, turning about on her knees, there was my  Riviera
love peering at me over dark glasses.
     It  was  the same child--the same frail, honey-hued shoulders, the same
silky supple bare back, the same chestnut head of hair. A polka-dotted black
kerchief tied around her chest hid from my aging ape eyes, but not from  the
gaze  of  young memory, the juvenile breasts I had fondled one immortal day.
And, as if I were the  fairy-tale  nurse  of  some  little  princess  (lost,
kidnapped, discovered in gypsy rags through which her nakedness smiled at the
king  and  his  hounds),  I recognized the tiny dark-brown mole on her side.
With awe and delight (the king crying for joy,  the  trumpets  blaring,  the
nurse  drunk)  I  saw  again  her lovely indrawn abdomen where my southbound
mouth had briefly paused; and those puerile hips on which I had  kissed  the
crenulated  imprint  left  by the band of her shorts--that last mad immortal
day behind the "Roches Roses." The twenty-five years I had lived since then,
tapered to a palpitating point, and vanished.
     I find it most difficult to express with  adequate  force  that  flash,
that  shiver,  that  impact  of passionate recognition. In the course of the
sun-shot moment that my glance slithered over the kneeling child  (her  eyes
blinking over those stern dark spectacles--the little Herr Doktor who was to
cure me of all my aches) while I passed by her in my adult disguise (a great
big  handsome  hunk  of movieland manhood), the vacuum of my soul managed to
suck in every detail of her bright beauty, and these I checked  against  the
features  of  my  dead  bride.  A  little  later,  of  course,  she, this 
nouvelle, this Lolita, my Lolita, was to eclipse  completely  her
prototype.  All  I  want  to  stress is that my discovery of her was a fatal
consequence of that "princedom by the sea" in my tortured  past.  Everything
between  the two events was but a series of gropings and blunders, and false
rudiments of joy. Everything they shared made one of them.
     I have no illusions, however. My judges will regard all this as a piece
of mummery on the part of a madman with a  gross  liking  for  the  fruit
vert.  Au  fond,  гa m'est bien иgal. All I know is that while the
Haze woman and I went down the steps into the breathless  garden,  my  knees
were  like  reflections  of  knees  in rippling water, and my lips were like
sand, and--
     "That was my Lo," she said, "and these are my lilies."
     "Yes," I said, "yes. They are beautiful, beautiful, beautiful."

        11

     Exhibit number two is a pocket diary bound in black imitation  leather,
with a golden year, 1947, en escalier, in its upper left-hand corner.
I  speak of this neat product of the Blank Blank Co., Blankton, Mass., as if
it were really before me. Actually, it was destroyed five years go and  what
we  examine  now  (by  courtesy  of  a photographic memory) is but its brief
materialization, a puny unfledged phoenix.
     I remember the thing so exactly because I wrote it really twice.  First
I  jotted  down each entry in pencil (with many erasures and corrections) on
the leaves of what is commercially known as a "typewriter tablet";  then,  I
copied  it out with obvious abbreviations in my smallest, most satanic, hand
in the little black book just mentioned.
     May 30 is a Fast Day by Proclamation in New Hampshire but  not  in  the
Carolinas. That day an epidemic of "abdominal flu" (whatever that is) forced
Ramsdale  to  close  its  schools  for  the summer. The reader may check the
weather data in the Ramsdale Journal for 1947. A few days before that
I moved into the Haze house, and the little diary which  I  now  propose  to
reel  off  (much  as  a  spy  delivers  by heart the contents of the note he
swallowed) covers most of June.
     Thursday. Very warm day. From a vantage point (bathroom  window)
saw  Dolores taking things off a clothesline in the apple-green light behind
the house. Strolled out. She wore a plaid shirt, blue  jeans  and  sneakers.
Every  movement  she  made in the dappled sun plucked at the most secret and
sensitive chord of my abject body. After a while she sat down next to me  on
the  lower  step  of the back porch and began to pick up the pebbles between
her feet--pebbles, my God, then a curled bit of milk-bottle glass resembling
a snarling lip--and chuck them at a can. Ping.  You  can't  a  second
time--you  can't  hit  it--oh,  marvelous:  tender and tanned, not the least
blemish. Sundaes cause acne. The excess of the oily substance  called  sebum
which nourishes the hair follicles of the skin creates, when too profuse, an
irritation  that  opens  the way to infection. But nymphets do not have acne
although they gorge themselves on rich food. God,  what  agony,  that  silky
shimmer above her temple grading into bright brown hair. And the little bone
twitching  at  the  side  of her dust-powdered ankle. "The McCoo girl? Ginny
McCoo? Oh, she's a fright. And mean. And lame. Nearly died of polio."  Ping.
The  glistening  tracery  of down on her forearm. When she got up to take in
the wash, I had a chance  of  adoring  from  afar  the  faded  seat  of  her
rolled-up  jeans.  Out  of  the lawn, bland Mrs. Haze, complete with camera,
grew up like a fakir's fake tree and  after  some  heliotropic  fussing--sad
eyes  up,  glad  eyes  down--had  the  cheek  of  taking my picture as I sat
blinking on the steps, Humbert le Bel.
     Friday. Saw her going somewhere with a dark  girl  called  Rose.
Why  does  the way she walks--a child, mind you, a mere child!--excite me so
abominably? Analyze it. A faint suggestion of turned  in  toes.  A  kind  of
wiggly  looseness  below the knee prolonged to the end of each footfall. The
ghost of a drag. Very infantile, infinitely meretricious. Humbert Humbert is
also infinitely moved by the little one's slangy speech, by her  harsh  high
voice.  Later  heard  her  volley  crude  nonsense at Rose across the fence.
Twanging through me in a rising rhythm. Pause. "I must go now, kiddo."
     Saturday. (Beginning perhaps amended.) I know it is  madness  to
keep  this  journal  but  it  gives me a strange thrill to do so; and only a
loving wife could decipher my microscopic script. Let me state  with  a  sob
that  today  my L. was sun-bathing on the so-called "piazza," but her mother
and some other woman were around all the time. Of course, I might  have  sat
there  in the rocker and pretended to read. Playing safe, I kept away, for I
was afraid that the horrible, insane, ridiculous  and  pitiful  tremor  that
palsied  me might prevent me from making my entrиe with any semblance
of casualness.
     Sunday. Heat ripple still with us; a most  favonian  week.  This
time  I  took up a strategic position, with obese newspaper and new pipe, in
the piazza rocker before L. arrived. To my intense disappointment she
came with her mother, both in two-piece bathing suits, black, as new  as  my
pipe.  My  darling,  my  sweetheart  stood  for a moment near me--wanted the
funnies--and she smelt almost exactly like the other one, the  Riviera  one,
but  more  intensely  so, with rougher overtones--a torrid odor that at once
set my manhood astir--but she had already  yanked  out  of  me  the  coveted
section and retreated to her mat near her phocine mamma. There my beauty lay
down  on  her stomach, showing me, showing the thousand eyes wide open in my
eyed blood, her slightly raised shoulder blades, and  the  bloom  along  the
incurvation  of  her  spine,  and  the  swellings  of her tense narrow nates
clothed in black, and the seaside of her schoolgirl  thighs.  Silently,  the
seventh-grader  enjoyed  her  green-red-blue  comics.  She was the loveliest
nymphet green-red-blue Priap himself could think up. As I looked on, through
prismatic layers of light, dry-lipped, focusing my lust and rocking slightly
under  my  newspaper,  I  felt  that  my  perception  of  her,  if  properly
concentrated  upon,  might  be sufficient to have me attain a beggar's bliss
immediately; but, like some  predator  that  prefers  a  moving  prey  to  a
motionless  one, I planned to have this pitiful attainment coincide with the
various girlish movements she made now and then as she read, such as  trying
to  scratch  the middle of her back and revealing a stippled armpit--but fat
Haze suddenly spoiled everything by turning to me and asking me for a light,
and starting a make-believe conversation about a fake book by  some  popular
fraud.
     Monday.  Delectatio morosa. I spend my doleful days in dumps and
dolors. We (mother Haze, Dolores and I) were to go to Our  Glass  Lake  this
afternoon, and bathe, and bask; but a nacreous morn degenerated at noon into
rain, and Lo made a scene.
     The  median  age  of pubescence for girls has been found to be thirteen
years and  nine  months  in  New  York  and  Chicago.  The  age  varies  for
individuals  from  ten,  or  earlier,  to  seventeen. Virginia was not quite
fourteen when Harry Edgar possessed her. He gave  her  lessons  in  algebra.
Je  m'imagine  cela.  They  spent their honeymoon at Petersburg, Fla.
"Monsieur Poe-poe," as that boy in one of Monsieur Humbert Humbert's classes
in Paris called the poet-poet.
     I have all the characteristics which, according to writers on  the  sex
interests  of  children,  start  the  responses  stirring  in a little girl:
clean-cut jaw, muscular hand, deep sonorous voice, broad shoulder. Moreover,
I am said to resemble some crooner or actor chap on whom Lo has a crush.
     Tuesday. Rain. Lake of the Rains.  Mamma  out  shopping.  L.,  I
knew,  was  somewhere  quite near. In result of some stealthy maneuvering, I
came across her in her mother's bedroom. Prying her left eye open to get rid
of a speck of something. Checked frock. Although I do love that intoxicating
brown fragrance of hers, I really think she should wash her hair once  in  a
while.  For a moment, we were both in the same warm green bath of the mirror
that reflected the top of a poplar with us in the sky. Held her  roughly  by
the  shoulders,  then  tenderly  by the temples, and turned her about. "It's
right there," she said. "I can feel it." "Swiss peasant would use the top of
her tongue." "Lick it out?" "Yeth. Shly try?" "Sure,"  she  said.  Gently  I
pressed  my  quivering sting along her rolling salty eyeball. "Goody-goody,"
she said nictating. "It is gone." "Now the other?"  "You  dope,"  she
began,  "there  is noth--" but here she noticed the pucker of my approaching
lips. "Okay," she said cooperatively, and bending toward her  warm  upturned
russet  face  somber Humbert pressed his mouth to her fluttering eyelid. She
laughed, and brushed past me out of the room. My heart seemed everywhere  at
once.   Never   in   my  life--not  even  when  fondling  my  child-love  in
France--never--
     Night. Never have I experienced such agony. I would  like  to  describe
her  face,  her  ways--and I cannot, because my own desire for her blinds me
when she is near. I am not used to being with nymphets, damn it. If I  close
my eyes I see but an immobilized fraction of her, a cinematographic still, a
sudden  smooth nether loveliness, as with one knee up under her tartan skirt
she sits tying her shoe. "Dolores Haze, ne montrez pas  vos  zhambes"
(this is her mother who thinks she knows French).
     A  poet  ю  mes  heures, I composed a madrigal to the soot-black
lashes of her pale-gray vacant eyes, to the five  asymmetrical  freckles  on
her  bobbed nose, to the blond down of her brown limbs; but I tore it up and
cannot recall it today. Only in the tritest of terms (diary resumed)  can  I
describe  Lo's features: I might say her hair is auburn, and her lips as red
as licked red candy, the lower one prettily plump--oh, that I  were  a  lady
writer  who  could  have  her  pose naked in a naked light! But instead I am
lanky, big-boned, wooly-chested Humbert Humbert, with thick  black  eyebrows
and  a  queer  accent, and a cesspoolful of rotting monsters behind his slow
boyish smile. And neither is she the fragile child of a feminine novel. What
drives me insane is the twofold nature of this  nymphet--of  every  nymphet,
perhaps;  this mixture in my Lolita of tender dreamy childishness and a kind
of eerie vulgarity,  stemming  from  the  snub-nosed  cuteness  of  ads  and
magazine  pictures,  from  the blurry pinkness of adolescent maidservants in
the Old Country (smelling of crushed daisies and sweat); and from very young
harlots disguised as children in provincial brothels; and  then  again,  all
this  gets  mixed up with the exquisite stainless tenderness seeping through
the musk and the mud, through the dirt and the death, oh God,  oh  God.  And
what is most singular is that she, this Lolita, my Lolita, has
individualized  the writer's ancient lust, so that above and over everything
there is--Lolita.
     Wednesday. "Look, make Mother take you and me to Our Glass  Lake
tomorrow."  These  were  the  textual words said to me by my twelve-year-old
flame in a voluptuous whisper, as we happened to bump into  one  another  on
the  front  porch,  I  out,  she  in. The reflection of the afternoon sun, a
dazzling white diamond with innumerable iridescent spikes  quivered  on  the
round  back  of  a  parked  car.  The leafage of a voluminous elm played its
mellow shadows upon the clapboard wall of the house.  Two  poplars  shivered
and shook. You could make out the formless sounds of remote traffic; a child
calling  "Nancy,  Nan-cy!"  In  the  house,  Lolita  had put on her favorite
"Little Carmen" record which I used to call "Dwarf Conductors,"  making  her
snort with mock derision at my mock wit.
     Thursday.  Last  night  we  sat  on  the piazza, the Haze woman,
Lolita and I. Warm dusk had deepened into amorous darkness. The old girl had
finished relating in great detail the plot of a movie she and  L.  had  seen
sometime  in  the winter. The boxer had fallen extremely low when he met the
good old priest (who had been a boxer himself in his robust youth and  could
still  slug  a  sinner).  We sat on cushions heaped on the floor, and L. was
between the woman and me (she had squeezed herself in, the pet). In my turn,
I launched upon a hilarious account of my arctic  adventures.  The  muse  of
invention  handed  me a rifle and I shot a white bear who sat down and said:
Ah! All the while I was acutely aware of L.'s nearness  and  as  I  spoke  I
gestured in the merciful dark and took advantage of those invisible gestures
of  mine  to  touch her hand, her shoulder and a ballerina of wool and gauze
which she played with and kept sticking into my lap; and finally, when I had
completely enmeshed my glowing darling in this weave of ethereal caresses, I
dared stroke her bare leg along the gooseberry  fuzz  of  her  shin,  and  I
chuckled  at  my own jokes, and trembled, and concealed my tremors, and once
or twice felt with my rapid lips the warmth of her hair as I treated her  to
a  quick  nuzzling,  humorous  aside  and  caressed her plaything. She, too,
fidgeted a good deal so that finally her mother told her sharply to quit  it
and  sent  the doll flying into the dark, and I laughed and addressed myself
to Haze across Lo's legs to let my hand creep up my nymphet's thin back  and
feel her skin through her boy's shirt.
     But  I  knew  it  was  all  hopeless, and was sick with longing, and my
clothes felt miserably tight, and I was almost glad when her mother's  quiet
voice  announced  in  the  dark:  "And now we all think that Lo should go to
bed." "I think you stink," said Lo. "Which means there  will  be  no  picnic
tomorrow,"  said Haze. "This is a free country," said Lo. When angry Lo with
a Bronx cheer had gone, I stayed on from sheer inertia,  while  Haze  smoked
her tenth cigarette of the evening and complained of Lo.
     She  had been spiteful, if you please, at the age of one, when she used
to throw her toys out of her crib  so  that  her  poor  mother  should  keep
picking  them  up,  the villainous infant! Now, at twelve, she was a regular
pest, said Haze. All she wanted from life was to be one day a strutting  and
prancing  baton  twirler  or  a jitterbug. Her grades were poor, but she was
better adjusted in her new school than in Pisky (Pisky  was  the  Haze  home
town  in  the  Middle West. The Ramsdale house was her late mother-in-law's.
They had moved to Ramsdale less than two years ago). "Why  was  she  unhappy
there?"  "Oh,"  said  Haze,  "poor  me should know, I went through that when
I was a kid: boys twisting one's arm, banging into one with loads  of
books,  pulling  one's hair, hurting one's breasts, flipping one's skirt. Of
course, moodiness is a common concomitant of growing up, but Lo exaggerates.
Sullen and evasive. Rude and defiant. Struck Viola, an  Italian  schoolmate,
in  the  seat with a fountain pen. Know what I would like? If you, monsieur,
happened to be still here in the fall, I'd ask you  to  help  her  with  her
homework--you seem to know everything, geography, mathematics, French." "Oh,
everything,"  answered  monsieur.  "That  means," said Haze quickly, "you'll
be here!" I wanted to shout that I would stay on eternally if only  I
could  hope  to  caress  now  and then my incipient pupil. But I was wary of
Haze. So I just grunted and stretched my limbs nonconcomitantly  (le  mot
juste)  and  presently  went  up  to  my  room.  The woman, however, was
evidently not prepared to call it a day. I was already lying  upon  my  cold
bed  both  hands pressing to my face Lolita's fragrant ghost when I heard my
indefatigable landlady creeping stealthily up to my door to whisper  through
it--just  to  make  sure,  she  said, I was through with the Glance and Gulp
magazine I had borrowed the other day. From her room  Lo  yelled  she
had it. We are quite a lending library in this house, thunder of God.
     Friday. I wonder what my academic publishers would say if I were
to quote  in  my  textbook  Ronsard's "la vermeillette fente" or Remy
Belleau's "un petit mont feutrи de mousse dиlicate, tracи sur  le  milieu
d'un  fillet  escarlatte"  and  so  forth. I shall probably have another
breakdown if I stay any longer in this  house,  under  the  strain  of  this
intolerable  temptation,  by the side of my darling--my darling--my life and
my bride. Has she already been initiated by mother nature to the Mystery  of
the  Menarche?  Bloated  feelings.  The Curse of the Irish. Falling from the
roof. Grandma is visiting. "Mr. Uterus [I  quote  from  a  girls'  magazine]
starts  to build a thick soft wall on the chance a possible baby may have to
be bedded down there." The tiny madman in his padded cell.
     Incidentally: if I ever commit a serious murder . . .  Mark  the  "if."
The urge should be something more than the kind of thing that happened to me
with  Valeria. Carefully mark that then was rather inept. If and when
you wish to sizzle me to death, remember that only a spell of insanity could
ever give me the simple energy to be a brute (all  this  amended,  perhaps).
Sometimes  I attempt to kill in my dreams. But do you know what happens? For
instance I hold a gun. For instance I aim at  a  bland,  quietly  interested
enemy.  Oh,  I  press  the  trigger  all right, but one bullet after another
feebly drops on the floor from the sheepish muzzle. In those dreams, my only
thought is to conceal the fiasco from my foe, who is slowly growing annoyed.
     At dinner tonight the old cat said to  me  with  a  sidelong  gleam  of
motherly  mockery  directed at Lo (I had just been describing, in a flippant
vein, the delightful little toothbrush mustache I had not quite  decided  to
grow):  "Better  don't if somebody is not to go absolutely dotty." Instantly
Lo pushed her plate of boiled fish away, all but knocking her milk over, and
bounced out of the dining room. "Would it bore you very much,"  quoth  Haze,
"to  come with us tomorrow for a swim in Our Glass Lake if Lo apologizes for
her manners?"
     Later, I heard a great banging of doors and other  sounds  coming  from
quaking caverns where the two rivals were having a ripping row.
     She had not apologized. The lake is out. It might have been fun.
     Saturday.  For  some  days  already  I had been leaving the door
ajar, while I wrote in my room; but only today did the  trap  work.  With  a
good  deal  of  additional  fidgeting,  shuffling, scraping--to disguise her
embarrassment at visiting me without having  been  called--Lo  came  in  and
after  pottering  around, became interested in the nightmare curlicues I had
penned on a sheet  of  paper.  Oh  no:  they  were  not  the  outcome  of  a
belle-lettrist's  inspired  pause  between  two  paragraphs;  they  were the
hideous hieroglyphics (which she could not decipher) of my  fatal  lust.  As
she  bent  her  brown curs over the desk at which I was sitting, Humbert the
Hoarse  put   his   arm   around   her   in   a   miserable   imitation   of
blood-relationship;  and  still studying, somewhat shortsightedly, the piece
of paper she held, my innocent little visitor slowly sank to a  half-sitting
position  upon  my  knee.  Her adorable profile, parted lips, warm hair were
some three inches from my bared eyetooth; and I felt the heat of  her  limbs
through her rough tomboy clothes. All at once I knew I could kiss her throat
or  the  wick of her mouth with perfect impunity. I knew she would let me do
so, and even close her eyes as Hollywood teaches. A double vanilla with  hot
fudge--hardly more unusual than that. I cannot tell my learned reader (whose
eyebrows,  I  suspect,  have  by now traveled all the way to the back of his
bald head), I cannot tell him how the  knowledge  came  to  me;  perhaps  my
ape-ear  had  unconsciously  caught  some slight change in the rhythm of her
respiration--for now she was not really looking at my scribble, but  waiting
with  curiosity  and  composure--oh,  my  limpid nymphet!--for the glamorous
lodger to do what he was dying to do. A modern  child,  an  avid  reader  of
movie  magazines,  an expert in dream-slow close-ups, might not think it too
strange, I guessed, if a handsome,  intensely  virile  grown-up  friend--too
late.  The  house was suddenly vibrating with voluble Louise's voice telling
Mrs. Haze who had just come home about  a  dead  something  she  and  Leslie
Tomson had found in the basement, and little Lolita was not one to miss such
a tale.
     Sunday.  Changeful,  bad-tempered,  cheerful,  awkward, graceful
with the tart grace of her coltish subteens, excruciatingly  desirable  from
head  to  foot  (all  New  England for a lady-writer's pen!), from the black
read-made bow and bobby pins holding her hair in place to the little scar on
the lower part of her neat calf (where a roller-skater kicked her in Pisky),
a couple of inches above her rough white sock. Gone with her mother  to  the
Hamiltons--a  birthday  party  or something. Full-skirted gingham frock. Her
little doves seem well formed already. Precocious pet!
     Monday. Rainy morning. "Ces matins gris si doux . . ." My
white pajamas have a lilac design on the  back.  I  am  like  one  of  those
inflated  pale  spiders  you  see in old gardens. Sitting in the middle of a
luminous web and giving little jerks to this or that strand.  My  web
is  spread  all  over the house as I listen from my chair where I sit like a
wily wizard. Is Lo in her room? Gently I tug on the silk. She is  not.  Just
heard the toilet paper cylinder make its staccato sound as it is turned; and
no  footfalls  has my outflung filament traced from the bathroom back to her
room. Is she still brushing her teeth (the only  sanitary  act  Lo  performs
with  real zest)? No. The bathroom door has just slammed, so one has to feel
elsewhere about the house for the beautiful warm-colored prey. Let us have a
strand of silk descend the stairs. I satisfy myself by this means  that  she
is  not  in  the kitchen--not banging the refrigerator door or screeching at
her detested mamma (who, I  suppose,  is  enjoying  her  third,  cooing  and
subduedly  mirthful,  telephone  conversation  of the morning). Well, let us
grope and hope. Ray-like, I glide in through to  the  parlor  and  find  the
radio  silent  (and  mamma still talking to Mrs. Chatfield or Mrs. Hamilton,
very softly, flushed, smiling, cupping the telephone  with  her  free  hand,
denying  by implication that she denies those amusing rumors, rumor, roomer,
whispering intimately, as she never does, the clear-cut  lady,  in  face  to
face  talk).  So my nymphet is not in the house at all! Gone! What I thought
was a prismatic weave turns out to be but an old gray cobweb, the  house  is
empty,  is  dead.  And  then  comes  Lolita's  soft sweet chuckle through my
half-open door "Don't tell Mother but I've  eaten  all  your  bacon."
Gone  when  I  scuttle  out  of my room. Lolita, where are you? My breakfast
tray, lovingly prepared by my landlady, leers at me toothlessly, ready to be
taken in. Lola, Lolita!
     Tuesday. Clouds  again  interfered  with  that  picnic  on  that
unattainable  lake.  Is  it  Fate  scheming? Yesterday I tried on before the
mirror a new pair of bathing trunks.
     Wednesday.  In  the  afternoon,  Haze  (common-sensical   shoes,
tailor-made  dress),  said  she  was driving downtown to buy a present for a
friend of a friend of hers, and would I please come too because I have  such
a   wonderful   taste  in  textures  and  perfumes.  "Choose  your  favorite
seduction," she purred. What could Humbert, being in the  perfume  business,
do? She had me cornered between the front porch and her car. "Hurry up," she
said  as  I laboriously doubled up my large body in order to crawl in (still
desperately devising a means of escape). She had started the engine, and was
genteelly swearing at a backing and turning truck in  front  that  had  just
brought  old invalid Miss Opposite a brand new wheel chair, when my Lolita's
sharp voice came from the parlor window: "You!  Where  are  you  going?  I'm
coming  too!  Wait!" "Ignore her," yelped Haze (killing the motor); alas for
my fair driver; Lo was already pulling at the door  on  my  side.  "This  is
intolerable,"  began  Haze;  but  Lo  had scrambled in, shivering with glee.
"Move your bottom, you," said Lo. "Lo!"  cried  Haze  (sideglancing  at  me,
hoping  I would throw rude Lo out). "And behold," said Lo (not for the first
time), as she jerked back, as I jerked back, as the car leapt  forward.  "It
is  intolerable,"  said  Haze,  violently getting into second, "that a child
should be so ill-mannered. And so very persevering. When she  knows  she  is
unwanted. And needs a bath."
     My knuckles lay against the child's blue jeans. She was barefooted; her
toenails  showed  remnants  of  cherry-red  polish  and  there  was a bit of
adhesive tape across her big toe; and, God, what would I not have  given  to
kiss  then  and  there  those  delicate-boned,  long-toed,  monkeyish  feet!
Suddenly her hand slipped into mine and without  our  chaperon's  seeing,  I
held,  and  stroked,  and  squeezed  that little hot paw, all the way to the
store. The wings of the diver's  Marlenesque  nose  shone,  having  shed  or
burned up their ration of powder, and she kept up an elegant monologue anent
the  local  traffic,  and smiled in profile, and pouted in profile, and beat
her painted lashes in profile, while I prayed we would  never  get  to  that
store, but we did.
     I  have  nothing  else to report, save, primo: that big Haze had
little Haze sit behind on our way home, and secundo:  that  the  lady
decided to keep Humbert's Choice for the backs of her own shapely ears.
     Thursday.  We  are  paying  with  hail and gale for the tropical
beginning  of  the  month.  In   a   volume   of   the   Young   People's
Encyclopedia,  I  found  a  map  of the states that a child's pencil had
started copying out on a sheet of lightweight paper, upon the other side  of
which,  counter to the unfinished outline of Florida and the Gulf, there was
a mimeographed list of names referring,  evidently,  to  her  class  at  the
Ramsdale school. It is a poem I know already by heart.

     Angel, Grace
     Austin, Floyd
     Beale, Jack
     Beale, Mary
     Buck, Daniel
     Byron, Marguerite
     Campbell, Alice
     Carmine, Rose
     Chatfield, Phyllis
     Clarke, Gordon
     Cowan, John
     Cowan, Marion
     Duncan, Walter
     Falter, Ted
     Fantasia, Stella
     Flashman, Irving
     Fox, George
     Glave, Mabel
     Goodale, Donald
     Green, Lucinda
     Hamilton, Mary Rose
     Haze, Dolores
     Honeck, Rosaline
     Knight, Kenneth
     McCoo, Virginia
     McCrystal, Vivian
     McFate, Aubrey
     Miranda, Anthony
     Miranda, Viola
     Rosato, Emil
     Schlenker, Lena
     Scott, Donald
     Sheridan, Agnes
     Sherva, Oleg
     Smith, Hazel
     Talbot, Edgar
     Talbot, Edwin
     Wain, Lull
     Williams, Ralph
     Windmuller, Louise

     A  poem, a poem, forsooth! So strange and sweet was it to discover this
"Haze, Dolores" (she!) in its special bower of names, with its bodyguard  of
roses--a  fairy  princess  between  her  two  maids of honor. I am trying to
analyze the spine-thrill of delight it gives me, this name among  all  those
others.  What  is it that excites me almost to tears (hot, opalescent, thick
tears that poets and lovers shed)? What is it? The tender anonymity of  this
name  with  its  formal  veil ("Dolores") and that abstract transposition of
first name and surname, which is like a pair of new pale gloves or  a  mask?
Is  "mask"  the  keyword?  Is  it  because  there  is  always delight in the
semitranslucent mystery, the flowing charshaf, through which the  flesh  and
the  eye  you alone are elected to know smile in passing at you alone? Or is
it because I can imagine so well the rest of the colorful  classroom  around
my  dolorous  and  hazy  darling:  Grace and her ripe pimples; Ginny and her
lagging leg; Gordon, the  haggard  masturbator;  Duncan,  the  foul-smelling
clown;  nail-biting  Agnes;  Viola, of the blackheads and the bouncing bust;
pretty Rosaline; dark Mary Rose; adorable  Stella,  who  has  let  strangers
touch  her;  Ralph, who bullies and steals; Irving, for whom I am sorry. And
there she is there, lost in  the  middle,  gnawing  a  pencil,  detested  by
teachers, all the boys' eyes on her hair and neck, my Lolita.
     Friday.   I   long   for  some  terrific  disaster.  Earthquake.
Spectacular explosion. Her mother is messily but instantly  and  permanently
eliminated,  along  with everybody else for miles around. Lolita whimpers in
my arms. A free  man,  I  enjoy  her  among  the  ruins.  Her  surprise,  my
explanations, demonstrations, ullulations. Idle and idiotic fancies! A brave
Humbert  would  have  played  with  her  most  disgustingly  (yesterday, for
instance,  when  she  was  again  in  my  room  to  show  me  her  drawings,
school-artware);  he  might have bribed her--and got away with it. A simpler
and more practical fellow would have soberly  stuck  to  various  commercial
substitutes--if  you  know where to go, I don't. Despite my many looks, I am
horribly timid. My romantic soul gets all clammy and shivery at the  thought
of  running  into  some  awful  indecent  unpleasantness.  Those  ribald sea
monsters. "Mais allez-y, allez-y!" Annabel skipping on  one  foot  to
get into her shorts, I seasick with rage, trying to screen her.
     Same date, later, quite late. I have turned on the light to take down a
dream.  It  had  an  evident  antecedent.  Haze  at  dinner had benevolently
proclaimed that since the weather bureau promised a sunny weekend  we  would
go  to  the  lake  Sunday  after  church. As I lay in bed, erotically musing
before trying to go to sleep, I thought of a final scheme how to  profit  by
the  picnic  to  come. I was aware that mother Haze hated my darling for her
being sweet on me. So I planned my lake day with a view  to  satisfying  the
mother.  To  her  alone would I talk; but at some appropriate moment I would
say I had left my wrist watch or my sunglasses  in  that  glade  yonder--and
plunge with my nymphet into the wood. Reality at this juncture withdrew, and
the  Quest for the Glasses turned into a quiet little orgy with a singularly
knowing, cheerful, corrupt and compliant Lolita behaving as reason knew  she
could  not  possibly  behave.  At  3  a.m.  I swallowed a sleeping pill, and
presently, a dream that was not a sequel but a parody revealed to me, with a
kind of meaningful clarity, the lake I had never yet visited: it was  glazed
over with a sheet of emerald ice, and a pockmarked Eskimo was trying in vain
to  break it with a pickax, although imported mimosas and oleanders flowered
on its gravelly banks. I am sure Dr. Blanche Schwarzmann would have paid  me
a   sack   of   schillings  for  adding  such  a  libidream  to  her  files.
Unfortunately, the rest of it was frankly eclectic. Big Haze and little Haze
rode on horseback around the lake, and I rode too, dutifully bobbing up  and
down,  bowlegs  astraddle  although  there  was  no horse between them, only
elastic air--one of those little omissions due to  the  absentmindedness  of
the dream agent.
     Saturday.  My  heart  is still thumping. I still squirm and emit
low moans of remembered embarrassment.
     Dorsal view. Glimpse of  shiny  skin  between  T-shirt  and  white  gym
shorts. Bending, over a window sill, in the act of tearing off leaves from a
poplar outside while engrossed in torrential talk with a newspaper boy below
(Kenneth   Knight,   I   suspect)   who  had  just  propelled  the  Ramsdale
Journal with a very precise thud onto the porch. I began creeping  up
to  her--"crippling"  up  to  her as pantomimists say. My arms and legs were
convex surfaces between which--rather than upon which--I  slowly  progressed
by some neutral means of locomotion: Humbert the Wounded Spider. I must have
taken  hours  to  reach  her: I seemed to see her through the wrong end of a
telescope, and toward her taut little rear I moved like some  paralytic,  on
soft  distorted limbs, in terrible concentration. At last I was right behind
her when I had the unfortunate idea of blustering a trifle--shaking  her  by
the   scruff  of  the  neck  and  that  sort  of  thing  to  cover  my  real
manхge, and she said in a shrill brief  whine:  "Cut  it  out!"--most
coarsely,  the little wench, and with a ghastly grin Humbert the Humble beat
a gloomy retreat while she went on wisecracking streetward.
     But now listen to what happened next. After lunch I was reclining in  a
low  chair trying to read. Suddenly two deft little hands were over my eyes:
she had crept up from behind as if re-enacting, in  a  ballet  sequence,  my
morning  maneuver. Her fingers were a luminous crimson as they tried to blot
out the sun, and she uttered hiccups of laughter and  jerked  this  way  and
that as I stretched my arm sideways and backwards without otherwise changing
my  recumbent  position. My hand swept over her agile giggling legs, and the
book like a sleigh  left  my  lap,  and  Mrs.  Haze  strolled  up  and  said
indulgently:  "Just  slap  her  hard  if  she interferes with your scholarly
meditations. How I love this garden [no exclamation mark in her tone]. Isn't
it divine in the sun [no question mark either]." And with a sign of  feigned
content,  the obnoxious lady sank down on the grass and looked up at the sky
as she leaned back on her splayed-out  hands,  and  presently  an  old  gray
tennis  ball bounced over her, and Lo's voice came from the house haughtily:
"Pardonnez, Mother. I was not aiming at you." Of  course  not,
my hot downy darling.

        12

     This  proved  to  be  the last of twenty entries or so. It will be seem
from them that for all the devil's inventiveness, the scheme remained  daily
the  same.  First  he  would tempt me--and then thwart me, leaving me with a
dull pain in the very root of my being. I knew exactly what I wanted to  do,
and  how to do it, without impinging on a child's chastity; after all, I had
had some experience in my life of pederosis; had  visually  possessed
dappled  nymphets  in  parks;  had  wedged  my wary and bestial way into the
hottest, most crowded corner of a  city  bus  full  of  straphanging  school
children.  But  for  almost  three  weeks  I  had been interrupted in all my
pathetic machinations. The agent of these interruptions was usually the Haze
woman (who, as the reader will mark, was more afraid of Lo's  deriving  some
pleasure  from  me  than of my enjoying Lo). The passion I had developed for
that nymphet--for the first nymphet in my life that could be reached at last
by my awkward, aching, timid claws--would have certainly landed me again  in
a  sanatorium,  had  not  the  devil  realized that I was to be granted some
relief if he wanted to have me as a plaything for some time longer.
     The reader has also marked the curious Mirage of  the  Lake.  It  would
have  been logical on the part of Aubrey McFate (as I would like to dub that
devil of mine) to arrange a small treat for me on the promised beach, in the
presumed forest. Actually, the promise Mrs. Haze had made was  a  fraudulent
one:  she  had  not told me that Mary Rose Hamilton (a dark little beauty in
her own right) was  to  come  too,  and  that  the  two  nymphets  would  be
whispering  apart,  and  playing  apart,  and  having  a  good  time  all by
themselves, while Mrs. Haze and her handsome lodger  conversed  sedately  in
the  seminude,  far from prying eyes. Incidentally, eyes did pry and tongues
did wag. How queer life is! We hasten to alienate the very fates we intended
to woo. Before my actual arrival, my landlady had planned  to  have  an  old
spinster,  a  Miss Phalen, whose mother had been cook in Mrs. Haze's family,
come to stay in the house with Lolita and me, while Mrs. Haze, a career girl
at heart, sought some suitable job in the nearest city. Mrs. Haze  had  seen
the  whole  situation  very  clearly:  the  bespectacled,  round-backed Herr
Humbert coming with his Central-European trunks to gather dust in his corner
behind a heap  of  old  books;  the  unloved  ugly  little  daughter  firmly
supervised  by  Miss Phalen who had already once had my Lo under her buzzard
wing (Lo recalled that 1944 summer with an indignant shudder); and Mrs. Haze
herself engaged as a receptionist in a great elegant city.  But  a  not  too
complicated event interfered with that program. Miss Phalen broke her hip in
Savannah, Ga., on the very day I arrived in Ramsdale.

        13

     The  Sunday after the Saturday already described proved to be as bright
as the weatherman had predicted. When putting the breakfast things  back  on
the chair outside my room for my good landlady to remove at her convenience,
I gleaned the following situation by listening from the landing across which
I had softly crept to the banisters in my old bedroom slippers--the only old
things about me.
     There  had  been  another  row.  Mrs.  Hamilton had telephoned that her
daughter "was running a temperature." Mrs. Haze informed her daughter
that the picnic would have to be postponed. Hot  little  Haze  informed  big
cold Haze that, if so, she would not go with her to church. Mother said very
well and left.
     I  had  come out on the landing straight after shaving, soapy-earlobed,
still in my white pajamas with the cornflower blue (not the lilac) design on
the back; I now wiped off the soap, perfumed my hair and armpits, slipped on
a purple silk dressing gown, and, humming nervously, went down the stairs in
quest of Lo.
     I want my learned readers to participate in the scene  I  am  about  to
replay;  I  want them to examine its every detail and see for themselves how
careful, how chaste, the whole wine-sweet event is if viewed  with  what  my
lawyer  has  called, in a private talk we have had, "impartial sympathy." So
let us get started. I have a difficult job before me.
     Main character: Humbert the  Hummer.  Time:  Sunday  morning  in  June.
Place:  sunlit  living room. Props: old, candy-striped davenport, magazines,
phonograph, Mexican knickknacks (the late Mr. Harold E. Haze--God bless  the
good  man--had  engendered  my  darling  at the siesta hour in a blue-washed
room, on a honeymoon trip to Vera Cruz, and mementoes, among these  Dolores,
were  all over the place). She wore that day a pretty print dress that I had
seen on  her  once  before,  ample  in  the  skirt,  tight  in  the  bodice,
short-sleeved,  pink, checkered with darker pink, and, to complete the color
scheme, she had painted her lips and was holding in  her  hollowed  hands  a
beautiful, banal, Eden-red apple. She was not shod, however, for church. And
her white Sunday purse lay discarded near the phonograph.
     My  heart  beat  like  a  drum  as she sat down, cool skirt ballooning,
subsiding, on the sofa next to me, and played with  her  glossy  fruit.  She
tossed  it  up  into  the  sun-dusted  air,  and caught it--it made a cupped
polished plot.
     Humbert Humbert intercepted the apple.
     "Give it back," - she pleaded, showing the marbled flush of her  palms.
I  produced Delicious. She grasped it and bit into it, and my heart was like
snow under thin crimson skin, and with the monkeyish nimbleness that was  so
typical  of  that American nymphet, she snatched out of my abstract grip the
magazine I had opened (pity no film had recorded the  curious  pattern,  the
monogrammic  linkage  of  our  simultaneous  or overlapping moves). Rapidly,
hardly hampered by the disfigured  apple  she  held,  Lo  flipped  violently
through the pages in search of something she wished Humbert to see. Found it
at last. I faked interest by bringing my head so close that her hair touched
my temple and her arm brushed my cheek as she wiped her lips with her wrist.
Because  of  the burnished mist through which I peered at the picture, I was
slow in reacting to it, and her bare knees rubbed  and  knocked  impatiently
against  each  other.  Dimly  there  came  into  view:  a surrealist painter
relaxing, supine, on a beach, and  near  him,  likewise  supine,  a  plaster
replica of the Venus di Milo, half-buried in sand. Picture of the Week, said
the  legend.  I whisked the whole obscene thing away. Next moment, in a sham
effort to retrieve it, she was all over me. Caught her by  her  thin  knobby
wrist.  The magazine escaped to the floor like a flustered fowl. She twisted
herself free, recoiled, and  lay  back  in  the  right-hand  corner  of  the
davenport.  Then,  with  perfect simplicity, the impudent child extended her
legs across my lap.
     By this time I was in a state of excitement bordering on insanity;  but
I  also had the cunning of the insane. Sitting there, on the sofa, I managed
to attune, by a  series  of  stealthy  movements,  my  masked  lust  to  her
guileless  limbs.  It  was  no  easy  matter  to  divert the little maiden's
attention while I  performed  the  obscure  adjustments  necessary  for  the
success  of  the trick. Talking fast, lagging behind my own breath, catching
up with it, mimicking a  sudden  toothache  to  explain  the  breaks  in  my
patter--and  all the while keeping a maniac's inner eye on my distant golden
goal, I cautiously increased the magic friction that was doing away,  in  an
illusional,  if  not  factual,  sense,  with the physically irremovable, but
psychologically very friable texture of the  material  divide  (pajamas  and
robe)  between  the weight of two sunburnt legs, resting athwart my lap, and
the hidden tumor of an unspeakable passion. Having,  in  the  course  of  my
patter,  hit  upon  something  nicely  mechanical,  I recited, garbling them
slightly, the words of a foolish song that was then popular--O my Carmen, my
little Carmen, something, something, those something nights, and the  stars,
and  the cars, and the bars, and the barmen; I kept repeating this automatic
stuff and holding  her  under  its  special  spell  (spell  because  of  the
garbling),  and  all  the  while  I was mortally afraid that some act of God
might interrupt me, might remove the golden load in the sensation  of  which
all  my  being  seemed concentrated, and this anxiety forced me to work, for
the first minute or so, more hastily than was consensual  with  deliberately
modulated enjoyment. The stars that sparkled, and the cars that parkled, and
the  bars, and the barmen, were presently taken over by her; her voice stole
and  corrected  the  tune  I  had  been  mutilating.  She  was  musical  and
apple-sweet.  Her  legs  twitched a little as they lay across my live lap; I
stroked them; there she lolled in the  right-hand  corner,  almost  asprawl,
Lola  the  bobby-soxer,  devouring her immemorial fruit, singing through its
juice, losing her slipper, rubbing the heel of her slipperless foot  in  its
sloppy  anklet,  against  the pile of old magazines heaped on my left on the
sofa--and every movement she made, every shuffle and ripple,  helped  me  to
conceal  and  to improve the secret system of tactile correspondence between
beast and beauty--between my gagged, bursting beast and the  beauty  of  her
dimpled body in its innocent cotton frock.
     Under  my  glancing finger tips I felt the minute hairs bristle ever so
slightly along her shins. I lost myself in  the  pungent  but  healthy  heat
which  like summer haze hung about little Haze. Let her stay, let her stay .
. . As she strained to chuck the  core  of  her  abolished  apple  into  the
fender,  her  young  weight, her shameless innocent shanks and round bottom,
shifted in my tense, tortured, surreptitiously laboring lap; and  all  of  a
sudden  a  mysterious change came over my senses. I entered a plane of being
where nothing mattered, save the infusion of joy brewed within my body. What
had begun as a delicious distention of my innermost roots became  a  glowing
tingle  which  now  had  reached  that  state  of  absolute security,
confidence and reliance not found elsewhere in conscious life. With the deep
hot sweetness  thus  established  and  well  on  its  way  to  the  ultimate
convulsion,  I  felt  I could slow down in order to prolong the glow. Lolita
had been safely  solipsized.  The  implied  sun  pulsated  in  the  supplied
poplars;  we  were  fantastically  and  divinely alone; I watched her, rosy,
gold-dusted, beyond the veil of my controlled delight, unaware of it,  alien
to  it,  and  the  sun  was  on her lips, and her lips were apparently still
forming the words of the Carmen-barmen  ditty  that  no  longer  reached  my
consciousness.  Everything  was  now  ready. The nerves of pleasure had been
laid bare. The corpuscles of Krause were entering the phase of  frenzy.  The
least  pressure  would suffice to set all paradise loose. I had ceased to be
Humbert the Hound, the sad-eyed degenerate cur clasping the boot that  would
presently  kick  him  away. I was above the tribulations of ridicule, beyond
the possibilities of retribution. In my self-made seraglio, I was a  radiant
and  robust  Turk,  deliberately,  in the full consciousness of his freedom,
postponing the moment of actually enjoying the youngest and frailest of  his
slaves.  Suspended  on  the  brink  of  that  voluptuous  abyss (a nicety of
physiological equipoise comparable to certain techniques in the arts) I kept
repeating the chance words after  her--barmen,  alarmin',  my  charmin',  my
carmen,  ahmen,  ahahamen--as one talking and laughing in his sleep while my
happy hand crept up her sunny leg as far as the shadow of  decency  allowed.
The day before she had collided with the heavy chest in the hall and--"Look,
look!"--I  gasped--"look what you've done, what you've done to yourself, ah,
look"; for there was, I swear,  a  yellowish-violet  bruise  on  her  lovely
nymphet  thigh  which  my huge hairy hand massaged and slowly enveloped--and
because of her very perfunctory underthings, there seemed to be  nothing  to
prevent my muscular thumb from reaching the hot hollow of her groin--just as
you  might  tickle  and  caress  a giggling child--just that--and: "Oh, it's
nothing at all," she cried with a sudden shrill note in her voice,  and  she
wiggled,  and squirmed, and threw her head back, and her teeth rested on her
glistening underlip as she half-turned away, and my moaning mouth, gentlemen
of the jury, almost reached her bare neck, while I crushed out  against  her
left  buttock  the last throb of the longest ecstasy man or monster had ever
known.
     Immediately afterward (as if we had been struggling and now my grip had
eased) she rolled off  the  sofa  and  jumped  to  her  feet--to  her  foot,
rather--in  order  to  attend to the formidably loud telephone that may have
been ringing for ages as far  as  I  was  concerned.  There  she  stood  and
blinked,  cheeks  aflame,  hair awry, her eyes passing over me as lightly as
they did over the furniture, and as she listened or spoke (to her mother who
was telling her to come to lunch with her at the Chatfileds--neither Lo  nor
Hum  knew yet what busybody Haze was plotting), she kept tapping the edge of
the table with the slipper she held in her hand. Blessed be  the  Lord,  she
had noticed nothing!
     With  a  handkerchief of multicolored silk, on which her listening eyes
rested in passing, I wiped the sweat off my forehead,  and,  immersed  in  a
euphoria  of  release,  rearranged  my  royal  robes.  She  was still at the
telephone, haggling with her mother (wanted to be fetched by car, my  little
Carmen)  when,  singing  louder  and louder, I swept up the stairs and set a
deluge of steaming water roaring into the tub.
     At this point I may as well give the words of that song hit in full--to
the best of my recollection at least--I don't think I  ever  had  it  right.
Here goes:

     O my Carmen, my little Carmen!
     Something, something those something nights,
     And the stars, and the cars, and the bars and the barmen--
     And, O my charmin', our dreadful fights.
     And the something town where so gaily, arm in
     Arm, we went, and our final row,
     And the gun I killed you with, O my Carmen,
     The gun I am holding now.

     (Drew  his  .32 automatic, I guess, and put a bullet through his moll's
eye.)

        14

     I had lunch in town--had not been so hungry for years.  The  house  was
still  Lo-less when I strolled back. I spent the afternoon musing, scheming,
blissfully digesting my experience of the morning.
     I felt proud of myself. I had stolen  the  honey  of  a  spasm  without
impairing  the  morals of a minor. Absolutely no harm done. The conjurer had
poured milk, molasses, foaming champagne  into  a  young  lady's  new  white
purse;  and  lo,  the purse was intact. Thus had I delicately constructed my
ignoble, ardent, sinful dream; and still Lolita was safe--and  I  was  safe.
What  I  had  madly  possessed  was  not  she, but my own creation, another,
fanciful Lolita--perhaps, more real than Lolita; overlapping, encasing  her;
floating  between  me and her, and having no will, no consciousness--indeed,
no life of her own.
     The child knew  nothing.  I  had  done  nothing  to  her.  And  nothing
prevented  me from repeating a performance that affected her as little as if
she were a photographic  image  rippling  upon  a  screen  and  I  a  humble
hunchback  abusing  myself  in the dark. The afternoon drifted on and on, in
ripe silence, and the sappy tall trees seemed to be in the know; and desire,
even stronger than before, began to afflict me again. Let her come  soon,  I
prayed,  addressing  a  loan  God,  and while mamma is in the kitchen, let a
repetition of the  davenport  scene  be  staged,  please,  I  adore  her  so
horribly.
     No:  "horribly" is the wrong word. The elation with which the vision of
new delights filled me was not  horrible  but  pathetic.  I  qualify  it  as
pathetic.  Pathetic--because  despite  the  insatiable  fire  of my venereal
appetite, I intended, with the most fervent force and foresight, to  protect
the purity of that twelve-year-old child.
     And now see how I was repaid for my pains. No Lolita came home--she had
gone with  the  Chatfields to a movie. The table was laid with more elegance
than usual: candlelight, if you please. In  this  mawkish  aura,  Mrs.  Haze
gently  touched  the  silver on both sides of her plate as if touching piano
keys, and smiled down on her empty plate (was on a diet), and said she hoped
I liked the salad (recipe lifted from a woman's magazine). She hoped I liked
the cold cuts, too. It had been a perfect day. Mrs. Chatfield was  a  lovely
person.  Phyllis,  her  daughter,  was  going to a summer camp tomorrow. For
three weeks. Lolita, it was decided, would go Thursday. Instead  of  waiting
till  July,  as had been initially planned. And stay there after Phyllis had
left. Till school began. A pretty prospect, my heart.
     Oh, how I was taken aback--for did it not mean I was losing my darling,
just when I had secretly made her mine? To explain my grim mood,  I  had  to
use  the  same  toothache  I had already simulated in the morning. Must have
been an enormous molar, with an abscess as big as a maraschino cherry.
     "We have," said Haze, "an excellent dentist. Our neighbor, in fact. Dr.
Quilty. Uncle or cousin, I think, of the playwright.  Think  it  will  pass?
Well,  just  as  you  wish.  In the fall I shall have him 'brace' her, as my
mother used to say. It may curb Lo a  little.  I  am  afraid  she  has  been
bothering  you  frightfully  all  these  days. And we are in for a couple of
stormy ones before she goes. She has flatly refused to go, and I  confess  I
left  her  with the Chatfields because I dreaded to face her alone just yet.
The movie may mollify her. Phyllis is a very sweet girl,  and  there  is  no
earthly  reason  for  Lo  to  dislike her. Really, monsieur, I am very sorry
about that tooth of yours. It would be so much more  reasonable  to  let  me
contact Ivor Quilty first thing tomorrow morning if it still hurts. And, you
know,  I  think  a summer camp is so much healthier, and--well, it is all so
much more reasonable as I say than to mope on a suburban lawn and use
mamma's lipstick, and pursue shy studious gentlemen, and go into tantrums at
the least provocation."
     "Are you sure," I said at last, "that she will be happy there?"  (lame,
lamentably lame!)
     "She'd  better,"  said Haze. "And it won't be all play either. The camp
is run  by  Shirley  Holmes--you  know,  the  woman  who  wrote  Campfire
Girl.  Camp  will  teach  Dolores  Haze  to grow in many things--health,
knowledge, temper. And particularly in a  sense  of  responsibility  towards
other people. Shall we take these candles with us and sit for a while on the
piazza, or do you want to go to bed and nurse that tooth?"
     Nurse that tooth.

        15

     Next  day  they  drove  downtown to buy things needed for the camp: any
wearable purchase worked wonders with Lo. She  seemed  her  usual  sarcastic
self  at  dinner.  Immediately afterwards, she went up to her room to plunge
into the comic books acquired for  rainy  days  at  Camp  Q  (they  were  so
thoroughly  sampled by Thursday that she left them behind). I too retired to
my lair, and wrote letters. My plan now was to leave  for  the  seaside  and
then,  when  school  began, resume my existence in the Haze household; for I
knew already that I could not live without the child. On Tuesday  they  went
shopping  again,  and  I  was asked to answer the phone if the camp mistress
rang up during their absence. She did; and  a  month  or  so  later  we  had
occasion to recall our pleasant chat. That Tuesday, Lo had her dinner in her
room.  She  had  been crying after a routine row with her mother and, as had
happened on former occasions, had not wished me to see her swollen eyes: she
had one of those tender complexions that after a good cry  get  all  blurred
and inflamed, and morbidly alluring. I regretted keenly her mistake about my
private  aesthetics, for I simply love that tinge of Botticellian pink, that
raw rose about the lips, those wet, matted eyelashes;  and,  naturally,  her
bashful  whim  deprived  me  of  many opportunities of specious consolation.
There was, however, more to it than I thought. As we sat in the darkness  of
the  verandah (a rude wind had put out her red candles), Haze, with a dreary
laugh, said she had told Lo that her beloved Humbert thoroughly approved  of
the whole camp idea "and now," added Haze, "the child throws a fit; pretext:
you  and  I  want  to  get  rid  of  her; actual reason: I told her we would
exchange tomorrow for plainer stuff some much too cute night things that she
bullied me into buying for her.  You  see,  she  sees  herself  as  a
starlet;  I  see  her as a sturdy, healthy, but decidedly homely kid.
This, I guess, is at the root of our troubles."
     On Wednesday I managed to waylay Lo for a few seconds: she was  on  the
landing, in sweatshirt and green-stained white shorts, rummaging in a trunk.
I said something meant to be friendly and funny but she only emitted a snort
without  looking  at me. Desperate, dying Humbert patted her clumsily on her
coccyx, and she struck him, quite painfully, with one of the late Mr. Haze's
shoetrees. "Doublecrosser," she said as I crawled downstairs rubbing my  arm
with a great show of rue. She did not condescend to have dinner with Hum and
mum:  washed  her  hair  and  went  to bed with her ridiculous books. And on
Thursday quiet Mrs. Haze drove her to Camp Q.
     As greater authors than I have put it: "Let readers  imagine"  etc.  On
second thought, I may as well give those imaginations a kick in the pants. I
knew I had fallen in love with Lolita forever; but I also knew she would not
be  forever  Lolita.  She would be thirteen on January 1. In two years or so
she would cease being a nymphet and would turn  into  a  "young  girl,"  and
then,  into  a  "college  girl"--that  horror of horrors. The word "forever"
referred only to my own passion, to the eternal Lolita as  reflected  in  my
blood.  The  Lolita  whose  iliac crests had not yet flared, the Lolita that
today I could touch and smell and hear and see, the Lolita of  the  strident
voice and rich brown hair--of the bangs and the swirls and the sides and the
curls   at   the   back,   and   the   sticky   hot  neck,  and  the  vulgar
vocabulary--"revolting," "super,"  "luscious,"  "goon,"  "drip"--that
Lolita,  my  Lolita, poor Catullus would lose forever. So how could I
afford not to see her for two months of summer insomnias? Two  whole  months
out  of the two years of her remaining nymphage! Should I disguise myself as
a somber old-fashioned girl, gawky Mlle Humbert, and put up my tent  on  the
outskirts of Camp Q, in the hope that its russet nymphets would clamor: "Let
us  adopt  that  deep-voiced  D.P.," and drag the said, shyly smiling Berthe
au Grand Pied to their rustic hearth. Berthe will sleep with  Dolores
Haze!
     Idle  dry dreams. Two months of beauty, two months of tenderness, would
be squandered forever, and I could do nothing about it, but nothing, mais
rien.
     One drop of rare honey, however, that Thursday did hold  in  its  acorn
cup.  Haze  was  to  drive her to the camp in the early morning. Upon sundry
sounds of departure reaching me, I rolled out of bed and leaned out  of  the
window.  Under  the  poplars,  the  car was already athrob. On the sidewalk,
Louise stood shading her eyes with her hand, as if the little traveler  were
already riding into the low morning sun. The gesture proved to be premature.
"Hurry  up!"  shouted Haze. My Lolita, who was half in and about to slam the
car door, wind down the glass, wave to Louise  and  the  poplars  (whom  and
which  she  was  never  to  see  again), interrupted the motion of fate: she
looked up--and dashed back into the  house  (Haze  furiously  calling  after
her).  A  moment later I heard my sweetheart running up the stairs. My heart
expanded with such force that it almost blotted me out.  I  hitched  up  the
pants of my pajamas, flung the door open: and simultaneously Lolita arrived,
in  her  Sunday  frock,  stamping, panting, and then she was in my arms, her
innocent mouth melting under the ferocious pressure of dark  male  jaws,  my
palpitating  darling!  The next instant I heart her--alive, unraped--clatter
downstairs. The motion of fate was resumed. The blond leg was pulled in, the
car door was slammed--was re-slammed--and driver Haze at the violent  wheel,
rubber-red  lips writhing in angry, inaudible speech, swung my darling away,
while unnoticed by them or Louise, old Miss Opposite, an invalid, feebly but
rhythmically waved from her vined verandah.

        16

     The hollow of my hand was still ivory-full of Lolita--full of the  feel
of  her pre-adolescently incurved back, that ivory-smooth, sliding sensation
of her skin through the thin frock that I had worked up  and  down  while  I
held  her.  I  marched  into  her  tumbled  room, threw open the door of the
closet, and plunged into a heap of crumpled things  that  had  touched  her.
There  was particularly one pink texture, sleazy, torn, with a faintly acrid
odor in the seam. I wrapped in it Humbert's huge engorged heart. A  poignant
chaos  was  welling  within me--but I had to drop those things and hurriedly
regain my composure, as I became aware of the maid's velvety  voice  calling
me  softly from the stairs. She had a message for me, she said; and, topping
my automatic thanks with a kindly "you're  welcome,"  good  Louise  left  an
unstamped, curiously clean-looking letter in my shaking hand.

     "This  is  a  confession.  I  love  you [so the letter began; and for a
distorted  moment  I  mistook  its  hysterical  scrawl  for  a  schoolgirl's
scribble].  Last  Sunday  in church--bad you, who refused to come to see our
beautiful new windows!--only last Sunday, my dear one, when I asked the Lord
what to do about it, I was told to act as I am acting now. You see, there is
no alternative. I have loved  you  from  the  minute  I  saw  you.  I  am  a
passionate and lonely woman and you are the love of my life.
     Now, my dearest, dearest, mon cher, cher monsieur, you have read
this;  now  you  know.  So, will you please, at once, pack and leave.
This is a landlady's order. I am dismissing a lodger. I am kicking you  out.
Go!  Scram!  Departez!  I shall be back by dinnertime, if I do eighty
both ways and don't have an accident (but what would it matter?), and  I  do
not  wish  to  find  you  in  the  house.  Please,  please,  leave  at once,
now, do not even read this absurd note to the end. Go. Adieu.
     The situation, chиri, is quite simple. Of course,  I  know  with
absolute  certainty  that I am nothing to you, nothing at all to you,
nothing at all. Oh yes, you enjoy talking to me (and kidding poor  me),  you
have  grown  fond  of  our friendly house, of the books I like, of my lovely
garden, even of Lo's noisy ways--but I am  nothing  to  you.  Right?  Right.
Nothing  to  you whatever. But if, after reading my "confession," you
decided, in your dark romantic European way, that I am attractive enough for
you to take advantage of my letter and make a pass at me, then you would  be
a  criminal--worse  than  a  kidnaper  who rapes a child. You see, chиri.
If you decided to stay, if I found you at home (which  I  know  I
won't--and that's why I am able to go on like this), the fact of your
remaining  would  only mean one thing: that you want me as much as I do you:
as a lifelong mate; and that you are ready to link up your  life  with  mine
forever and ever and be a father to my little girl.
     Let  me  rave and ramble on for a teeny while more, my dearest, since I
know this letter has been by now torn by you, and its pieces (illegible)  in
the  vortex  of  the  toilet. My dearest, mon trхs, trхs cher, what a
world of love I have built up for you during this miraculous  June!  I  know
how reserved you are, how "British." Your old-world reticence, your sense of
decorum  may be shocked by the boldness of an American girl! You who conceal
your strongest feelings must think me a shameless little idiot for  throwing
open my poor bruised heart like this. In years gone by, many disappointments
came  my  way.  Mr.  Haze  was  a  splendid  person, a sterling soul, but he
happened to be twenty years my senior, and--well, let us  not  gossip  about
the  past.  My  dearest,  your  curiosity must be well satisfied if you have
ignored my request and read this letter  to  the  bitter  end.  Never  mind.
Destroy  it and go. Do not forget to leave the key on the desk in your room.
And some scrap of address so that I could refund the twelve  dollars  I  owe
you  till the end of the month. Good-bye, dear one. Pray for me--if you ever
pray.
                             C.H."

     What I present here is what I  remember  of  the  letter,  and  what  I
remember of the letter I remember verbatim (including that awful French). It
was at least twice longer. I have left out a lyrical passage which I more or
less skipped at the time, concerning Lolita's brother who died at 2 when she
was  4, and how much I would have liked him. Let me see what else can I say?
Yes. There is just a chance that "the  vortex  of  the  toilet"  (where  the
letter did go) is my own matter-of-fact contribution. She probably begged me
to make a special fire to consume it.
     My  first movement was one of repulsion and retreat. My second was like
a friend's calm hand falling upon my shoulder and bidding me take my time. I
did. I came out of my daze and found myself still in Lo's room. A  full-page
ad  ripped  out  of  a slick magazine was affixed to the wall above the bed,
between a crooner's mug and the lashes of a movie actress. It represented  a
dark-haired  young husband with a kind of drained look in his Irish eyes. He
was modeling a robe by So-and-So and holding a bridgelike tray by So-and-So,
with breakfast for two. The legend, by the Rev. Thomas Morell, called him  a
"conquering  hero." The thoroughly conquered lady (not shown) was presumably
propping herself up to receive her half of the tray. How her bed-fellow  was
to  get  under  the  bridge  without some messy mishap was not clear. Lo had
drawn a jocose arrow to the haggard lover's  face  and  had  put,  in  block
letters:  H.H.  And  indeed,  despite  a  difference  of  a  few  years, the
resemblance was striking. Under this was another picture, also a colored ad.
A distinguished playwright was solemnly smoking a Drome.  He  always  smoked
Dromes.  The resemblance was slight. Under this was Lo's chase bed, littered
with "comics." The enamel had come off the bedstead, leaving black, more  or
less  rounded,  marks  on the white. Having convinced myself that Louise had
left, I got into Lo's bed and reread the letter.

        17

     Gentlemen of the jury! I cannot swear that certain  motions  pertaining
to the business in hand--if I may coin an expression--had not drifted across
my  mind before. My mind had not retained them in any logical form or in any
relation to definitely recollected occasions; but  I  cannot  swear--let  me
repeat--that  I  had not toyed with them (to rig up yet another expression),
in my dimness of thought, in my darkness of passion.  There  may  have  been
times--there  must have been times, if I know my Humbert--when I had brought
up for detached inspection  the  idea  of  marrying  a  mature  widow  (say,
Charlotte Haze) with not one relative left in the wide gray world, merely in
order  to  have my way with her child (Lo, Lola, Lolita). I am even prepared
to tell my tormentors that perhaps once or twice I had cast  an  appraiser's
cold  eye  at  Charlotte's  coral  lips  and bronze hair and dangerously low
neckline, and had vaguely tried to fit her into a plausible daydream. This I
confess  under  torture.  Imaginary  torture,  perhaps,  but  all  the  more
horrible.  I  wish  I  might  digress  and  tell  you  more  of the pavor
nocturnus that would rack me at night hideously after a chance term  had
struck  me  in  the random readings of my boyhood, such as peine forte et
dure (what a Genius of Pain must have invented that!) or  the  dreadful,
mysterious,  insidious words "trauma," "traumatic event," and "transom." But
my tale is sufficiently incondite already.
     After a while  I  destroyed  the  letter  and  went  to  my  room,  and
ruminated,  and  rumpled  my  hair,  and  modeled my purple robe, and moaned
through clenched teeth and suddenly--Suddenly, gentlemen of the jury, I felt
a Dostoevskian grin dawning (through the very grimace that twisted my  lips)
like  a  distant  and  terrible sun. I imagined (under conditions of new and
perfect visibility) all the casual caresses her mother's  husband  would  be
able to lavish on his Lolita. I would hold her against me three times a day,
every  day. All my troubles would be expelled, I would be a healthy man. "To
hold thee lightly on a gentle knee and print on thy soft  cheek  a  parent's
kiss . . ." Well-read Humbert!
     Then,  with  all  possible  caution,  on  mental  tiptoe so to speak, I
conjured up Charlotte as a possible mate. By God, I could make myself  bring
her that economically halved grapefruit, that sugarless breakfast.
     Humbert  Humbert sweating in the fierce white light, and howled at, and
trodden upon  by  sweating  policemen,  is  now  ready  to  make  a  further
"statement"  (quel  mot!)  as  he turns his conscience inside out and
rips off its innermost lining. I did not plan to  marry  poor  Charlotte  in
order to eliminate her in some vulgar, gruesome and dangerous manner such as
killing her by placing five bichloride-of-mercury tablets in her preprandial
sherry  or  anything  like  that;  but  a  delicately allied, pharmacopoeial
thought did tinkle in my sonorous and clouded brain. Why limit myself to the
modest masked caress I had tried already? Other visions of venery  presented
themselves  to me swaying and smiling. I saw myself administering a powerful
sleeping potion to both mother and daughter  so  as  to  fondle  the  latter
though  the  night  with perfect impunity. The house was full of Charlotte's
snore, while Lolita hardly breathed in her sleep,  as  still  as  a  painted
girl-child.  "Mother,  I  swear  Kenny  never  even touched me." "You
either lie, Dolores Haze, or it was an incubus." No, I  would  not  go  that
far.
     So Humbert the Cubus schemed and dreamed--and the red sun of desire and
decision  (the  two things that create a live world) rose higher and higher,
while upon a succession of balconies a succession of  libertines,  sparkling
glass  in  hand,  toasted  the  bliss  of  past  and  future  nights.  Then,
figuratively speaking, I shattered the glass, and boldly imagined (for I was
drunk on those visions by then and underrated the gentleness of  my  nature)
how  eventually  I might blackmail--no, that it too strong a word--mauvemail
big Haze into letting me consort with the little Haze by gently  threatening
the  poor doting Big Dove with desertion if she tried to bar me from playing
with my legal stepdaughter. In a word, before such an Amazing Offer,  before
such  a  vastness  and  variety  of vistas, I was as helpless as Adam at the
preview of early oriental history, miraged in his apple orchard.
     And now take down the following important remark: the artist in me  has
been  given  the upper hand over the gentleman. It is with a great effort of
will that in this memoir I have managed to tune my style to the tone of  the
journal  that  I kept when Mrs. Haze was to me but an obstacle. That journal
of mine is no more; but I have considered it my artistic  duty  to  preserve
its  intonations  no  matter  how  false and brutal they may seem to me now.
Fortunately, my story has reached a point where I can cease  insulting  poor
Charlotte for the sake of retrospective verisimilitude.
     Wishing  to  spare  poor  Charlotte two or three hours of suspense on a
winding road (and avoid, perhaps, a head-on collision that would shatter our
different dreams), I made a thoughtful but abortive attempt to reach her  at
the  camp  by  telephone.  She  had left half an hour before, and getting Lo
instead, I told her--trembling and brimming with my mastery over  fate--that
I  was going to marry her mother. I had to repeat it twice because something
was preventing her from giving me her attention. "Gee,  that's  swell,"  she
said  laughing.  "When is the wedding? Hold on a sec, the pup--That put here
has got hold of my sock. Listen--" and she added she guessed she  was  going
to  have  loads  of  fun  . . . and I realized as I hung up that a couple of
hours at that camp had been sufficient to blot out with new impressions  the
image of handsome Humbert Humbert from little Lolita's mind. But what did it
matter  now?  I  would get her back as soon as a decent amount of time after
the wedding had elapsed. "The orange blossom would have scarcely withered on
the grave," as a poet might have said. But I am no poet. I am  only  a  very
conscientious recorder.
     After  Louise had gone, I inspected the icebox, and finding it much too
puritanic, walked to town and bought the richest  foods  available.  I  also
bought  some  good  liquor  and two or three kinds of vitamins. I was pretty
sure that with the aid of these stimulants and my natural resources, I would
avert any embarrassment that my indifference might incur when called upon to
display a strong and impatient flame. Again and  again  resourceful  Humbert
evoked  Charlotte  as seen in the raree-show of a manly imagination. She was
well groomed and shapely, this I could say for her, and she was my  Lolita's
big  sister--this  notion,  perhaps,  I  could  keep  up  if  only I did not
visualize too realistically her heavy hips,  round  knees,  ripe  bust,  the
coarse  pink  skin  of her neck ("coarse" by comparison with silk and honey)
and all the rest of that sorry and dull thing: a handsome woman.
     The sun made its usual round of the house as the afternoon ripened into
evening. I had a drink. And another. And  yet  another.  Gin  and  pineapple
juice,  my  favorite  mixture,  always  double  my energy. I decided to busy
myself with our unkempt lawn. Une petite attention.  It  was  crowded
with  dandelions,  and  a  cursed  dog--I  loathe dogs--had defiled the flat
stones where a sundial had once stood. Most of the  dandelions  had  changed
from suns to moons. The gin and Lolita were dancing in me, and I almost fell
over  the  folding  chairs that I attempted to dislodge. Incarnadine zebras!
There are some eructations that sound like cheers--at least,  mine  did.  An
old fence at the back of the garden separated us from the neighbor's garbage
receptacles  and  lilacs; but there was nothing between the front end of our
lawn (where it sloped along one side of the house) and the street. Therefore
I was able to watch (with the smirk of one about to perform a  good  action)
for  the  return  of Charlotte: that tooth should be extracted at once. As I
lurched and lunged with the hand mower, bits of grass  optically  twittering
in  the low sun, I kept an eye on that section of suburban street. It curved
in from under an archway of huge shade trees, then  sped  towards  us  down,
down,  quite  sharply,  past  old  Miss  Opposite's  ivied  brick  house and
high-sloping lawn (much trimmer than ours) and disappeared  behind  our  own
front  porch which I could not see from where I happily belched and labored.
The dandelions perished. A reek of  sap  mingled  with  the  pineapple.  Two
little  girls, Marion and Mabel, whose comings and goings I had mechanically
followed of late (but who could replace my Lolita?) went toward  the  avenue
(from  which  our  Lawn  Street  cascaded), one pushing a bicycle, the other
feeding from a paper bag, both talking at the top  of  their  sunny  voices.
Leslie,  old  Miss  Opposite's  gardener  and  chauffeur, a very amiable and
athletic Negro, grinned at me from afar and shouted,  re-shouted,  commented
by  gesture,  that  I  was  mighty  energetic  today.  The  fool  dog of the
prosperous junk dealer next door ran after a blue car--not Charlotte's.  The
prettier  of  the  two  little  girls  (Mabel, I think), shorts, halter with
little to halt, bright hair--a nymphet, by Pan!--ran back  down  the  street
crumpling  her paper bag and was hidden from this Green Goat by the frontage
of Mr. And Mrs. Humbert's residence. A station wagon popped out of the leafy
shade of the avenue, dragging some of it on  its  roof  before  the  shadows
snapped,   and  swung  by  at  an  idiotic  pace,  the  sweatshirted  driver
roof-holding with his left hand and the  junkman's  dog  tearing  alongside.
There  was  a  smiling  pause--and  then,  with  a  flutter  in my breast, I
witnessed the return of  the  Blue  Sedan.  I  saw  it  glide  downhill  and
disappear  behind  the corner of the house. I had a glimpse of her calm pale
profile. It occurred to me that until she went upstairs she would  not  know
whether  I  had  gone  or  not.  A minute later, with an expression of great
anguish on her face, she looked down at me from the window of Lo's room.  By
sprinting upstairs, I managed to reach that room before she left it.

        18

     When  the bride is a window and the groom is a widower; when the former
has lived in Our Great Little Town for hardly two years, and the latter  for
hardly  a month; when Monsieur wants to get the whole damned thing over with
as quickly as possible, and Madame gives in with a tolerant smile; then,  my
reader,  the  wedding  is generally a "quiet" affair. The bride may dispense
with a tiara of orange blossoms securing her finger-tip veil, nor  does  she
carry  a  white  orchid  in a prayer book. The bride's little daughter might
have added to the ceremonies uniting H. and H. a touch of vivid vermeil; but
I knew I would not  dare  be  too  tender  with  cornered  Lolita  yet,  and
therefore  agreed  it  was  not  worth while tearing the child away from her
beloved Camp Q.
     My soi-disant passionate and lonely Charlotte  was  in  everyday
life matter-of-fact and gregarious. Moreover, I discovered that although she
could  not  control  her  heart  or her cries, she was a woman of principle.
Immediately after she had become more  or  less  my  mistress  (despite  the
stimulants,  her  "nervous,  eager chиri--a heroic chиri!--had
some initial trouble, for which, however, he  amply  compensated  her  by  a
fantastic  display  of old-world endearments), good Charlotte interviewed me
about my relations with God. I could have answered that  on  that  score  my
mind was open; I said, instead--paying my tribute to a pious platitude--that
I  believed  in  a  cosmic spirit. Looking down at her fingernails, she also
asked me had I not in my family a certain strange  strain.  I  countered  by
inquiring  whether  she would still want to marry me if my father's maternal
grandfather had been, say, a Turk. She said it did not  matter  a  bit;  but
that,  if  she  ever  found  out I did not believe in Our Christian God, she
would commit suicide. She said it so solemnly that it gave me the creeps. It
was then I knew she was a woman of principle.
     Oh, she was very genteel: she said "excuse me" whenever a  slight  burp
interrupted  her  flowing speech, called an envelope and ahnvelope, and when
talking to her lady-friends referred to me as  Mr.  Humbert.  I  thought  it
would  please her if I entered the community trailing some glamour after me.
On the day of our wedding a little interview with me appeared in the Society
Column of the Ramsdale Journal, with a photograph of  Charlotte,  one
eyebrow  up and a misprint in her name ("Hazer"). Despite this contretempts,
the publicity warmed the porcelain cockles of her heart--and made my rattles
shake with awful glee. by engaging in church work as well as by  getting  to
know  the  better  mothers  of  Lo's schoolmates, Charlotte in the course of
twenty months or so had managed to become if not a prominent,  at  least  an
acceptable  citizen,  but  never  before  had  she come under that thrilling
rubrique, and it was I who put her there, Mr.  Edgar  H.  Humbert  (I
threw  in  the  "Edgar"  just  for  the  heck of it), "writer and explorer."
McCoo's brother, when taking it down, asked me what I had written.  Whatever
I  told him came out as "several books on Peacock, Rainbow and other poets."
It was also noted that Charlotte and I had  known  each  other  for  several
years and that I was a distant relation of her first husband. I hinted I had
had  an  affair  with  her  thirteen years ago but this was not mentioned in
print. To Charlotte I said that  society  columns  should  contain  a
shimmer of errors.
     Let  us  go  on  with  this  curious tale. When called upon to enjoy my
promotion from lodger  to  lover,  did  I  experience  only  bitterness  and
distaste?  No. Mr. Humbert confesses to a certain titillation of his vanity,
to some faint tenderness, even to a  pattern  of  remorse  daintily  running
along  the  steel of his conspiratorial dagger. Never had I thought that the
rather ridiculous, through rather handsome Mrs. Haze, with her  blind  faith
in  the wisdom of her church and book club, her mannerisms of elocution, her
harsh, cold, contemptuous attitude toward an adorable, downy-armed child  of
twelve, could turn into such a touching, helpless creature as soon as I laid
my  hands  upon her which happened on the threshold of Lolita's room whither
she tremulously backed repeating "no, no, please no."
     The transformation improved her looks. Her smile that had been  such  a
contrived  thing,  thenceforth  became  the  radiance  of utter adoration--a
radiance having something soft and moist about it, in which, with wonder,  I
recognized  a  resemblance  to the lovely, inane, lost look that Lo had when
gloating over a new kind of  concoction  at  the  soda  fountain  or  mutely
admiring  my  expensive,  always  tailor-fresh clothes. Deeply fascinated, I
would watch Charlotte while she swapped parental woes with some  other  lady
and  made  that  national  grimace of feminine resignation (eyes rolling up,
mouth drooping sideways) which, in an infantile form, I had seen  Lo  making
herself.  We  had  highballs before turning in, and with their help, I would
manage to evoke the child while caressing the mother.  This  was  the  white
stomach  within which my nymphet had been a little curved fish in 1934. This
carefully dyed hair, so sterile to my sense of smell and touch, acquired  at
certain  lamplit moments in the poster bed the tinge, if not the texture, of
Lolita's  curls.  I  kept  telling  myself,  as  I  wielded   my   brand-new
large-as-life  wife,  that  biologically this was the nearest I could get to
Lolita; that at Lolita's age, Lotte had been as desirable  a  schoolgirl  as
her  daughter was, and as Lolita's daughter would be some day. I had my wife
unearth from under a collection of shoes (Mr. Haze had a passion  for  them,
it  appears)  a  thirty-year-old  album,  so  that I might see how Lotte had
looked as a child; and even though the  light  was  wrong  and  the  dresses
graceless,  I  was able to make out a dim first version of Lolita's outline,
legs, cheekbones, bobbed nose. Lottelita, Lolitchen.
     So I tom-peeped across the hedges of years, into  wan  little  windows.
And  when, by means of pitifully ardent, naively lascivious caresses, she of
the noble nipple and massive thigh prepared me for  the  performance  of  my
nightly duty, it was still a nymphet's scent that in despair I tried to pick
up, as I bayed through the undergrowth of dark decaying forests.
     I  simply  can't tell you how gentle, how touching my poor wife was. At
breakfast, in the depressingly bright kitchen, with its chrome  glitter  and
Hardware  and  Co.  Calendar and cute breakfast nook (simulating that Coffee
Shoppe where in their  college  days  Charlotte  and  Humbert  used  to  coo
together),  she  would  sit,  robed  in red, her elbow on the plastic-topped
table, her cheek propped on her fist,  and  stare  at  me  with  intolerable
tenderness  as  I consumed my ham and eggs. Humbert's face might twitch with
neuralgia, but in her eyes it vied in beauty and animation with the sun  and
shadows of leaves rippling on the white refrigerator. My solemn exasperation
was  to  her  the silence of love. My small income added to her even smaller
one impressed her as a brilliant fortune; not because the resulting sum  now
sufficed for most middle-class needs, but because even my money shone in her
eyes with the magic of my manliness, and she saw our joint account as one of
those  southern  boulevards  at midday that have solid shade on one side and
smooth sunshine on the other, all the way to the end of  a  prospect,  where
pink mountains loom.
     Into   the  fifty  days  of  our  cohabitation  Charlotte  crammed  the
activities of as many years. The poor woman busied herself with a number  of
things she had foregone long before or had never been much interested in, as
if (to prolong these Proustian intonations) by my marrying the mother of the
child  I  loved  I  had  enabled  my wife to regain an abundance of youth by
proxy. With the zest of a banal young bride, she  started  to  "glorify  the
home."  Knowing  as  I  did its every cranny by heart--since those days when
from my chair I mentally mapped out Lolita's course through the house--I had
long entered into a sort of emotional relationship with it,  with  its  very
ugliness  and  dirt, and now I could almost feel the wretched thing cower in
its reluctance to endure the bath of ecru and ocher and  putt-buff-and-snuff
that  Charlotte planned to give it. She never got as far as that, thank God,
but she did use up a tremendous amount of energy in washing  window  shades,
waxing  the  slats of Venetian blinds, purchasing new shades and new blinds,
returning them to the store, replacing them by  others,  and  so  on,  in  a
constant  chiaroscuro of smiles and frowns, doubts and pouts. She dabbled in
cretonnes and chintzes; she changed the colors of the sofa--the sacred  sofa
where  a  bubble  of  paradise  had once burst in slow motion within me. She
rearranged the furniture--and was pleased when she  found,  in  a  household
treatise,  that  "it  is permissible to separate a pair of sofa commodes and
their companion lamps." With the authoress of Your Home Is  You,  she
developed  a  hatred for little lean chairs and spindle tables. She believed
that a room having a generous expanse  of  glass,  and  lots  of  rich  wood
paneling  was an example of the masculine type of room, whereas the feminine
type was characterized by lighter-looking windows and frailer woodwork.  The
novels  I  had  found  her  reading  when  I  moved  in were now replaced by
illustrated catalogues and homemaking guides. From a firm  located  at  4640
Roosevelt  Blvd.,  Philadelphia,  she  ordered  for our double bed a "damask
covered 312 coil mattress"--although the old one seemed to me resilient  and
durable enough for whatever it had to support.
     A Midwesterner, as her late husband had also been, she had lived in coy
Ramsdale,  the gem of an eastern state, not long enough to know all the nice
people. She knew slightly  the  jovial  dentist  who  lived  in  a  kind  of
ramshackle  wooden  chateau behind our lawn. She had met at a church tea the
"snooty" wife of the local junk dealer who owned the "colonial" white horror
at the corner of the avenue. Now  and  then  she  "visited  with"  old  Miss
Opposite; but the more patrician matrons among those she called upon, or met
at  lawn  functions, or had telephone chats with--such dainty ladies as Mrs.
Glave, Mrs. Sheridan, Mrs. McCrystal, Mrs. Knight and others, seldom  seemed
to call on my neglected Charlotte. Indeed, the only couple with whom she had
relations  of  real  cordiality,  devoid  of  any  arriхre-pensиe  or
practical foresight, were the Farlows who had just come back from a business
trip to Chile in time to attend our wedding, with  the  Chatfields,  McCoos,
and  a  few others (but not Mrs. Junk or the even prouder Mrs. Talbot). John
Farlow was a middle-aged, quiet, quietly athletic, quietly successful dealer
in sporting goods, who had an office at Parkington, forty miles away: it was
he who got me the cartridges for that Colt and showed  me  how  to  use  it,
during  a  walk  in  the woods one Sunday; he was also what he called with a
smile a part-time lawyer and had handled some of Charlotte's affairs.  Jean,
his  youngish  wife  (and first cousin), was a long-limbed girl in harlequin
glasses with two boxer dogs, two pointed breasts and a big  red  mouth.  She
painted--landscapes  and portraits--and vividly do I remember praising, over
cocktails, the picture she had made of a  niece  of  hers,  little  Rosaline
Honeck,  a  rosy honey in a Girl Scout uniform, beret of green worsted, belt
of green webbing, charming shoulder-long curls--and John  removed  his  pipe
and  said  it  was a pity Dolly (my Dolita) and Rosaline were so critical of
each other at school, but he hoped, and we all  hoped,  they  would  get  on
better  when  they  returned  from  their respective camps. We talked of the
school. It had its drawbacks, and it had its virtues. "Of course,  too  many
of the tradespeople here are Italians," said John, "but on the other hand we
are  still  spared--"  "I  wish,"  interrupted Jean with a laugh, "Dolly and
Rosaline  were  spending  the  summer  together."  Suddenly  I  imagined  Lo
returning  from  camp--brown,  warm,  drowsy, drugged--and was ready to weep
with passion and impatience.

        19

     A few words more about Mrs. Humbert while the  going  is  good  (a  bad
accident is to happen quite soon). I had been always aware of the possessive
streak  in  her,  but  I  never  thought  she would be so crazily jealous of
anything in my life that had not been she. She showed  a  fierce  insatiable
curiosity  for  my  past. She desired me to resuscitate all my loves so that
she might make me insult them,  and  trample  upon  them,  and  revoke  them
apostately  and totally, thus destroying my past. She made me tell her about
my marriage to Valeria, who was of course  a  scream;  but  I  also  had  to
invent,  or  to pad atrociously, a long series of mistresses for Charlotte's
morbid delectation. To keep  her  happy,  I  had  to  present  her  with  an
illustrated  catalogue  of them, all nicely differentiated, according to the
rules of those American ads where schoolchildren are pictured  in  a  subtle
ratio   of   races,   with   one--only   one,  but  as  cute  as  they  make
them--chocolate-colored round-eyed little lad, almost in the very middle  of
the  front  row.  So  I presented my women, and had them smile and sway--the
languorous blond, the fiery  brunette,  the  sensual  copperhead--as  if  on
parade  in  a  bordello. The more popular and platitudinous I made them, the
more Mrs. Humbert was pleased with the show.
     Never in  my  life  had  I  confessed  so  much  or  received  so  many
confessions. The sincerity and artlessness with which she discussed what she
called  her "love-life," from first necking to connubial catch-as-catch-can,
were, ethically,  in  striking  contrast  with  my  glib  compositions,  but
technically  the  two  sets  were congeneric since both were affected by the
same stuff (soap operas, psychoanalysis and cheap novelettes) upon  which  I
drew  for  my  characters  and  she  for  her  mode  of  expression.  I  was
considerably amused by certain remarkable sexual habits that the good Harold
Haze had had according to Charlotte  who  thought  my  mirth  improper;  but
otherwise  her autobiography was as devoid of interests as her autopsy would
have been. I never saw a healthier woman than she, despite thinning diets.
     Of my Lolita she seldom spoke--more seldom, in fact, than  she  did  of
the blurred, blond male baby whose photograph to the exclusion of all others
adorned  our bleak bedroom. In once of her tasteless reveries, she predicted
that the dead infant's soul would return to earth in the form of  the  child
she  would  bear in her present wedlock. And although I felt no special urge
to supply the Humbert line with a replica of  Harold's  production  (Lolita,
with  an  incestuous  thrill,  I had grown to regard as my child), it
occurred to me that a prolonged confinement, with a nice Cesarean  operation
and other complications in a safe maternity ward sometime next spring, would
give  me  a  chance to be alone with my Lolita for weeks, perhaps--and gorge
the limp nymphet with sleeping pills.
     Oh, she simply hated her daughter! What I  thought  especially  vicious
was  that  she  had  gone  out of her way to answer with great diligence the
questionnaires in a  fool's  book  she  had  (A  guide  to  Your  Child's
Development), published in Chicago. The rigmarole went year by year, and
Mom  was  supposed  to  fill  out a kind of inventory at each of her child's
birthdays. On Lo's twelfth, January 1, 1947, Charlotte Haze, nиe Becker, had
underlined the following epithets, ten out of  forty,  under  "Your  Child's
Personality":  aggressive,  boisterous,  critical,  distrustful,  impatient,
irritable,  inquisitive,  listless,  negativistic  (underlined  twice)   and
obstinate. She had ignored the thirty remaining adjectives, among which were
cheerful,  co-operative,  energetic,  and so forth. It was really maddening.
With a brutality that otherwise never appeared  in  my  loving  wife's  mild
nature,  she  attacked  and  routed  such of Lo's little belongings that had
wandered to various parts  of  the  house  to  freeze  there  like  so  many
hypnotized  bunnies. Little did the good lady dream that one morning when an
upset stomach (the result of  my  trying  to  improve  on  her  sauces)  had
prevented  me  from  accompanying  her to church, I deceived her with one of
Lolita's anklets. And  then,  her  attitude  toward  my  saporous  darling's
letters!

     "Dear Mummy and Hummy,
     Hope  you  are  fine. Thank you very much for the candy. I [crossed out
and re-written again] I lost my new sweater in the woods. It has  been  cold
here for the last few days. I'm having a time. Love,
     Dolly."

     "The  dumb  child,"  said  Mrs.  Humbert,  "has  left out a word before
'time.' That sweater was all-wool, and I wish you would not send  her  candy
without consulting me."

        20

     There  was  a  woodlake  (Hourglass  Lake--not  as I had thought it was
spelled) a few miles from Ramsdale, and there was one week of great heat  at
the  end  of July when we drove there daily. I am now obliged to describe in
some tedious detail our last  swim  there  together,  one  tropical  Tuesday
morning.
     We  had  left  the car in a parking area not far from the road and were
making our way down a path cut through the pine forest  to  the  lake,  when
Charlotte  remarked  that  Jean Farlow, in quest of rare light effects (Jean
belonged to the old school of painting), had seen Leslie taking  a  dip  "in
the ebony" (as John had quipped) at five o'clock in the morning last Sunday.
     "The water," I said, "must have been quite cold."
     "That  is  not  the  point,"  said  the  logical  doomed  dear.  "He is
subnormal, you see. And," she continued (in that carefully  phrased  way  of
hers  that  was  beginning  to  tell  on my health), "I have a very definite
feeling our Louise is in love with that moron."
     Feeling. "We feel Dolly is not doing as well" etc. (from an old  school
report).
     The Humberts walked on, sandaled and robed.
     "Do  you  know,  Hum: I have one most ambitious dream," pronounced Lady
Hum, lowering her head--shy of that  dream--and  communing  with  the  tawny
ground.  "I  would love to get hold of a real trained servant maid like that
German girl the Talbots spoke of; and have her live in the house."
     "No room," I said.
     "Come," she said with her quizzical smile, "surely,  chиri,  you
underestimate  the  possibilities  of  the Humbert home. We would put her in
Lo's room. I intended to make a guestroom of  that  hole  anyway.  It's  the
coldest and meanest in the whole house."
     "What  are  you  talking  about?"  I  asked,  the skin of my cheekbones
tensing up (this I take the trouble to note only because my daughter's  skin
did the same when she felt that way: disbelief, disgust, irritation).
     "Are  you  bothered  by  Romantic  Associations?"  queried  my wife--in
allusion to her first surrender.
     "Hell no," said I. "I just wonder where will you put your daughter when
you get your guest or your maid."
     "Ah," said Mrs.  Humbert,  dreaming,  smiling,  drawing  out  the  "Ah"
simultaneously  with  the  raise  of  one  eyebrow  and a soft exhalation of
breath. "Little Lo, I'm afraid, does not enter the picture at all,  at  all.
Little  Lo  goes  straight  from  camp to a good boarding school with strict
discipline and some sound religious training. And then--Beardsley College. I
have it all mapped out, you need not worry."
     She went on to say that she, Mrs. Humbert, would have to  overcome  her
habitual  sloth and write to Miss Phalli's sister who taught at St. Algebra.
The dazzling lake emerged. I said I had forgotten my sunglasses in  the  car
and would catch up with her.
     I  had  always  thought  that  wringing  one's  hands  was  a fictional
gesture--the obscure outcome, perhaps, of some medieval  ritual;  but  as  I
took to the woods, for a spell of despair and desperate meditation, this was
the gesture ("look, Lord, at these chains!") that would have come nearest to
the mute expression of my mood.
     Had  Charlotte  been  Valeria,  I  would  have  known how to handle the
situation; and "handle" is the word I want. In the good old days, by  merely
twisting  fat  Valechka's  brittle wrist (the one she had fallen upon from a
bicycle) I could make her change her mind instantly;  but  anything  of  the
sort  in  regard  to  Charlotte  was  unthinkable.  Bland American Charlotte
frightened me. My lighthearted dream of controlling her through her  passion
for  me  was all wrong. I dared not do anything to spoil the image of me she
had set up to adore. I had toadied to her when she was the awesome duenna of
my darling, and a groveling something still persisted in my attitude  toward
her.  The only ace I held was her ignorance of my monstrous love for her Lo.
She had been annoyed by Lo's liking me; but my feelings she could not
divine. To Valeria I might have said: "Look here, you fat fool, c'est moi
qui dиcide what is good for Dolores Humbert." To Charlotte, I could  not
even  say  (with ingratiating calm): "Excuse me, my dear, I disagree. Let us
give the child one more chance. Let me be her private tutor for  a  year  or
so. You once told me yourself--" In fact, I could not say anything at all to
Charlotte about the child without giving myself away. Oh, you cannot imagine
(as  I had never imagined) what these women of principle are! Charlotte, who
did not notice the falsity of all the  everyday  conventions  and  rules  of
behavior, and foods, and books, and people she doted upon, would distinguish
at once a false intonation in anything I might say with a view to keeping Lo
near.  She  was  like  a musician who may be an odious vulgarian in ordinary
life, devoid of tact and taste; but who will hear a false note in music with
diabolical accuracy of judgment. To break Charlotte's will, I would have  to
break her heart. If I broke her heart, her image of me would break too. If I
said:  "Either I have my way with Lolita, and you help me to keep the matter
quiet, or we part at once," she would have turned as  pale  as  a  woman  of
clouded  glass  and slowly replied: "All right, whatever you add or retract,
this is the end." And the end it would be.
     Such, then, was the mess. I remember  reaching  the  parking  area  and
pumping  a handful of rust-tasting water, and drinking it as avidly as if it
would give me magic wisdom, youth, freedom, a tiny concubine. For  a  while,
purple-robed,  heel-dangling,  I  sat on the edge of one of the rude tables,
under the whooshing pines. In the middle distance,  two  little  maidens  in
shorts  and  halters  came  out  of  a  sun-dappled  privy  marked  "Women."
Gum-chewing  Mabel  (or  Mabel's  understudy)  laboriously,   absentmindedly
straddled  a  bicycle,  and  Marion,  shaking her hair because of the flies,
settled behind, legs wide apart; and wobbling, they slowly, absently, merged
with the light and shade. Lolita! Father and  daughter  melting  into  these
woods! The natural solution was to destroy Mrs. Humbert. But how?
     No  man can bring about the perfect murder; chance, however, can do it.
There was the famous dispatch of a Mme Lacour in Arles, southern France,  at
the  close  of last century. An unidentified bearded six-footer, who, it was
later conjectured, had been the lady's secret lover, walked up to her  in  a
crowded  street,  soon  after  her  marriage to Colonel Lacour, and mortally
stabbed her in the back, three times, while the Colonel, a small bulldog  of
a  man,  hung  onto  the  murderer's  arm.  By  a  miraculous  and beautiful
coincidence, right at the moment  when  the  operator  was  in  the  act  of
loosening  the  angry  little  husband's  jaws (while several onlookers were
closing in upon the group), a cranky Italian in the  house  nearest  to  the
scene  set  off  by  sheer  accident some kind of explosive he was tinkering
with, and immediately the street was turned into  a  pandemonium  of  smoke,
falling bricks and running people. The explosion hurt no one (except that it
knocked out game Colonel Lacour); but the lady's vengeful lover ran when the
others ran--and lived happily ever after.
     Now  look  what  happens  when  the  operator  himself  plans a perfect
removal.
     I walked down to Hourglass Lake. The spot from which we and a few other
"nice" couples (the Farlows, the Chatfields) bathed  was  a  kind  of  small
cove;  my  Charlotte  liked  it because it was almost "a private beach." The
main  bathing  facilities  (or  drowning   facilities"   as   the   Ramsdale
Journal  had  had occasion to say) were in the left (eastern) part of
the hourglass, and could not be seen from our covelet.  To  our  right,  the
pines  soon  gave way to a curve of marshland which turned again into forest
on the opposite side.
     I sat down beside my wife so noiselessly that she started.
     "Shall we go in?" she asked.
     "We shall in a minute. Let me follow a train of thought."
     I thought. More than a minute passed.
     "All right. Come on."
     "Was I on that train?"
     "You certainly were."
     "I hope so," said Charlotte entering the water.  It  soon  reached  the
gooseflesh  of  her  thick thighs; and then, joining her outstretched hands,
shutting her mouth tight, very plain-faced in  her  black  rubber  headgear,
charlotte flung herself forward with a great splash.
     Slowly we swam out into the shimmer of the lake.
     On  the opposite bank, at least a thousand paces away (if one cold walk
across water), I could make out the tiny figures of  two  men  working  like
beavers  on  their stretch of shore. I knew exactly who they were: a retired
policeman of Polish descent and the retired plumber who owned  most  of  the
timber  on  that  side  of  the  lake.  And I also knew they were engaged in
building, just for the dismal fun of the thing, a  wharf.  The  knocks  that
reached  us  seemed so much bigger than what could be distinguished of those
dwarfs' arms  and  tools;  indeed,  one  suspected  the  director  of  those
acrosonic  effects  to  have been at odds with the puppet-master, especially
since the hefty crack of each  diminutive  blow  lagged  behind  its  visual
version.
     The  short  white-sand  strip  of "our" beach--from which by now we had
gone a little way to reach deep water--was empty on weekday mornings.  There
was  nobody  around  except those two tiny very busy figures on the opposite
side,  and  a  dark-red  private  plane  that  droned  overhead,  and   then
disappeared in the blue. The setting was really perfect for a brisk bubbling
murder,  and  here was the subtle point: the man of law and the man of water
were just near enough to witness an accident and  just  far  enough  not  to
observe a crime. They were near enough to hear a distracted bather thrashing
about  and  bellowing  for  somebody  to come and help him save his drowning
wife; and they were too far to distinguish (if they  happened  to  look  too
soon)  that  the  anything but distracted swimmer was finishing to tread his
wife underfoot. I was not yet at that stage; I merely  want  to  convey  the
ease  of the act, the nicety of the setting! So there was Charlotte swimming
on with dutiful awkwardness (she was  a  very  mediocre  mermaid),  but  not
without a certain solemn pleasure (for was not her merman by her side?); and
as  I  watched,  with  the  stark  lucidity  of  a  future recollection (you
know--trying to see things as you  will  remember  having  seen  them),  the
glossy whiteness of her wet face so little tanned despite all her endeavors,
and  her  pale lips, and her naked convex forehead, and the tight black cap,
and the plump wet neck, I knew that all I had to do was to drop back, take a
deep breath, then grab her by the ankle and rapidly  dive  with  my  captive
corpse.  I  say  corpse because surprise, panic and inexperience would cause
her to inhale at once a lethal gallon of lake, while I would be able to hold
on for at least a full minute, open-eyed  under  water.  The  fatal  gesture
passed  like  the  tail  of  a  falling  star  across  the  blackness of the
contemplated crime. It was like some dreadful silent ballet, the male dancer
holding the  ballerina  by  her  foot  and  streaking  down  through  watery
twilight.  I  might  come  up  for a mouthful of air while still holding her
down, and then would dive again as many times as  would  be  necessary,  and
only  when  the  curtain came down on her for good, would I permit myself to
yell for help. And when some twenty minutes later the two  puppets  steadily
growing  arrived  in  a  rowboat,  one half newly painted, poor Mrs. Humbert
Humbert, the victim of a cramp or coronary  occlusion,  or  both,  would  be
standing  on  her  head in the inky ooze, some thirty feet below the smiling
surface of Hourglass Lake.
     Simple, was it not? But what d'ye know, folks--I just  could  not  make
myself do it!
     She  swam  beside  me, a trustful and clumsy seal, and all the logic of
passion screamed in my ear: Now is the time! And, folks, I just couldn't! In
silence I turned shoreward and gravely,  dutifully,  she  also  turned,  and
still hell screamed its counsel, and still I could not make myself drown the
poor, slippery, big-bodied creature. The scream grew more and more remote as
I  realized  the  melancholy fact that neither tomorrow, nor Friday, nor any
other day or night, could I make myself  put  her  to  death.  Oh,  I  could
visualize  myself  slapping Valeria's breasts out of alignment, or otherwise
hurting her--and I could see myself, no less clearly, shooting her lover  in
the  underbelly and making him say "akh!" and sit down. But I could not kill
Charlotte--especially when things were on the whole not quite  as  hopeless,
perhaps,  as they seemed at first wince on that miserable morning. Were I to
catch her by her strong kicking foot; were I to see her  amazed  look,  hear
her awful voice; were I still to go through with the ordeal, her ghost would
haunt  me all my life. Perhaps if the year were 1447 instead of 1947 I might
have hoodwinked my gentle nature by administering her some classical  poison
from  a  hollow agate, some tender philter of death. But in our middle-class
nosy era it would not have come off the way  it  used  to  in  the  brocaded
palaces of the past. Nowadays you have to be a scientist if you want to be a
killer.  No,  no,  I  was  neither.  Ladies  and  gentlemen of the jury, the
majority of sex offenders that hanker  for  some  throbbing,  sweet-moaning,
physical  but  not  necessarily  coital,  relation  with  a  girl-child, are
innocuous, inadequate, passive, timid strangers who merely ask the community
to allow them to  pursue  their  practically  harmless,  so-called  aberrant
behavior,  their little hot wet private acts of sexual deviation without the
police and society cracking down upon them. We are not sex fiends! We do not
rape as  good  soldiers  do.  We  are  unhappy,  mild,  dog-eyed  gentlemen,
sufficiently  well integrated to control our urge in the presence of adults,
but ready to give years and years of life for one chance to touch a nymphet.
Emphatically, no killers are we. Poets never kill. Oh, my poor Charlotte, do
not hate me in your eternal heaven among an eternal alchemy of  asphalt  and
rubber and metal and stone--but thank God, not water, not water!
     Nonetheless  it was a very close shave, speaking quite objectively. And
now comes the point of my perfect-crime parable.
     We sat down on our towels  in  the  thirsty  sun.  She  looked  around,
loosened  her  bra, and turned over on her stomach to give her back a chance
to be feasted upon. She said she loved me. She sighed deeply.  She  extended
one  arm and groped in the pocket of her robe for her cigarettes. She sat up
and smoked. She examined her right shoulder. She kissed me heavily with open
smoky mouth. Suddenly, down the sand bank behind us, from under  the  bushes
and pines, a stone rolled, then another.
     "Those  disgusting prying kids," said Charlotte, holding up her big bra
to her breast and turning prone again. "I shall have to speak about that  to
Peter Krestovski."
     From  the  debouchment of the trail came a rustle, a footfall, and Jean
Farlow marched down with her easel and things.
     "You scared us," said Charlotte.
     Jean said she had been up there,  in  a  place  of  green  concealment,
spying  on  nature (spies are generally shot), trying to finish a lakescape,
but it was no good, she had no talent whatever (which was quite  true)--"And
have  you  ever tried painting, Humbert?" Charlotte, who was a little
jealous of Jean, wanted to know if John was coming.
     He was. He was coming home for lunch today. He had dropped her  on  the
way  to Parkington and should be picking her up any time now. It was a grand
morning. She always felt a traitor to Cavall and Melampus for  leaving  them
roped  on  such  gorgeous  days.  She  sat  down  on  the white sand between
Charlotte and me. She wore  shorts.  Her  long  brown  legs  were  about  as
attractive  to  me as those of a chestnut mare. She showed her gums when she
smiled.
     "I almost put both of you into my lake,"  she  said.  "I  even  noticed
something  you  overlooked. You [addressing Humbert] had your wrist watch on
in, yes, sir, you had."
     "Waterproof," said Charlotte softly, making a fish mouth.
     Jean took my wrist upon her knee and examined  Charlotte's  gift,  then
put back Humbert's hand on the sand, palm up.
     "You could see anything that way," remarked Charlotte coquettishly.
     Jean sighed. "I once saw," she said, "two children, male and female, at
sunset,  right  here, making love. Their shadows were giants. And I told you
about Mr. Tomson at daybreak. Next time I expect to see fat old Ivor in  the
ivory.  He  is  really  a freak, that man. Last time he told me a completely
indecent story about his nephew. It appears--"
     "Hullo there," said John's voice.

        21

     My habit of being silent when displeased or, more exactly, the cold and
scaly quality of my displeased silence, used to frighten Valeria out of  her
wits.  She  used to whimper and wail, saying "Ce qui me rend folle, c'est
que je ne sais ю quoi tu penses quand tu es comme  гa."  I  tried  being
silent  with Charlotte--and she just chirped on, or chucked my silence under
the chin. An astonishing woman! I would retire to  my  former  room,  now  a
regular  "studio,"  mumbling  I  had  after all a learned opus to write, and
cheerfully Charlotte went on beautifying the home, warbling on the telephone
and writing letters. From my window, through the lacquered shiver of  poplar
leaves,  I  could  see  her  crossing the street and contentedly mailing her
letter to Miss Phalen's sister.
     The week of scattered showers and shadows which elapsed after our  last
visit  to  the motionless sands of Hourglass Lake was one of the gloomiest I
can recall. Then came two or three dim rays  of  hope--before  the  ultimate
sunburst.
     It  occurred  to  me that I had a fine brain in beautiful working order
and that I might as well use it. If I dared not meddle with my wife's  plans
for  her  daughter (getting warmer and browner every day in the fair weather
of hopeless distance), I could surely devise some general  means  to  assert
myself  in  a  general  way that might be later directed toward a particular
occasion. One evening, Charlotte herself provided me with an opening.
     "I have a surprise for you," she said looking at me with fond eyes over
a spoonful of soup. "In the fall we two are going to England."
     I swallowed my spoonful, wiped my lips with pink paper (Oh,  the
cool rich linens of Mirana Hotel!) and said:
     "I  have  also  a  surprise  for  you, my dear. We two are not going to
England."
     "Why, what's the matter?" she said, looking--with more surprise than  I
had  counted  upon--at my hands (I was involuntarily folding and tearing and
crushing and tearing again the innocent pink napkin). My  smiling  face  set
her somewhat at ease, however.
     "The  matter  is quite simple," I replied. "Even in the most harmonious
of households, as ours is,  not  all  decisions  are  taken  by  the  female
partner. There are certain things that the husband is there to decide. I can
well imagine the thrill that you, a healthy American gal, must experience at
crossing  the  Atlantic  on  the  same  ocean liner with Lady Bumble--or Sam
Bumble, the Frozen Meat King, or a Hollywood harlot. And I  doubt  not  that
you  and  I  would  make a pretty ad for the Traveling Agency when portrayed
looking--you, frankly starry-eyed, I, controlling my envious  admiration--at
the  Palace  Sentries, or Scarlet Guards, or Beaver Eaters, or whatever they
are called. But I happen to be  allergic  to  Europe,  including  merry  old
England. As you well know, I have nothing but very sad associations with the
Old  and  rotting  World.  No  colored ads in your magazines will change the
situation."
     "My darling," said Charlotte. "I really--"
     "No, wait a minute.  The  present  matter  is  only  incidental.  I  am
concerned  with  a  general trend. When you wanted me to spend my afternoons
sunbathing on the Lake instead of doing my work, I gladly gave in and became
a bronzed glamour boy for your sake, instead of  remaining  a  scholar  and,
well,  an educator. When you lead me to bridge and bourbon with the charming
Farlows, I meekly follow. No, please, wait. When you decorate your  home,  I
do  not  interfere  with  your schemes. When you decide--when you decide all
kinds of matters, I  may  be  in  complete,  or  in  partial,  let  us  say,
disagreement--but  I  say  nothing. I ignore the particular. I cannot ignore
the general. I love being bossed by you, but every game has its rules. I  am
not  cross.  I am not cross at all. Don't do that. But I am one half of this
household, and have a small but distinct voice."
     She had come to my side and had fallen on her knees and was slowly, but
very vehemently, shaking her head and clawing at my trousers. She  said  she
had  never  realized.  She said I was her ruler and her god. She said Louise
had gone, and let us make love right away. She said I must  forgive  her  or
she would die.
     This  little  incident  filled me with considerable elation. I told her
quietly that it was a matter not of  asking  forgiveness,  but  of  changing
one's  ways;  and  I resolved to press my advantage and spend a good deal of
time, aloof and moody, working at my book--or at least pretending to work.
     The "studio bed" in my former room had long  been  converted  into  the
sofa it had always been at heart, and Charlotte had warned me since the very
beginning of our cohabitation that gradually the room would be turned into a
regular  "writer's  den." A couple of days after the British Incident, I was
sitting in a new and very comfortable easy chair, with a large volume in  my
lap,  when  Charlotte  rapped  with  her  ring  finger and sauntered in. How
different were her movements from those of my Lolita, when  she  used
to  visit  me  in  her  dear  dirty  blue  jeans,  smelling  of  orchards in
nymphetland; awkward and fey, and dimly depraved, the lower buttons  of  her
shirt  unfastened. Let me tell you, however, something. Behind the brashness
of little Haze, and the poise of big Haze, a trickle of shy  life  ran  that
tasted  the same, that murmured the same. A great French doctor once told my
father that in near relatives the  faintest  gastric  gurgle  has  the  same
"voice."
     So  Charlotte sauntered in. She felt all was not well between us. I had
pretended to fall asleep the night before, and the  night  before  that,  as
soon as we had gone to bed, and had risen at dawn.
     Tenderly, she inquired if she were not "interrupting."
     "Not  at  the  moment,"  I  said,  turning  volume  C  of the Girls'
Encyclopedia around  to  examine  a  picture  printed  "bottom-edge"  as
printers say.
     Charlotte  went  up  to  a  little  table  of imitation mahogany with a
drawer. She put her hand upon it. The little table was ugly, no  doubt,  but
it had done nothing to her.
     "I  have  always  wanted  to  ask  you,"  she  said  (businesslike, not
coquettish), "why is this thing locked up? Do you want it in this room? It's
so abominably uncouth."
     "Leave it alone," I said. I was Camping in Scandinavia.
     "Is there a key?"
     "Hidden."
     "Oh, Hum . . . "
     "Locked up love letters."
     She gave me one of those wounded-doe looks that irritated me  so  much,
and  then,  not  quite  knowing  if  I  was  serious,  or how to keep up the
conversation, stood for several slow pages (Campus, Canada,  Candid  Camera,
Candy)  peering  at the window pane rather than through it, drumming upon it
with sharp almond-and-rose fingernails.
     Presently (at Canoeing or Canvasback) she strolled up to my  chair  and
sank  down,  tweedily, weightily, on its arm, inundating me with the perfume
my first wife  had  used.  "Would  his  lordship  like  to  spend  the  fall
here?"  she  asked, pointing with her little finger at an autumn view
in a conservative Eastern State. "Why?" (very distinctly  and  slowly).  She
shrugged.  (Probably  Harold  used  to  take  a  vacation at that time. Open
season. Conditional reflex on her part.)
     "I think I know where that is," she said, still pointing. "There  is  a
hotel  I  remember,  Enchanted  Hunters, quaint, isn't it? And the food is a
dream. And nobody bothers anybody."
     She rubbed her cheek against my temple. Valeria soon got over that.
     "Is there anything special you would like for dinner,  dear?  John  and
Jean will drop in later."
     I  answered  with  a grunt. She kissed me on my underlip, and, brightly
saying she would bake a cake (a tradition subsisted  from  my  lodging  days
that I adored her cakes), left me to my idleness.
     Carefully putting down the open book where she had sat (it attempted to
send forth a rotation of waves, but an inserted pencil stopped the pages), I
checked  the  hiding  place of the key: rather self-consciously it lay under
the old expensive safety razor I had used before she bought me a much better
and cheaper one. Was it the perfect hiding place--there, under the razor, in
the groove of its velvet-lined case? The case lay in a small trunk  where  I
kept  various  business  papers.  Could  I improve upon this? Remarkable how
difficult  it  is  to  conceal  things--especially  when  one's  wife  keeps
monkeying with the furniture.


        22

     I  think  it  was exactly a week after our last swim that the noon mail
brought a reply from the second Miss Phalen. The lady  wrote  she  had  just
returned  to St. Algebra from her sister's funeral. "Euphemia had never been
the same after breaking that hip."  As  to  the  matter  of  Mrs.  Humbert's
daughter, she wished to report that it was too late to enroll her this year;
but  that she, the surviving Phalen, was practically certain that if Mr. and
Mrs. Humbert brought Dolores  over  in  January,  her  admittance  might  be
arranged.
     Next  day,  after  lunch, I went to see "our" doctor, a friendly fellow
whose perfect bedside manner and complete reliance on a few  patented  drugs
adequately  masked  his  ignorance of, and indifference to, medical science.
The fact that Lo would have to come back  to  Ramsdale  was  a  treasure  of
anticipation.  For  this  event I wanted to be fully prepared. I had in fact
begun my campaign earlier, before Charlotte  made  that  cruel  decision  of
hers.  I  had  to be sure when my lovely child arrived, that very night, and
then night after night, until St. Algebra took her away  from  me,  I  would
possess  the  means  of  putting  two  creatures to sleep so thoroughly that
neither sound nor touch should rouse them. Throughout most  of  July  I  had
been  experimenting  with  various  sleeping  powders,  trying  them  out on
Charlotte, a great taker of pills. The  last  dose  I  had  given  her  (she
thought  it was a tablet of mild bromides--to anoint her nerves) had knocked
her out for four solid hours. I had put the  radio  at  full  blast.  I  had
blazed  in  her  face  an olisbos-like flashlight. I had pushed her, pinched
her, prodded her--and nothing had disturbed  the  rhythm  of  her  calm  and
powerful  breathing.  However,  when  I had done such a simple thing as kiss
her, she had awakened at once, as fresh and strong as an octopus  (I  barely
escaped). This would not do, I thought; had to get something still safer. At
first,  Dr.  Byron  did  not  seem  to  believe  me  when  I  said  his last
prescription was no match for my insomnia. He suggested I try again, and for
a moment diverted my attention by showing me photographs of his  family.  He
had  a  fascinating  child  of Dolly's age; but I saw through his tricks and
insisted he prescribe the mightiest pill extant. He suggested I  play  golf,
but  finally agreed to give me something that, he said, "would really work";
and going to a cabinet, he produced a vial of  violet-blue  capsules  banded
with  dark  purple  at  one end, which, he said, had just been placed on the
market and were intended not for neurotics whom a draft of water could  calm
if  properly  administered,  but only for great sleepless artists who had to
die for a few hours in order to live for centuries. I love to fool  doctors,
and  though  inwardly  rejoicing, pocketed the pills with a skeptical shrug.
Incidentally, I had had to be careful with him. Once, in another connection,
a stupid lapse on my part made me mention my last sanatorium, and I  thought
I  saw  the  tips of his ears twitch. Being not at all keen for Charlotte or
anybody else to know that period of my past, I had hastily explained that  I
had once done some research among the insane for a novel. But no matter; the
old rogue certainly had a sweet girleen.
     I  left  in  great  spirits.  Steering my wife's car with one finger, I
contentedly rolled homeward. Ramsdale had, after all,  lots  of  charm.  The
cicadas  whirred;  the  avenue  had  been  freshly watered. Smoothly, almost
silkily, I turned down into our steep little street. Everything was  somehow
so  right  that  day.  So  blue  and  green. I knew the sun shone because my
ignition key was reflected in the windshield; and I knew it was exactly half
past three because the  nurse  who  came  to  massage  Miss  Opposite  every
afternoon  was  tripping down the narrow sidewalk in her white stockings and
shoes. As usual, Junk's hysterical setter attacked me as I rolled  downhill,
and  as usual, the local paper was lying on the porch where it had just been
hurled by Kenny.
     The day before I had ended the regime of aloofness I had  imposed  upon
myself,  and  now uttered a cheerful homecoming call as I opened the door of
the living room. With her ream-white nape and bronze bun to me, wearing  the
yellow  blouse  and maroon slacks she had on when I first met her, Charlotte
sat at the corner bureau writing a letter. My hand still on the doorknob,  I
repeated  my  hearty  cry.  Her  writing  hand  stopped. She sat still for a
moment; then she slowly turned in her chair and  rested  her  elbow  on  its
curved  back. Her face, disfigured by her emotion, was not a pretty sight as
she stared at my legs and said:
     "The Haze woman, the big bitch,  the  old  cat,  the  obnoxious  mamma,
the--the old stupid Haze is no longer your dupe. She has--she has . . ."
     My  fair  accuser stopped, swallowing her venom and her tears. Whatever
Humbert Humbert said--or attempted to say--is inessential. She went on:
     "You're a monster. You're a detestable, abominable, criminal fraud.  If
you come near--I'll scream out the window. Get back!"
     Again, whatever H.H. murmured may be omitted, I think.
     "I  am leaving tonight. This is all yours. Only you'll never, never see
that miserable brat again. Get out of this room."
     Reader, I did. I went up to the ex-semi-studio. Arms  akimbo,  I  stood
for a moment quite still and self-composed, surveying from the threshold the
raped  little  table with its open drawer, a key hanging from the lock, four
other household keys on the table top. I walked across the landing into  the
Humberts' bedroom, and calmly removed my diary from under her pillow into my
pocket.  Then  I  started  to walk downstairs, but stopped half-way: she was
talking on the telephone which happened to be plugged just outside the  door
of  the  living  room. I wanted to hear what she was saying: she canceled an
order for something or other, and returned to the parlor.  I  rearranged  my
respiration  and  went through the hallway to the kitchen. There, I opened a
bottle of Scotch. She could never resist Scotch.  Then  I  walked  into  the
dining  room  and  from  there,  through  the  half-open  door, contemplated
Charlotte's broad back.
     "You are ruining my life  and  yours,"  I  said  quietly.  "Let  us  be
civilized  people.  It  is all your hallucination. You are crazy, Charlotte.
The notes you found were fragments of a novel. Your name and hers  were  put
in  by  mere  chance.  Just  because they came handy. Think it over. I shall
bring you a drink."
     She neither answered nor turned, but went on  writing  in  a  scorching
scrawl  whatever she was writing. A third letter, presumably (two in stamped
envelopes were already laid out on the desk). I went back to the kitchen.
     I set out  two  glasses  (to  St.  Algebra?  to  Lo?)  and  opened  the
refrigerator.  It  roared  at  me viciously while I removed the ice from its
heart. Rewrite. Let her read it again. She will not recall details.  Change,
forge.  Write a fragment and show it to her or leave it lying around. Why do
faucets sometimes whine so  horribly?  A  horrible  situation,  really.  The
little   pillow-shaped   blocks   of  ice--pillows  for  polar  teddy  bear,
Lo--emitted rasping, crackling, tortured sounds as the warm  water  loosened
them in their cells. I bumped down the glasses side by side. I poured in the
whiskey  and  a dram of soda. She had tabooed my pin. Bark and bang went the
icebox. Carrying the glasses, I walked through the  dining  room  and  spoke
through  the  parlor  door which was a fraction ajar, not quite space enough
for my elbow.
     "I have made you a drink," I said.
     She did not answer, the mad bitch, and I  placed  the  glasses  on  the
sideboard near the telephone, which had started to ring.
     "Leslie  speaking. Leslie Tomson," said Leslie Tomson who favored a dip
at dawn. "Mrs. Humbert, sir, has been run over and you'd better come quick."
     I answered, perhaps a bit testily, that my wife was safe and sound, and
still holding the receiver, I pushed open the door and said:
     "There's this man saying you've been killed, Charlotte."
     But there was no Charlotte in the living room.

        23

     I rushed out. The far side of  our  steep  little  street  presented  a
peculiar  sight.  A  big  black  glossy  Packard had climbed Miss Opposite's
sloping lawn at an angle from the  sidewalk  (where  a  tartan  laprobe  had
dropped in a heap), and stood there, shining in the sun, its doors open like
wings, its front wheels deep in evergreen shrubbery. To the anatomical right
of  this  car,  on  the trim turn of the lawn-slope, an old gentleman with a
white  mustache,  well-dressed--double-breasted  gray   suit,   polka-dotted
bow-tie--lay supine, his long legs together, like a death-size wax figure. I
have  to put the impact of an instantaneous vision into a sequence of words;
their physical accumulation in the page impairs the actual flash, the  sharp
unity  of  impression:  Rug-heap, car, old man-doll, Miss O.'s nurse running
with a rustle, a half-empty tumbler  in  her  hand,  back  to  the  screened
porch--where  the  propped-up,  imprisoned,  decrepit  lady  herself  may be
imagined screeching, but not loud enough to drown the rhythmical yaps of the
Junk setter walking from group to group--from a bunch of  neighbors  already
collected  on  the  sidewalk, near the bit of checked stuff, and back to the
car which he had finally run to earth, and then  to  another  group  on  the
lawn,  consisting  of  Leslie,  two policemen and a sturdy man with tortoise
shell glasses. At this point, I should explain that the prompt appearance of
the patrolmen, hardly more than a minute after  the  accident,  was  due  to
their  having  been  ticketing the illegally parked cars in a cross lane two
blocks down the grade; that the fellow with the glasses was Frederick Beale,
Jr., driver of the Packard; that his 79-year-old father, whom the nurse  had
just  watered  on  the  green  bank  where  he  lay--a  banked  banker so to
speak--was not in  a  dead  faint,  but  was  comfortably  and  methodically
recovering  from  a mild heart attack or its possibility; and, finally, that
the laprobe on the sidewalk (where she had so often pointed out to  me  with
disapproval  the  crooked  green  cracks)  concealed  the mangled remains of
Charlotte Humbert who had been knocked down and dragged several feet by  the
Beale car as she was hurrying across the street to drop three letters in the
mailbox,  at  the  corner  of Miss Opposite's lawn. These were picked up and
handed to me by a pretty child in a dirty pink frock, and I got rid of  them
by clawing them to fragments in my trouser pocket.
     Three  doctors  and the Farlows presently arrived on the scene and took
over. The widower, a man  of  exceptional  self-control,  neither  wept  nor
raved.  He  staggered  a  bit,  that he did; but he opened his mouth only to
impart such information or issue such directions as were strictly  necessary
in  connection  with  the identification, examination and disposal of a dead
woman, the top of her head a porridge  of  bone,  brains,  bronze  hair  and
blood.  The  sun  was still a blinding red when he was put to bed in Dolly's
room by his two friends, gentle John and dewy-eyed Jean; who,  to  be  near,
retired  to the Humberts' bedroom for the night; which, for all I know, they
may not have spent as innocently as the solemnity of the occasion required.
     I have no reason  to  dwell,  in  this  very  special  memoir,  on  the
pre-funeral  formalities  that  had  to  be  attended  to, or on the funeral
itself, which was as quiet as the marriage had been.  But  a  few  incidents
pertaining  to  those four or five days after Charlotte's simple death, have
to be noted.
     My first night of widowhood I was so drunk that I slept as  soundly  as
the  child who had slept in that bed. Next morning I hastened to inspect the
fragments of letters in my pocket. They had got too thoroughly mixed  up  to
be sorted into three complete sets. I assumed that ". . . and you had better
find  it  because  I  cannot buy . . . " came from a letter to Lo; and other
fragments seemed to point to Charlotte's intention of  fleeing  with  Lo  to
Parkington,  or  even  back  to  Pisky, lest the vulture snatch her precious
lamb. Other tatters and shreds (never  had  I  thought  I  had  such  strong
talons)  obviously  referred  to an application not to St. A. but to another
boarding school which was said to be so harsh and  gray  and  gaunt  in  its
methods  (although  supplying  croquet under the elms) as to have earned the
nickname of "Reformatory for Young Ladies." Finally, the third  epistle  was
obviously  addressed  to me. I made out such items as ". . . after a year of
separation we may . . . " ". . . oh, my dearest, oh my . . . " ". . .  worse
than  if it had been a woman you kept . . ." ". . . or, maybe, I shall die .
. ." But on the whole my gleanings made little sense; the various  fragments
of  those  three  hasty missives were as jumbled in the palms of my hands as
their elements had been in poor Charlotte's head.
     That day John had to see a customer, and Jean had to feed her dogs, and
so I was to be deprived temporarily of my friends' company. The dear  people
were afraid I might commit suicide if left alone, and since no other friends
were  available  (Miss  Opposite  was  incommunicado,  the  McCoos were busy
building a new house miles away, and the Chatfields had been recently called
to Maine by some family trouble  of  their  own),  Leslie  and  Louise  were
commissioned to keep me company under the pretense of helping me to sort out
and pack a multitude of orphaned things. In a moment of superb inspiration I
showed  the  kind  and credulous Farlows (we were waiting for Leslie to come
for his paid tryst with Louise) a little photograph of Charlotte I had found
among her affairs. From a boulder she smiled through blown hair. It had been
taken in April 1934, a memorable spring. While on a business  visit  to  the
States, I had had occasion to spend several months in Pisky. We met--and had
a  mad  love  affair.  I was married, alas, and she was engaged to Haze, but
after I returned to Europe, we corresponded through a friend, now dead. Jean
whispered she had heard some rumors and looked at the snapshot,  and,  still
looking,  handed  it to John, and John removed his pipe and looked at lovely
and fast Charlotte Becker, and handed it back to me. Then they  left  for  a
few hours. Happy Louise was gurgling and scolding her swain in the basement.
     Hardly  had  the  Farlows gone than a blue-chinned cleric called--and I
tried to make the interview as brief as was consistent with neither  hurting
his feelings nor arousing his doubts. Yes, I would devote all my life to the
child's  welfare.  Here,  incidentally,  was  a  little cross that Charlotte
Becker had given me when we were both  young.  I  had  a  female  cousin,  a
respectable  spinster in New York. There we would find a good private school
for Dolly. Oh, what a crafty Humbert!
     For the benefit of Leslie and Louise who might (and did) report  it  to
John   and   Jean  I  made  a  tremendously  loud  and  beautifully  enacted
long-distance call and simulated a conversation with  Shirley  Holmes.  When
John  and  Jean  returned,  I  completely took them in by telling them, in a
deliberately  wild  and  confused  mutter,  that  Lo  had  gone   with   the
intermediate group on a five-day hike and could not be reached.
     "Good Lord," said Jean, "what shall we do?"
     John  said  it  was perfectly simple--he would get the Climax police to
find the hikers--it would not take them  an  hour.  In  fact,  he  knew  the
country and--
     "Look,"  he  continued,  "why don' I drive there right now, and you may
sleep with Jean"--(he did not really add that but Jean supported  his  offer
so passionately that it might be implied).
     I  broke  down.  I  pleaded with John to let things remain the way they
were. I said I could not bear to have the  child  all  around  me,  sobbing,
clinging  to  me,  she was so high-strung, the experience might react on her
future, psychiatrists have analyzed such cases. There was a sudden pause.
     "Well, you are the doctor," said John a little bluntly. "But after  all
I  was  Charlotte's  friend and adviser. One would like to know what you are
going to do about the child anyway."
     "John," cried Jean, "she is his child, not  Harold  Haze's.  Don't  you
understand? Humbert is Dolly's real father."
     "I see," said John. "I am sorry. Yes. I see. I did not realize that. It
simplifies matters, of course. And whatever you feel is right."
     The distraught father went on to say he would go and fetch his delicate
daughter  immediately after the funeral, and would do his best to give her a
good time in totally different surroundings, perhaps a trip to New Mexico or
California--granted, of course, he lived.
     So artistically did I impersonate the calm  of  ultimate  despair,  the
hush  before  some  crazy  outburst,  that the perfect Farlows removed me to
their house. They had a good cellar, as cellars go in this country; and that
was helpful, for I feared insomnia and a ghost.
     Now  I  must  explain  my  reasons  for  keeping  Dolores  away.
Naturally,  at  first,  when  Charlotte  had  just  been  eliminated  and  I
re-entered  the  house  a   free   father,   and   gulped   down   the   two
whiskey-and-sodas  I  had prepared, and topped them with a pint or two of my
"pin," and went to the bathroom to get  away  from  neighbors  and  friends,
there  was  but one thing in my mind and pulse--namely, the awareness that a
few hours hence, warm, brown--haired, and mine, mine, mine, Lolita would  be
in  my  arms,  shedding  tears that I would kiss away faster than they could
well. But as I stood wide-eyed and flushed before the  mirror,  John  Farlow
tenderly  tapped  to  inquire  if  I was okay--and I immediately realized it
would be madness on my part  to  have  her  in  the  house  with  all  those
busybodies  milling  around  and  scheming to take her away from me. Indeed,
unpredictable Lo herself might--who knows?--show some  foolish  distrust  of
me,  a  sudden  repugnance,  vague  fear and the like--and gone would be the
magic prize at the very instant of triumph.
     Speaking of busybodies, I had another visitor--friend Beale, the fellow
who eliminated my wife. Stodgy and solemn, looking like a kind of  assistant
executioner,  with  his  bulldog  jowls,  small  black  eyes, thickly rimmed
glasses and conspicuous nostrils, he was ushered in by John  who  then  left
us,  closing  the  door upon us, with the utmost tact. Suavely saying he had
twins in my stepdaughter's class, my  grotesque  visitor  unrolled  a  large
diagram  he  had made of the accident. It was, as my stepdaughter would have
put it, "a beaut," with all kinds of impressive arrows and dotted  lines  in
varicolored  inks.  Mrs. H.H.'s trajectory was illustrated at several points
by a series of those little outline figures--doll-like wee  career  girl  or
WAC--used  in statistics as visual aids. Very clearly and conclusively, this
route came into contact with a boldly traced sinuous line  representing  two
consecutive swerves--one which the Beale car made to avoid the Junk dog (dog
not shown), and the second, a kind of exaggerated continuation of the first,
meant  to avert the tragedy. A very black cross indicated the spot where the
trim little outline figure had at last come  to  rest  on  the  sidewalk.  I
looked  for some similar mark to denote the place on the embankment where my
visitor's huge wax father had reclined, but there was none. That  gentleman,
however,  had signed the document as a witness underneath the name of Leslie
Tomson, Miss Opposite and a few other people.
     With his hummingbird pencil deftly and delicately flying from one point
to another,  Frederick  demonstrated  his   absolute   innocence   and   the
recklessness  of  my  wife:  while  he  was  in the act of avoiding the dog,
she slipped on  the  freshly  watered  asphalt  and  plunged  forward
whereas  she should have flung herself not forward but backward (Fred showed
how by a jerk of his padded shoulder). I  said  it  was  certainly  not  his
fault, and the inquest upheld my view.
     Breathing  violently though jet-black tense nostrils, he shook his head
and  my  hand;  then,  with  an  air  of  perfect  savoir  vivre  and
gentlemanly  generosity,  he  offered  to  pay the funeral-home expenses. He
expected me to refuse his offer. With a drunken sob of gratitude I  accepted
it.  This  took  him  aback.  Slowly, incredulously, he repeated what he had
said. I thanked him again, even more profusely than before.
     In result of that weird interview, the numbness of my soul  was  for  a
moment resolved. And no wonder! I had actually seen the agent of fate. I had
palpated  the  very  flesh of fate--and its padded shoulder. A brilliant and
monstrous mutation had suddenly taken place, and here  was  the  instrument.
Within   the  intricacies  of  the  pattern  (hurrying  housewife,  slippery
pavement, a pest of a dog, steep grade, big car, baboon  at  its  wheel),  I
could  dimly  distinguish  my  own  vile contribution. Had I not been such a
fool--or such an intuitive genius--to preserve that journal, fluids produced
by vindictive anger and hot shame would not have blinded  Charlotte  in  her
dash to the mailbox. But even had they blinded her, still nothing might have
happened, had not precise fate, that synchronizing phantom, mixed within its
alembic  the  car  and the dog and the sun and the shade and the wet and the
weak and the strong  and  the  stone.  Adieu,  Marlene!  Fat  fate's  formal
handshake (as reproduced by Beale before leaving the room) brought me out of
my torpor; and I wept. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury--I wept.

        24

     The  elms  and the poplars were turning their ruffled backs to a sudden
onslaught of wind, and a black thunderhead  loomed  above  Ramsdale's  white
church  tower  when  I  looked  around  me  for  the  last time. For unknown
adventures I was leaving the livid house where I had rented a room only  ten
weeks  before.  The  shades--thrifty,  practical bamboo shades--were already
down. On porches or in the house their rich textures lend modern drama.  The
house  of  heaven  must  seem  pretty bare after that. A raindrop fell on my
knuckles. I went back into the house for something or other while  John  was
putting my bags into the car, and then a funny thing happened. I do not know
if in these tragic notes I have sufficiently stressed the peculiar "sending"
effect  that  the  writer's  good looks--pseudo-Celtic, attractively simian,
boyishly manly--had on women of every age and environment. Of  course,  such
announcements  made in the first person may sound ridiculous. But every once
in a while I  have  to  remind  the  reader  of  my  appearance  much  as  a
professional  novelist, who has given a character of his some mannerism or a
dog, has to go on producing that  dog  or  that  mannerism  every  time  the
character crops up in the course of the book. There may be more to it in the
present  case.  My  gloomy good looks should be kept in the mind's eye if my
story is to be properly understood. Pubescent Lo swooned to Humbert's  charm
as she did to hiccuppy music; adult Lotte loved me with a mature, possessive
passion that I now deplore and respect more than I care to say. Jean Farlow,
who  was thirty-one and absolutely neurotic, had also apparently developed a
strong liking for me. She was handsome in a carved-Indian sort of way,  with
a burnt sienna complexion. Her lips were like large crimson polyps, and when
she  emitted her special barking laugh, she showed large dull teeth and pale
gums.
     She was very tall, wore either slacks with sandals or billowing  skirts
with  ballet  slippers,  drank  any strong liquor in any amount, had had two
miscarriages, wrote stories about animals, painted,  as  the  reader  knows,
lakescapes,  was  already  nursing  the  cancer  that  was  to  kill  her at
thirty-three, and was hopelessly unattractive to me. Judge then of my  alarm
when a few seconds before I left (she and I stood in the hallway) Jean, with
her  always  trembling  fingers,  took  me by the temples, and, tears in her
bright blue eyes, attempted, unsuccessfully, to glue herself to my lips.
     "Take care of yourself," she said, "kiss your daughter for me."
     A clap of thunder reverberated throughout the house, and she added:
     "Perhaps, somewhere, some day, at a less miserable  time,  we  may  see
each  other again" (Jean, whatever, wherever you are, in minus time-space or
plus soul-time, forgive me all this, parenthesis included).
     And presently I was shaking hands with both of them in the street,  the
sloping   street,   and  everything  was  whirling  and  flying  before  the
approaching white deluge, and a truck with a mattress from Philadelphia  was
confidently  rolling  down  to  an  empty  house,  and  dust was running and
writhing over the exact slab of stone where Charlotte, when they lifted  the
laprobe  for  me, had been revealed, curled up, her eyes intact, their black
lashes still wet, matted, like yours, Lolita.

        25

     One might suppose that with  all  blocks  removed  and  a  prospect  of
delirious and unlimited delights before me, I would have mentally sunk back,
heaving  a sigh of delicious relief. Eh bien, pas du tout! Instead of
basking in the beams of smiling Chance, I  was  obsessed  by  all  sorts  of
purely  ethical doubts and fears. For instance: might it not surprise people
that Lo was so consistently debarred  from  attending  festive  and  funeral
functions  in  her immediate family? You remember--we had not had her at our
wedding. Or another thing: granted it was the long hairy arm of  Coincidence
that  had  reached  out  to  remove an innocent woman, might Coincidence not
ignore in a heathen moment what its  twin  lamb  had  done  and  hand  Lo  a
premature  note  of commiseration? True, the accident had been reported only
by the Ramsdale Journal--not by the Parkington Recorder or the
Climax Herald, Camp Q being in another state, and local deaths having
no federal news interest; but I could not help fancying that  somehow  Dolly
Haze had been informed already, and that at the very time I was on my way to
fetch  her, she was being driven to Ramsdale by friends unknown to me. Still
more disquieting than all these conjectures and worries, was the  fact  that
Humbert  Humbert,  a  brand-new American citizen of obscure European origin,
had taken no steps toward becoming the legal guardian  of  his  dead  wife's
daughter  (twelve  years and seven months old). Would I ever dare take those
steps? I could not repress a shiver whenever I imagined my nudity hemmed  in
by mysterious statutes in the merciless glare of the Common Law.
     My  scheme was a marvel of primitive art: I would whizz over to Camp Q,
tell Lolita her mother was about to undergo a major operation at an invented
hospital, and then keep moving with my sleepy nymphet from inn to inn  while
her  mother  got  better  and  better  and  finally  died. But as I traveled
campward my anxiety grew. I could not bear to think I might not find  Lolita
there--or  find,  instead, another, scared, Lolita clamoring for some family
friend: not the Farlows, thank God--she hardly knew  them--but  might  there
not  be other people I had not reckoned with? Finally, I decided to make the
long-distance call I had simulated so well a few days before. It was raining
hard when I pulled up in a muddy suburb of Parkington, just before the Fork,
one prong of which bypassed the city and led to the  highway  which  crossed
the  hills  to  Lake  Climax  and Camp Q. I flipped off the ignition and for
quite a minute sat in the car bracing myself for that  telephone  call,  and
staring  at  the  rain,  at  the inundated sidewalk, at a hydrant: a hideous
thing, really, painted a thick silver and red, extending the red  stumps  of
its  arms to be varnished by the rain which like stylized blood dripped upon
its argent chains. No wonder that stopping beside those  nightmare  cripples
is  taboo.  I  drove up to a gasoline station. A surprise awaited me when at
last the coins had satisfactorily clanked down and a voice  was  allowed  to
answer mine.
     Holmes, the camp mistress, informed me that Dolly had gone Monday (this
was Wednesday)  on  a  hike  in the hills with her group and was expected to
return rather late today. Would I  care  to  come  tomorrow,  and  what  was
exactly--Without   going   into   details,   I  said  that  her  mother  was
hospitalized, that the situation was grave, that the  child  should  not  be
told  it  was  grave  and that she should be ready to leave with me tomorrow
afternoon. The two voices parted in an explosion of warmth  and  good  will,
and through some freak mechanical flaw all my coins came tumbling back to me
with  a  hitting-the-jackpot  clatter  that almost made me laugh despite the
disappointment at having to postpone  bliss.  One  wonders  if  this  sudden
discharge, this spasmodic refund, was not correlated somehow, in the mind of
McFate,  with my having invented that little expedition before ever learning
of it as I did now.
     What next? I proceeded to the business center of Parkington and devoted
the whole afternoon  (the  weather  had  cleared,  the  wet  town  was  like
silver-and-glass)  to  buying  beautiful things for Lo. Goodness, what crazy
purchases were prompted by the poignant predilection Humbert  had  in  those
days  for  check  weaves,  bright cottons, frills, puffed-out short sleeves,
soft pleats, snug-fitting bodices and generously full skirts! Oh Lolita, you
are my girl, as Vee was Poe's and Bea Dante's, and what  little  girl  would
not  like  to  whirl  in a circular skirt and scanties? Did I have something
special in mind? coaxing voices asked me. Swimming suits? We  have  them  in
all  shades. Dream pink, frosted aqua, glans mauve, tulip red, oolala black.
What about playsuits? Slips? No slips. Lo and I loathed slips.
     One of my guides in these matters was an anthropometric entry  made  by
her   mother   on   Lo's   twelfth   birthday  (the  reader  remembers  that
Know-Your-Child book). I had the feeling that Charlotte,  moved  by  obscure
motives  of  envy  and  dislike,  had added an inch here, a pound there; but
since the nymphet had no doubt grown somewhat in the last  seven  months,  I
thought I could safely accept most of those January measurements: hip girth,
twenty-nine  inches; thigh girth (just below the gluteal sulcus), seventeen;
calf  girth   and   neck   circumference,   eleven;   chest   circumference,
twenty-seven;   upper   arm  girth,  eight;  waist,  twenty-three;  stature,
fifty-seven  inches;   weight,   seventy-eight   pounds;   figure,   linear;
intelligence quotient, 121; vermiform appendix present, thank God.
     Apart  from  measurements,  I  could  of  course  visualize Lolita with
hallucinational lucidity; and nursing as I did a tingle on my breastbone  at
the exact spot her silky top had come level once or twice with my heart; and
feeling  as  I  did  her  warm  weight in my lap (so that, in a sense, I was
always "with Lolita" as a woman is "with child"), I  was  not  surprised  to
discover  later  that  my  computation had been more or less correct. Having
moreover studied a midsummer sale book, it was with a very knowing air  that
I  examined various pretty articles, sport shoes, sneakers, pumps of crushed
kid for crushed kids. The painted girl in black who attended  to  all  these
poignant  needs  of mine turned parental scholarship and precise description
into commercial euphemisms, such as  "petite."  Another,  much  older
woman,  in  a  white  dress,  with  a  pancake  make-up,  seemed to be oddly
impressed by my knowledge of junior fashions; perhaps I  had  a  midget  for
mistress;   so,  when  shown  a  skirt  with  "cute"  pockets  in  front,  I
intentionally put a naive male  question  and  was  rewarded  by  a  smiling
demonstration  of  the way the zipper worked in the back of the skirt. I had
next great fun with all kinds of shorts and briefs--phantom  little  Lolitas
dancing, falling, daisying all over the counter. We rounded up the deal with
some  prim cotton pajamas in popular butcher-boy style. Humbert, the popular
butcher.
     There is a touch of the mythological and the enchanted in  those  large
stores  where according to ads a career girl can get a complete desk-to-date
wardrobe, and where little sister can dream of the day when her wool  jersey
will make the boys in the back row of the classroom drool. Life-size plastic
figures  of snubbed-nosed children with dun-colored, greenish, brown-dotted,
faunish faces floated around me. I realized I was the only shopper  in  that
rather  eerie  place where I moved about fishlike, in a glaucous aquarium. I
sensed strange thoughts form  in  the  minds  of  the  languid  ladies  that
escorted  me  from  counter  to counter, from rock ledge to seaweed, and the
belts and the bracelets I  chose  seemed  to  fall  from  siren  hands  into
transparent water. I bought an elegant valise, had my purchases put into it,
and repaired to the nearest hotel, well pleased with my day.
     Somehow, in connection with that quiet poetical afternoon of fastidious
shopping,  I  recalled  the  hotel  or  inn  with  the seductive name of The
Enchanted Hunters with Charlotte had happened to mention shortly  before  my
liberation.  With  the help of a guidebook I located it in the secluded town
of Briceland, a four-hour drive from Lo's camp. I could have telephoned  but
fearing my voice might go out of control and lapse into coy croaks of broken
English,  I  decided  to  send a wire ordering a room with twin beds for the
next night. What a comic, clumsy, wavering Prince Charming I was!  How  some
of  my  readers will laugh at me when I tell them the trouble I had with the
wording of my telegram! What should I put: Humbert and daughter? Humberg and
small daughter? Homberg and immature girl?  Homburg  and  child?  The  droll
mistake--the  "g"  at the end--which eventually came through may have been a
telepathic echo of these hesitations of mine.
     And then, in the velvet of a summer night, my broodings over the philer
I had with me! Oh miserly Hamburg! Was he not a very Enchanted Hunter as  he
deliberated  with  himself  over his boxful of magic ammunition? To rout the
monster of insomnia should he try himself one of  those  amethyst  capsules?
There were forty of them, all told--forty nights with a frail little sleeper
at  my  throbbing  side;  could  I  rob myself of one such night in order to
sleep? Certainly not: much too precious was each tiny plum, each microscopic
planetarium with its live stardust. Oh, let me be mawkish for the nonce!  I
am so tired of being cynical.

        26

     This  daily  headache  in  the  opaque  air  of  this  tombal  jail  is
disturbing, but I must persevere. Have written more than a hundred pages and
not got anywhere yet. My calendar is getting confused. That must  have  been
around  August  15,  1947. Don't think I can go on. Heart, head--everything.
Lolita, Lolita, Lolita, Lolita,  Lolita,  Lolita,  Lolita,  Lolita,  Lolita,
Lolita. Repeat till the page is full, printer.

        27

     Still  in  Parkington.  Finally,  I did achieve an hour's slumber--from
which I was aroused by gratuitous and horribly exhausting  congress  with  a
small  hairy  hermaphrodite,  a  total  stranger.  By then it was six in the
morning, and it suddenly occurred to me it might be a good thing  to  arrive
at  the  camp earlier than I had said. From Parkington I had still a hundred
miles to go, and there would be  more  than  that  to  the  Hazy  Hills  and
Briceland.  If  I  had  said I would come for Dolly in the afternoon, it was
only because my fancy insisted on merciful night falling as soon as possible
upon my impatience. But now I foresaw all kinds of misunderstandings and was
all a-jitter lest  delay  might  give  her  the  opportunity  of  some  idle
telephone call to Ramsdale. However, when at 9.30 a.m. I attempted to start,
I  was  confronted  by a dead battery, and noon was nigh when at last I left
Parkington.
     I reached my destination around half past two; parked my car in a  pine
grove  where a green-shirted, redheaded impish lad stood throwing horseshoes
in sullen solitude; was laconically directed by him to an office in a stucco
cottage; in a dying state, had to endure for several minutes the inquisitive
commiseration of the camp mistress, a sluttish worn out  female  with  rusty
hair. Dolly she said was all packed and ready to go. She knew her mother was
sick  but  not critically. Would Mr. Haze, I mean, Mr. Humbert, care to meet
the camp counselors? Or look at  the  cabins  where  the  girls  live?  Each
dedicated  to  a  Disney  creature? Or visit the Lodge? Or should Charlie be
sent over to fetch her? The girls were just finishing fixing the Dining Room
for a dance. (And perhaps afterwards she would say  to  somebody  or  other:
"The poor guy looked like his own ghost.")
     Let  me  retain  for a moment that scene in all its trivial and fateful
detail: hag Holmes writing out a receipt, scratching  her  head,  pulling  a
drawer  out  of her desk, pouring change into my impatient palm, then neatly
spreading a banknote over it with a bright ". . . and five!"; photographs of
girl-children; some gaudy moth or butterfly, still alive, safely  pinned  to
the  wall  ("nature  study"); the framed diploma of the camp's dietitian; my
trembling hands; a card produced by efficient Holmes with a report of  Dolly
Haze's  behavior  for July ("fair to good; keen on swimming and boating"); a
sound of trees and birds, and my pounding heart . . . I was standing with my
back to the open door, and then I felt the blood rush to my head as I  heart
her  respiration  and  voice behind me. She arrived dragging and bumping her
heavy suitcase. "Hi!" she said, and stood still, looking  at  me  with  sly,
glad  eyes,  her  soft  lips  parted  in  a slightly foolish but wonderfully
endearing smile.
     She was thinner and taller, and for a second it seemed to me  her  face
was  less  pretty  than  the  mental imprint I had cherished for more than a
month: her cheeks looked hollowed and too much lentigo camouflaged her  rosy
rustic  features;  and  that  first impression (a very narrow human interval
between two tiger heartbeats) carried the clear implication that all widower
Humbert had to do, wanted to do, or would do, was to give  this  wan-looking
though  sun-colored  little  orphan  au  yeux  battus (and even those
plumbaceous umbrae under her  eyes  bore  freckles)  a  sound  education,  a
healthy and happy girlhood, a clean home, nice girl-friends of her age among
whom  (if  the  fates  deigned  to repay me) I might find, perhaps, a pretty
little Magdlein for Herr Doktor Humbert alone. But "in  a  wink,"  as
the  Germans  say, the angelic line of conduct was erased, and I overtook my
prey (time moves ahead of our fancies!), and she  was  my  Lolita  again--in
fact,  more  of  my  Lolita than ever. I let my hand rest on her warm auburn
head and took up her bag. She  was  all  rose  and  honey,  dressed  in  her
brightest  gingham,  with  a  pattern of little red apples, and her arms and
legs were of a deep golden brown, with scratches like tiny dotted  lines  of
coagulated  rubies, and the ribbed cuffs of her white socks were turned down
at the remembered level, and because of her childish gait, or because I  had
memorized  her  as  always wearing heelless shoes, her saddle oxfords looked
somehow too large and too high-heeled for her. Good-bye, Camp Q, merry  Camp
Q.  Good-bye,  plain  unwholesome food, good-bye Charlie boy. In the hot car
she settled down beside me, slapped a prompt fly on her lovely  knee;  then,
her  mouth  working violently on a piece of chewing gum, she rapidly cranked
down the window on her side and settled back  again.  We  sped  through  the
striped and speckled forest.
     "How's Mother?" she asked dutifully.
     I said the doctors did not quite know yet what the trouble was. Anyway,
something abdominal. Abominable? No, abdominal. We would have to hang around
for a  while.  The  hospital  was  in  the  country,  near  the  gay town of
Lepingville, where a great poet had resided in the early nineteenth  century
and  where  we would take in all the shows. She thought it a peachy idea and
wondered if we could make Lepingville before nine p.m.
     "We should be at Briceland by dinner time," I said, "and tomorrow we'll
visit Lepingville. How was the hike? Did you have a marvelous  time  at  the
camp?"
     "Uh-huh."
     "Sorry to leave?"
     "Un-un."
     "Talk, Lo--don't grunt. Tell me something."
     "What thing, Dad?" (she let the word expand with ironic deliberation).
     "Any old thing."
     "Okay, if I call you that?" (eyes slit at the road).
     "Quite."
     "It's a sketch, you know. When did you fall for my mummy?"
     "Some  day,  Lo, you will understand many emotions and situations, such
as for example the harmony, the beauty of spiritual relationship."
     "Bah!" said the cynical nymphet.
     Shallow lull in the dialogue, filled with some landscape.
     "Look, Lo, at all those cows on that hillside."
     "I think I'll vomit if I look at a cow again."
     "You know, I missed you terribly, Lo."
     "I did not. Fact I've been revoltingly unfaithful to you, but it
does not matter one bit, because you've stopped caring for me,  anyway.  You
drive much faster than my mummy, mister."
     I slowed down from a blind seventy to a purblind fifty.
     "Why do you think I have ceased caring for you, Lo?"
     "Well, you haven't kissed me yet, have you?"
     Inly dying, inly moaning, I glimpsed a reasonably wide shoulder of road
ahead,  and bumped and wobbled into the weeds. Remember she is only a child,
remember she is only--
     Hardly had the car come to a standstill than Lolita  positively  flowed
into  my  arms.  Not  daring,  not daring let myself go--not even daring let
myself realize that this (sweet wetness and trembling fire)  was  the
beginning  of the ineffable life which, ably assisted by fate, I had finally
willed into being--not daring really kiss her, I touched  her  hot,  opening
lips  with  the utmost piety, tiny sips, nothing salacious; but she, with an
impatient wriggle, pressed her mouth to mine so hard that  I  felt  her  big
front  teeth  and  shared  in the peppermint taste of her saliva. I knew, of
course, it was but an innocent game on her part, a bit of backfisch  foolery
in  imitation  of  some  simulacrum  of  fake  romance,  and  since  (as the
psychotherapist, as well as the rapist, will tell you) the limits and  rules
of  such  girlish games are fluid, or at least too childishly subtle for the
senior partner to grasp--I was dreadfully afraid I  might  go  too  far  and
cause  her  to  start  back in revulsion and terror. And, as above all I was
agonizingly anxious to smuggle  her  into  the  hermetic  seclusion  of  The
Enchanted  Hunters,  and  we had still eighty miles to go, blessed intuition
broke our embrace--a split second  before  a  highway  patrol  car  drew  up
alongside.
     Florid and beetle-browed, its driver stared at me:
     "Happen  to  see  a blue sedan, same make as yours, pass you before the
junction?"
     "Why, no."
     "We didn't," said Lo, eagerly leaning across me, her innocent  hand  on
my legs, "but are you sure it was blue, because--"
     The  cop  (what shadow of us was he after?) gave the little colleen his
best smile and went into a U-turn.
     We drove on.
     "The fruithead!" remarked Lo. "He should have nabbed you."
     "Why me for heaven's sake?"
     "Well, the speed in this bum state is fifty, and--No, don't slow  down,
you, dull bulb. He's gone now."
     "We  have  still  quite  a  stretch,"  I said, "and I want to get there
before dark. So be a good girl."
     "Bad, bad girl," said Lo comfortably. "Juvenile delickwent,  but  frank
and fetching. That light was red. I've never seen such driving."
     We rolled silently through a silent townlet.
     "Say,  wouldn't  Mother  be  absolutely  mad  if  she found out we were
lovers?"
     "Good Lord, Lo, let us not talk that way."
     "But we are lovers, aren't we?"
     "Not that I know of. I think we are going to have some more rain. Don't
you want to tell me of those little pranks of yours in camp?"
     "You talk like a book, Dad."
     "What have you been up to? I insist you tell me."
     "Are you easily shocked?"
     "No. Go on."
     "Let us turn into a secluded lane and I'll tell you."
     "Lo, I must seriously ask you not to play the fool. Well?"
     "Well--I joined in all the activities that were offered."
     "Ensuite?"
     "Ansooit, I was taught to live happily and richly with  others  and  to
develop a wholesome personality. Be a cake, in fact."
     "Yes. I saw something of the sort in the booklet."
     "We loved the sings around the fire in the big stone fireplace or under
the darned  stars,  where every girl merged her own spirit of happiness with
the voice of the group."
     "Your memory is excellent, Lo, but I must trouble you to leave out  the
swear words. Anything else?"
     "The  Girl Scout's motto," said Lo rhapsodically, "is also mine. I fill
my life with worthwhile deeds such as--well, never mind what. My duty is--to
be useful. I am a friend to male animals. I obey orders. I am cheerful. That
was another police car. I am thrifty and I am absolutely filthy in  thought,
word and deed."
     "Now I do hope that's all, you witty child."
     "Yep.  That's  all. No--wait a sec. We baked in a reflector oven. Isn't
that terrific?"
     "Well, that's better."
     "We washed zillions of dishes.  'Zillions'  you  know  is  schoolmarm's
slang  for  many-many-many-many.  Oh  yes,  last  but  not  least, as Mother
says--Now let me see--what was it? I know we made  shadowgraphs.  Gee,  what
fun."
     "C'est bien tout?"
     "C'est.  Except  for  one little thing, something I simply can't
tell you without blushing all over."
     "Will you tell it me later?"
     "If we sit in the dark and you let me whisper, I will. Do you sleep  in
your old room or in a heap with Mother?"
     "Old  room.  Your  mother may have to undergo a very serious operation,
Lo."
     "Stop at that candy bar, will you," said Lo.
     Sitting on a high stool, a band of sunlight  crossing  her  bare  brown
forearm,  Lolita  was  served  an elaborate ice-cream concoction topped with
synthetic syrup. It was erected and brought her by a pimply brute of  a  boy
in  a greasy bow-tie who eyed my fragile child in her thin cotton frock with
carnal deliberation. My impatience to  reach  Briceland  and  The  Enchanted
Hunters  was  becoming  more than I could endure. Fortunately she dispatched
the stuff with her usual alacrity.
     "How much cash do you have?" I asked.
     "Not a cent," she said sadly, lifting  her  eyebrows,  showing  me  the
empty inside of her money purse.
     "This  is a matter that will be mended in due time," I rejoined archly.
"Are you coming?"
     "Say, I wonder if they have a washroom."
     "you are not going there," I said Firmly. "It is  sure  to  be  a  vile
place. Do come on."
     She  was  on  the whole an obedient little girl and I kissed her in the
neck when we got back into the car.
     "Don't do that," she said looking at me with unfeigned surprise.
"Don't drool on me. You dirty man."
     She rubbed the spot against her raised shoulder.
     "Sorry," I murmured. "I'm rather fond of you, that's all."
     We drove under a gloomy sky, up a winding road, then down again.
     "Well, I'm also sort of fond of you," said Lolita  in  a  delayed  soft
voice, with a sort of sigh, and sort of settled closer to me.
     (Oh, my Lolita, we shall never get there!)
     Dusk  was  beginning  to  saturate  pretty  little Briceland, its phony
colonial architecture, curiosity sops and  imported  shade  trees,  when  we
drove through the weakly lighted streets in search of the Enchanted Hunters.
The  air,  despite  a  steady  drizzle beading it, was warm and green, and a
queue of people, mainly children and old men, had already formed before  the
box office of a movie house, dripping with jewel-fires.
     "Oh,  I  want  to  see  that  picture. Let's go right after dinner. Oh,
let's!"
     "We might," chanted Humbert--knowing perfectly well, the sly  tumescent
devil,  that  by  nine, when his show began, she would be dead in his
arms.
     "Easy!" cried Lo, lurching forward, as an accursed truck  in  front  of
us, its backside carbuncles pulsating, stopped at a crossing.
     If  we did not get to the hotel soon, immediately, miraculously, in the
very next block, I felt I would lose all control over the Haze  jalopy  with
its ineffectual wipers and whimsical brakes; but the passers-by I applied to
for  directions  were  either  strangers  themselves  or  asked with a frown
"Enchanted what?" as if I were  a  madman;  or  else  they  went  into  such
complicated    explanations,   with   geometrical   gestures,   geographical
generalities and strictly local clues (. . . then bear south after  you  hit
the  court-house.  .  .)  that I could not help losing my way in the maze of
their well-meaning  gibberish.  Lo,  whose  lovely  prismatic  entrails  had
already  digested  the  sweetmeat, was looking forward to a big meal and had
begun to fidget. As to me, although I had long become  used  to  a  kind  of
secondary  fate  (McFate's inept secretary, so to speak) pettily interfering
with the boss's generous magnificent plan--to grind and  grope  through  the
avenues  of  Briceland  was  perhaps  the most exasperating ordeal I had yet
faced. In later months I could laugh at my inexperience when  recalling  the
obstinate  boyish  way  in which I had concentrated upon that particular inn
with its fancy  name;  for  all  along  our  route  countless  motor  courts
proclaimed  their  vacancy  in  neon  lights, ready to accommodate salesmen,
escaped convicts, impotents, family groups, as well as the most corrupt  and
vigorous  couples. Ah, gentle drivers gliding through summer's black nights,
what frolics, what twists of  lust,  you  might  see  from  your  impeccable
highways  if Kumfy Kabins were suddenly drained of their pigments and became
as transparent as boxes of glass!
     The miracle I hankered for did happen after all. A man and a girl, more
or less conjoined in a dark car under dripping trees, told us we were in the
heart of The Park, but had only to turn left at the next traffic  light  and
there  we would be. We did not see any next traffic light--in fact, The Park
was as black as the sins it concealed--but  soon  after  falling  under  the
smooth  spell  of  a  nicely  graded  curve, the travelers became aware of a
diamond glow through the mist, then a gleam of lakewater appeared--and there
it was, marvelously and inexorably, under spectral trees, at the  top  of  a
graveled drive--the pale palace of The Enchanted Hunters.
     A  row  of parked cars, like pigs at a trough, seemed at first sight to
forbid access; but then, by magic, a  formidable  convertible,  resplendent,
rubious  in the lighted rain, came into motion--was energetically backed out
by a broad-shouldered driver--and we gratefully slipped into the gap it  had
left. I immediately regretted my haste for I noticed that my predecessor had
now  taken  advantage  of a garage-like shelter nearby where there was ample
space for another car; but I was too impatient to follow his example.
     "Wow! Looks swank," remarked my vulgar darling squinting at the  stucco
as  she  crept out into the audible drizzle and with a childish hand tweaked
loose the frock-fold that had struck in  the  peach-cleft--to  quote  Robert
Browning.  Under  the arclights enlarged replicas of chestnut leaves plunged
and played on white pillars. I unlocked the trunk compartment. A hunchbacked
and hoary Negro in a uniform of sorts took our bags and wheeled them  slowly
into  the  lobby. It was full of old ladies and clergy men. Lolita sank down
on her haunches to caress a pale-faced,  blue-freckled,  black-eared  cocker
spaniel  swooning  on the floral carpet under her hand--as who would not, my
heart--while I cleared my throat through the throng to  the  desk.  There  a
bald  porcine  old  man--everybody  was  old  in that old hotel--examined my
features with a polite smile, then leisurely produced my (garbled) telegram,
wrestled with some dark doubts, turned his head to look at  the  clock,  and
finally said he was very sorry, he had held the room with the twin beds till
half  past  six,  and  now it was gone. A religious convention, he said, had
clashed with a flower show in Briceland, and--"The name," I said coldly, "is
not Humberg and not Humbug, but Herbert, I mean Humbert, and any  room  will
do, just put in a cot for my little daughter. She is ten and very tired."
     The  pink  old  fellow  peered  good-naturedly  at Lo--still squatting,
listening in profile, lips parted, to what the dog's  mistress,  an  ancient
lady  swathed in violet veils, was telling her from the depths of a cretonne
easy chair.
     Whatever doubts the obscene fellow had, they  were  dispelled  by  that
blossom-like  vision.  He  said,  he  might  still  have a room, had one, in
fact--with a double bed. As to the cot--
     "Mr. Potts, do we have any cots left?" Potts, also pink and bald,  with
white hairs growing out of his ears and other holes, would see what could be
done.  He  came  and  spoke  while  I  unscrewed  my fountain pen. Impatient
Humbert!
     "Our double beds are really triple," Potts cozily said tucking  me  and
my  kid  in.  "One  crowded night we had three ladies and a child like yours
sleep together. I believe one of the ladies was a disguised  man  [my
static]. However--would there be a spare cot in 49, Mr. Swine?
     "I think it went to the Swoons," said Swine, the initial old clown.
     "We'll  manage  somehow,"  I said. "My wife may join us later--but even
then, I suppose, we'll manage."
     The two pink pigs were now among my best friends.  In  the  slow  clear
hand  of  crime I wrote: Dr. Edgar H. Humbert and daughter, 342 Lawn Street,
Ramsdale. A key (342!) was half-shown to me (magician showing object  he  is
about  to  palm)--and  handed  over to Uncle tom. Lo, leaving the dog as she
would leave me some  day,  rose  from  her  haunches;  a  raindrop  fell  on
Charlotte's  grave; a handsome young Negress slipped open the elevator door,
and the doomed child went in followed  by  her  throat-clearing  father  and
crayfish Tom with the bags.
     Parody of a hotel corridor. Parody of silence and death.
     "Say, it's our house number," said cheerful Lo.
     There  was a double bed, a mirror, a double bed in the mirror, a closet
door with mirror, a bathroom door ditto, a blue-dark window, a reflected bed
there, the same in the closet mirror, two chairs, a glass-topped table,  two
bedtables,  a  double  bed: a big panel bed, to be exact, with a Tuscan rose
chenille spread, and two frilled, pink-shaded nightlamps, left and right.
     I was tempted to place a five-dollar  bill  in  that  sepia  palm,  but
thought  the  largesse  might  be misconstrued, so I placed a quarter. Added
another. He withdrew. Click. Enfin seuls.
     "Are we going to sleep in  one  room?"  said  Lo,  her  features
working  in  that dynamic way they did--not cross or disgusted (though plain
on the brink of it) but just dynamic--when she wanted  to  load  a  question
with violent significance.
     "I've asked them to put in a cot. Which I'll use if you like."
     "You are crazy," said Lo.
     "Why, my darling?"
     "Because,  my  dahrling,  when dahrling Mother finds out she'll divorce
you and strangle me."
     Just dynamic. Not really taking the matter too seriously.
     "Now look here," I said, sitting down, while she stood, a few feet away
from me, and stared at herself contentedly, not  unpleasantly  surprised  at
her  own  appearance,  filling  with her own rosy sunshine the surprised and
pleased closet-door mirror.
     "Look here, Lo. Let's settle this  once  for  all.  For  all  practical
purposes  I am your father. I have a feeling of great tenderness for you. In
your mother's absence I am responsible for your welfare. We  are  not  rich,
and  while  we  travel,  we shall be obliged--we shall be thrown a good deal
together. Two people sharing one room, inevitably  enter  into  a  kind--how
shall I say--a kind--"
     "The  word  is incest," said Lo--and walked into the closet, walked out
again with a young golden giggle,  opened  the  adjoining  door,  and  after
carefully  peering  inside with her strange smoky eyes lest she make another
mistake, retired to the bathroom.
     I opened the window, tore off my sweat-drenched shirt, changed, checked
the pill vial in my coat pocket, unlocked the--
     She drifted out. I tried to embrace her: casually, a bit of  controlled
tenderness before dinner.
     She  said:  "Look,  let's cut out the kissing game and get something to
eat."
     It was then that I sprang my surprise.
     Oh, what a dreamy pet! She  walked  up  to  the  open  suitcase  as  if
stalking  it  from  afar,  at  a  kind  of slow-motion walk, peering at that
distant treasure box on the luggage support. (Was there something  wrong,  I
wondered, with those great gray eyes of hers, or were we both plunged in the
same  enchanted  mist?) She stepped up to it, lifting her rather high-heeled
feet rather high, and bending  her  beautiful  boy-knees  while  she  walked
through  dilating  space  with the lentor of one walking under water or in a
flight dream. Then she raised by the armlets a copper-colored, charming  and
quite  expensive vest, very slowly stretching it between her silent hands as
if she were a bemused bird-hunter holding his  breath  over  the  incredible
bird  he  spreads  out by the tips of its flaming wings. Then (while I stood
waiting for her) she pulled out the slow snake of a brilliant belt and tried
it on.
     Then she crept into my waiting arms,  radiant,  relaxed,  caressing  me
with her tender, mysterious, impure, indifferent, twilight eyes--for all the
world,  like  the  cheapest  of  cheap  cuties.  For  that  is what nymphets
imitate--while we moan and die.
     "What's the katter with misses?" I muttered  (word-control  gone)  into
her hair.
     "If you must know," she said, "you do it the wrong way."
     "Show, wight ray."
     "All in good time," responded the spoonerette.
     Seva  ascendes,  pulsata,  brulans, kizelans, dementissima. Elevator
clatterans, pausa, clatterans, populus in corridoro.  Hanc  nisi  mors  mihi
adimet   nemo!  Juncea  puellula,  jo  pensavo  fondissime,  nobserva  nihil
quidquam; but, of course, in another moment I might have committed  some
dreadful blunder; fortunately, she returned to the treasure box.
     From  the  bathroom,  where  it took me quite a time to shift back into
normal gear for a humdrum purpose, I heard, standing, drumming, retaining my
breath, my Lolita's "oo's" and "gee's" of girlish delight.
     She had used the soap only because it was sample soap.
     "Well, come on, my dear, if you are as hungry as I am."
     And so to the elevator, daughter swinging her old white  purse,  father
walking  in  front (nota bene: never behind, she is not a lady). As we stood
(now side by side) waiting to be taken down, she threw back her head, yawned
without restraint and shook her curls.
     "When did they make you get up at that camp?"
     "Half-past--" she stifled another  yawn--"six"--yawn  in  full  with  a
shiver  of  all  her frame. "Half-past," she repeated, her throat filling up
again.
     The dining room met us with a smell of fried fat and a faded smile.  It
was a spacious and pretentious place with maudlin murals depicting enchanted
hunters  in  various  postures  and  states  of enchantment amid a medley of
pallid animals, dryads and trees. A few scattered old ladies, two clergymen,
and a man in a sports coat were finishing their meals in silence. The dining
room closed at nine, and the green-clad,  poker-faced  serving  girls  were,
happily, in a desperate hurry to get rid of us.
     "Does not he look exactly, but exactly, like Quilty?" said Lo in a soft
voice,  her sharp brown elbow not pointing, but visibly burning to point, at
the lone diner in the loud checks, in the far corner of the room.
     "Like our fat Ramsdale dentist?"
     Lo arrested the mouthful of water she had just taken, and put down  her
dancing glass.
     "Course  not,"  she  said with a splutter of mirth. "I meant the writer
fellow in the Dromes ad."
     Oh, Fame! Oh, Femina!
     When the dessert was plunked down--a huge wedge of cherry pie  for  the
young  lady  and  vanilla  ice  cream  her  protector,  most  of  which  she
expeditiously added to her pie--I produced a small  vial  containing  Papa's
Purple  Pills.  As  I look back at those seasick murals, at that strange and
monstrous moment, I can only explain my behavior then by  the  mechanism  of
that  dream vacuum wherein revolves a deranged mind; but at the time, it all
seemed quite simple and inevitable to me. I glanced around, satisfied myself
that the last diner had left, removed  the  stopped,  and  with  the  utmost
deliberation  tipped  the  philter  into  my palm. I had carefully rehearsed
before a mirror the gesture of clapping my empty hand to my open  mouth  and
swallowing  a  (fictitious)  pill.  As I expected, she pounced upon the vial
with its plump, beautifully colored capsules loaded with Beauty's Sleep.
     "Blue!" she exclaimed. "Violet blue. What are they made of?"
     "Summer skies," I said, "and plums and  figs,  and  the  grapeblood  of
emperors."
     "No, seriously--please."
     "Oh, just purpills. Vitamin X. Makes one strong as an ox or an ax. Want
to try one?"
     Lolita stretched out her hand, nodding vigorously.
     I  had  hoped the drug would work fast. It certainly did. She had had a
long long day, she had gone rowing in the morning with Barbara whose  sister
was  Waterfront  Director, as the adorable accessible nymphet now started to
tell me in between suppressed palate-humping yawns, growing  in  volume--oh,
how  fast  the  magic potion worked!--and had been active in other ways too.
The movie that had vaguely loomed in her mind was, of course, by the time we
watertreaded out of the dining room, forgotten. As we stood in the elevator,
she leaned against  me,  faintly  smiling--wouldn't  you  like  me  to  tell
you--half  closing  her  dark-lidded eyes. "Sleepy, huh?" said Uncle Tom who
was bringing up the quiet Franco-Irish gentleman and his daughter as well as
two withered women, experts in roses. They looked with sympathy at my frail,
tanned, tottering, dazed rosedarling. I had almost to  carry  her  into  our
room. There, she sat down on the edge of the bed, swaying a little, speaking
in dove-dull, long-drawn tones.
     "If   I  tell  you--if  I  tell  you,  will  you  promise  [sleepy,  so
sleepy--head lolling, eyes going out], promise you won't make complaints?"
     "Later, Lo. Now go to bed. I'll leave you here, and you go to bed. Give
you ten minutes."
     "Oh, I've been such a disgusting girl," she went on, shaking her  hair,
removing with slow fingers a velvet hair ribbon. "Lemme tell you--"
     "Tomorrow, Lo. Go to bed, go to bed--for goodness sake, to bed."
     I pocketed the key and walked downstairs.

        28

     Gentlewomen of the jury! Bear with me! Allow me to take just a tiny bit
of your  precious  time.  So  this was le grand moment. I had left my
Lolita still sitting on the edge of the abysmal bed,  drowsily  raising  her
foot, fumbling at the shoelaces and showing as she did so the nether side of
her  thigh  up  to the crotch of her panties--she had always been singularly
absentminded, or shameless, or both, in matters of legshow. This, then,  was
the  hermetic  vision  of her which I had locked in--after satisfying myself
that the door carried no inside bolt. The key, with its numbered dangler  of
carved  wood,  became  forthwith  the  weighty  sesame  to  a  rapturous and
formidable future. It was mine, it was part of my hot hairy fist. In  a  few
minutes--say, twenty, say half-an-hour, sicher ist sicher as my uncle
Gustave used to say--I would let myself into that "342" and find my nymphet,
my  beauty  and  bride,  imprisoned  in  her  crystal  sleep.  Jurors! If my
happiness could have talked, it would have filled that genteel hotel with  a
deafening  roar.  And my only regret today is that I did not quietly deposit
key "342" at the office, and leave the town, the country, the continent, the
hemisphere,--indeed, the globe--that very same night.
     Let me explain. I was  not  unduly  disturbed  by  her  self-accusatory
innuendoes.  I  was still firmly resolved to pursue my policy of sparing her
purity by operating only in the stealth of night,  only  upon  a  completely
anesthetized  little  nude. Restraint and reverence were still my motto-even
if that "purity" (incidentally, thoroughly debunked by modern  science)  had
been  slightly  damaged  through  some  juvenile erotic experience, no doubt
homosexual, at that accursed camp of hers. Of course, in  my  old-fashioned,
old-world  way, I, Jean-Jacques Humbert, had taken for granted, when I first
met her, that she was as unravished as the stereotypical notion  of  "normal
child"  had  been  since  the lamented end of the Ancient World B.C. and its
fascinating practices. We are not surrounded in our enlightened era by little
slave flowers that can be casually plucked between business and bath as they
used  to be in the days of the Romans; and we do not, as dignified Orientals
did in still more luxurious  times,  use  tiny  entertainers  fore  and  aft
between  the  mutton  and  the rose sherbet. The whole point is that the old
link between the adult world and the child world has been completely severed
nowadays by  new  customs  and  new  laws.  Despite  my  having  dabbled  in
psychiatry  and social work, I really knew very little about children. After
all, Lolita was only twelve, and no matter what concessions I made  to  time
and   place--even   bearing   in   mind   the  crude  behavior  of  American
schoolchildren--I still was under the impression that whatever went on among
those brash brats, went on at a later age, and in a  different  environment.
Therefore  (to  retrieve  the thread of this explanation) the moralist in me
by-passed  the  issue  by  clinging  to   conventional   notions   of   what
twelve-year-old  girls should be. The child therapist in me (a fake, as most
of them are--but no matter) regurgitated neo-Freudian hash and conjured up a
dreaming and  exaggerating  Dolly  in  the  "latency"  period  of  girlhood.
Finally,  the sensualist in me (a great and insane monster) had no objection
to some depravity in his  prey.  But  somewhere  behind  the  raging  bliss,
bewildered  shadows  conferred--and  not to have heeded them, this is what I
regret! Human beings, attend! I  should  have  understood  that  Lolita  had
already proved to be something quite different from innocent Annabel,
and  that  the  nymphean  evil breathing through every pore of the fey child
that I had prepared for  my  secret  delectation,  would  make  the  secrecy
impossible,  and  the  delectation lethal. I should have known (by the signs
made to me by something in Lolita--the real child  Lolita  or  some  haggard
angel  behind  her  back) that nothing but pain and horror would result from
the expected rapture. Oh, winged gentlemen of the jury!
     And she was mine, she was mine, the key was in my fist, my fist was  in
my  pocket, she was mine. In the course of evocations and schemes to which I
had dedicated  so  many  insomnias,  I  had  gradually  eliminated  all  the
superfluous  blur,  and  by stacking level upon level of translucent vision,
had evolved a final picture. Naked,  except  for  one  sock  and  her  charm
bracelet,  spread-eagled  on  the  bed where my philter had felled her--so I
foreglimpsed her; a velvet hair ribbon was still clutched in her  hand;  her
honey-brown  body,  with  the white negative image of a rudimentary swimsuit
patterned against her tan, presented to me its pale breastbuds; in the  rosy
lamplight, a little pubic floss glistened on its plump hillock. The cold key
with its warm wooden addendum was in my pocket.
     I  wandered through various public rooms, glory below, gloom above: for
the look of lust always is gloomy; lust is never quite sure--even  when  the
velvety  victim  is  locked  up  in  one's dungeon--that some rival devil or
influential god may still not abolish  one's  prepared  triumph.  In  common
parlance, I needed a drink; but there was no barroom in that venerable place
full of perspiring philistines and period objects.
     I  drifted  to the Men's Room. There, a person in the clerical black--a
"hearty party" comme on dit--checking with the assistance of  Vienna,
if  it  was still there, inquired of me how I had liked Dr. Boyd's talk, and
looked puzzled when I (King Sigmund the Second) said Boyd was quite  a  boy.
Upon which, I neatly chucked the tissue paper I had been wiping my sensitive
finger tips with into the receptacle provided for it, and sallied lobbyward.
Comfortably resting my elbows on the counter, I asked Mr. Potts was he quite
sure  my  wife  had not telephoned, and what about that cot? He answered she
had not (she was dead, of course) and the cot would be installed tomorrow if
we decided to stay on. From a big crowded place  called  The  Hunters'  Hall
came  a  sound  of  many voices discussing horticulture or eternity. Another
room, called The Raspberry Room, all bathed in  light,  with  bright  little
tables  and  a  large  one with "refreshments," was still empty except for a
hostess (that type of worn woman with a glassy smile and Charlotte's  manner
of  speaking); she floated up to me to ask if I was Mr. Braddock, because if
so, Miss Beard had been looking for me. "What a name for a  woman,"  I  said
and strolled away.
     In  and  out of my heart flowed my rainbow blood. I would give her till
half-past-nine. Going back to the lobby, I found there a change: a number of
people in floral dresses or black cloth had formed little  groups  here  and
there,  and some elfish chance offered me the sight of a delightful child of
Lolita's age, in Lolita's type of frock, but pure white,  and  there  was  a
white  ribbon  in her black hair. She was not pretty, but she was a nymphet,
and her ivory pale legs and lily neck formed for one memorable moment a most
pleasurable antiphony (in terms of spinal music) to my  desire  for  Lolita,
brown  and  pink,  flushed and fouled. The pale child noticed my gaze (which
was  really   quite   casual   and   debonair),   and   being   ridiculously
self-conscious,  lost  countenance  completely, rolling her eyes and putting
the back of her hand to her cheek, and pulling at the hem of her skirt,  and
finally  turning her thin mobile shoulder blades to me in specious chat with
her cow-like mother.
     I left the loud lobby and stood outside, on the white steps, looking at
the hundreds of powdered bugs wheeling around the lamps in the  soggy  black
night,  full  of ripple and stir. All I would do--all I would dare do--would
amount to such a trifle . . . Suddenly I was aware that in the darkness next
to me there was somebody sitting in a chair on the pillared porch.  I  could
not  really  see  him but what gave him away was the rasp of a screwing off,
then a discreet gurgle, then the final note of a placid screwing on.  I  was
about to move away when his voice addressed me:
     "Where the devil did you get her?"
     "I beg your pardon?"
     "I said: the weather is getting better."
     "Seems so."
     "Who's the lassie?"
     "My daughter."
     "You lie--she's not."
     "I beg your pardon?"
     "I said: July was hot. Where's her mother?"
     "Dead."
     "I  see.  Sorry.  By the way, why don't you two lunch with me tomorrow.
That dreadful crowd will be gone by then."
     "We'll be gone too. Good night."
     "Sorry. I'm pretty drunk. Good night. That child of yours needs  a  lot
of sleep. Sleep is a rose, as the Persians say. Smoke?"
     "Not now."
     He  struck  a light, but because he was drunk, or because the wind was,
the flame illumined not him but another person, a very old man, one of those
permanent guests of old hotels--and his white rocker. Nobody  said  anything
and  the  darkness returned to its initial place. Then I heard the old-timer
cough and deliver himself of some sepulchral mucus.
     I left the porch. At least half an hour in all had elapsed. I ought  to
have  asked  for a sip. The strain was beginning to tell. If a violin string
can ache, then I was that string. But it would have been unseemly to display
any hurry. As I made my way through a constellation of fixed people  in  one
corner  of the lobby, there came a blinding flash--and beaming Dr. Braddock,
two orchid-ornamentalized matrons, the small girl in white,  and  presumably
the  bared teeth of Humbert Humbert sidling between the bridelike lassie and
the enchanted cleric, were immortalized--insofar as the texture and print of
small-town newspapers  can  be  deemed  immortal.  A  twittering  group  had
gathered  near the elevator. I again chose the stairs. 342 was near the fire
escape. One could still--but the key was already in the lock, and then I was
in the room.

        29

     The door of the lighted bathroom stood ajar; in  addition  to  that,  a
skeleton  glow  came  though  the Venetian blind from the outside arclights;
these intercrossed rays penetrated the darkness of the bedroom and  revealed
the following situation.
     Clothed  in  one  of her old nightgowns, my Lolita lay on her side with
her back to me, in the middle of the bed. Her lightly veiled body  and  bare
limbs  formed  a  Z. She had put both pillows under her dark tousled head; a
band of pale light crossed her top vertebrae.
     I seemed to have shed my clothes and slipped into pajamas with the kind
of fantastic instantaneousness which is implied when  in  a  cinematographic
scene  the  process  of changing is cut; and I had already placed my knee on
the edge of the bed when Lolita turned her head and stared at me though  the
striped shadows.
     Now  this  was  something  the  intruder  had  not  expected. The whole
pill-spiel (a rather sordid affair, entre nous soit dit) had had  for
object  a  fastness of sleep that a whole regiment would not have disturbed,
and here she was staring at me, and thickly calling me  "Barbara."  Barbara,
wearing  my  pajamas  which  were  much  too  tight for her, remained poised
motionless over the little sleep-talker. Softly, with a hopeless sigh, Dolly
turned away, resuming her initial position.  For  at  least  two  minutes  I
waited  and  strained  on  the  brink,  like  that  tailor with his homemade
parachute forty years ago when about to jump  from  the  Eiffel  Tower.  Her
faint  breathing  had  the  rhythm of sleep. Finally I heaved myself onto my
narrow margin of bed, stealthily pulled at the odds and ends of sheets piled
up to the south of my stone-cold heels--and Lolita lifted her head and gaped
at me.
     As I learned later from a helpful pharmaceutist, the  purple  pill  did
not  even  belong to the big and noble family of barbiturates, and though it
might have induced sleep in a neurotic who believed it to be a potent  drug,
it  was  too mild a sedative to affect for any length of time a wary, albeit
weary, nymphet. Whether the Ramsdale doctor was a charlatan or a shrewd  old
rogue,  does  not, and did not, really matter. What mattered, was that I had
been deceived. When Lolita opened her eyes again, I realized that whether or
not the drug might work later in the night, the security I had  relied  upon
was  a  sham  one.  Slowly  her head turned away and dropped onto her unfair
amount of pillow. I lay quite still on my  brink,  peering  at  her  rumpled
hair,  at  the  glimmer  of  nymphet  flesh,  where half a haunch and half a
shoulder dimly showed, and trying to gauge the depth of  her  sleep  by  the
rate  of her respiration. Some time passed, nothing changed, and I decided I
might risk getting a little closer to that lovely and maddening glimmer; but
hardly had I moved into its warm purlieus than her breathing was  suspended,
and  I  had  the odious feeling that little Dolores was wide awake and would
explode in screams if I touched  her  with  any  part  of  my  wretchedness.
Please, reader: no matter your exasperation with the tenderhearted, morbidly
sensitive,  infinitely  circumspect  hero  of  my  book,  do  not skip these
essential pages! Imagine me; I shall not exist if you do not imagine me; try
to discern the doe in me, trembling in the forest of my own iniquity;  let's
even smile a little. After all, there is no harm in smiling. For instance (I
almost  wrote  "frinstance"),  I  had no place to rest my head, and a fit of
heartburn (they call those fries "French," grand Dieu!) was added  to
my discomfort.
     She  was  again  fast  asleep,  my nymphet, but still I did not dare to
launch  upon  my  enchanted  voyage.  La  Petite  Dormeuse   ou   l'Amant
Ridicule.  Tomorrow  I would stuff her with those earlier pills that had
so thoroughly  numbed  her  mummy.  In  the  glove  compartment--or  in  the
Gladstone  bag?  Should  I  wait  a  solid hour and then creep up again? The
science of nympholepsy is a precise science. Actual contact would do  it  in
one  second  flat.  An interspace of a millimeter would do it in ten. Let us
wait.
     There is nothing louder than an American hotel; and, mind you, this was
supposed to be a quiet, cozy, old-fashioned, homey place--"gracious  living"
and  all  that  stuff. The clatter of the elevator's gate--some twenty yards
northeast of my head but as clearly perceived as if it were inside  my  left
temple--alternated  with  the  banging  and booming of the machine's various
evolutions and lasted well beyond midnight. Every now and then,  immediately
east  of my left ear (always assuming I lay on my back, not daring to direct
my viler side toward the nebulous haunch of my bed-mate), the corridor would
brim with cheerful, resonant and inept exclamations ending in  a  volley  of
good-nights.  When  that  stopped,  a  toilet immediately north of my
cerebellum took over. It was a manly, energetic, deep-throated  toilet,  and
it  was  used  many  times. Its gurgle and gush and long afterflow shook the
wall behind me. Then someone in a southern direction was extravagantly sick,
almost coughing out his life with his liquor, and his toilet descended  like
a  veritable  Niagara, immediately beyond our bathroom. And when finally all
the waterfalls had stopped, and the enchanted hunters were sound asleep, the
avenue under the window of my insomnia, to the west  of  my  wake--a  staid,
eminently  residential,  dignified alley of huge trees--degenerated into the
despicable haunt of gigantic trucks roaring through the wet and windy night.
     And less than six inches from me and  my  burning  life,  was  nebulous
Lolita!  After  a long stirless vigil, my tentacles moved towards her again,
and this time the creak of the mattress did not  awake  her.  I  managed  to
bring  my  ravenous  bulk  so  close to her that I felt the aura of her bare
shoulder like a warm breath upon my cheek. And then,  she  sat  up,  gasped,
muttered  with  insane  rapidity something about boats, tugged at the sheets
and lapsed back into her rich, dark, young unconsciousness. As  she  tossed,
within  that  abundant flow of sleep, recently auburn, at present lunar, her
arm struck me across the face. For a second I held her.  She  freed  herself
from  the  shadow  of my embrace--doing this not consciously, not violently,
not with any personal distaste, but with the neutral plaintive murmur  of  a
child demanding its natural rest. And again the situation remained the same:
Lolita  with  her  curved  spine to Humbert, Humbert resting his head on his
hand and burning with desire and dyspepsia.
     The latter necessitated a trip to the bathroom for  a  draft  of  water
which  is  the  best  medicine  I  know in my case, except perhaps milk with
radishes; and when I re-entered  the  strange  pale-striped  fastness  where
Lolita's old and new clothes reclined in various attitudes of enchantment on
pieces  of  furniture that seemed vaguely afloat, my impossible daughter sat
up and in clear tones demanded a drink, too. She took the resilient and cold
paper cup in her shadowy hand and gulped down its contents  gratefully,  her
long  eyelashes  pointing  cupward, and then, with an infantile gesture that
carried more charm than any carnal caress,  little  Lolita  wiped  her  lips
against  my  shoulder.  She  fell  back on her pillow (I had subtracted mine
while she drank) and was instantly asleep again.
     I had not dared offer her a second helping of the  drug,  and  had  not
abandoned  hope  that the first might still consolidate her sleep. I started
to move toward her, ready for any disappointment, knowing I had better  wait
but  incapable  of waiting. My pillow smelled of her hair. I moved toward my
glimmering darling, stopping or retreating every time I thought she  stirred
or  was  about  to  stir.  A  breeze  from wonderland had begun to affect my
thoughts, and now  they  seemed  couched  in  italics,  as  if  the  surface
reflecting them were wrinkled by the phantasm of that breeze. Time and again
my  consciousness folded the wrong way, my shuffling body entered the sphere
of sleep, shuffled out again, and once or twice  I  caught  myself  drifting
into  a melancholy snore. Mists of tenderness enfolded mountains of longing.
Now and then it seemed to me that the  enchanted  prey  was  about  to  meet
halfway  the enchanted hunter, that her haunch was working its way toward me
under the soft sand of a remote and fabulous beach;  and  then  her  dimpled
dimness would stir, and I would know she was farther away from me than ever.
     If  I dwell at some length on the tremors and groupings of that distant
night, it is because I insist upon proving that I am not, and never was, and
never could have been, a brutal scoundrel. The  gentle  and  dreamy  regions
though  which  I  crept  were  the  patrimonies of poets--not crime's
prowling ground. Had I reached my goal,  my  ecstasy  would  have  been  all
softness,  a case of internal combustion of which she would hardly have felt
the heat, even if she were wide awake. But I still hoped she might gradually
be engulfed in a completeness of stupor that would allow me  to  taste  more
than  a  glimmer of her. And so, in between tentative approximations, with a
confusion of perception metamorphosing her into eyespots of moonlight  or  a
fluffy  flowering  bush, I would dream I regained consciousness, dream I lay
in wait.
     In the first antemeridian hours there was a lull in the restless  hotel
night.  Then around four the corridor toilet cascaded and its door banged. A
little after five a reverberating monologue  began  to  arrive,  in  several
installments,  from  some  courtyard  or  parking place. It was not really a
monologue,  since  the  speaker  stopped  every  few   seconds   to   listen
(presumably)  to  another fellow, but that other voice did not reach me, and
so no real meaning could be derived from the part heard. Its  matter-of-fact
intonations,  however, helped to bring in the dawn, and the room was already
suffused with lilac gray, when several industrious toilets went to work, one
after the other, and the clattering and whining elevator began to  rise  and
take  down early risers and downers, and for some minutes I miserably dozed,
and Charlotte was a mermaid in a greenish tank, and somewhere in the passage
Dr. Boyd said "Good morning to you" in a fruity voice, and birds  were  busy
in the trees, and then Lolita yawned.
     Frigid  gentlewomen  of  the  jury!  I had thought that months, perhaps
years, would elapse before I dared to reveal myself to Dolores Haze; but  by
six  she was wide awake, and by six fifteen we were technically lovers. I am
going to tell you something very strange: it was she who seduced me.
     Upon hearing her first morning yawn, I feigned handsome profiled sleep.
I just did not know what to do. Would she be shocked at finding  me  by  her
side,  and  not  in  some  spare bed? Would she collect her clothes and lock
herself up in the bathroom?  Would  she  demand  to  be  taken  at  once  to
Ramsdale--to  her  mother's  bedside--back to camp? But my Lo was a sportive
lassie. I felt her eyes on me, and when she uttered  at  last  that  beloved
chortling  note  of hers, I knew her eyes had been laughing. She rolled over
to my side, and her warm brown hair came against my  collarbone.  I  gave  a
mediocre imitation of waking up. We lay quietly. I gently caressed her hair,
and  we  gently  kissed.  Her  kiss, to my delirious embarrassment, had some
rather comical refinements of flutter and probe which made me  conclude  she
had  been  coached at an early age by a little Lesbian. No Charlie boy could
have taught her that. As if to see whether I had my fill and  learned
the  lesson, she drew away and surveyed me. Her cheekbones were flushed, her
full underlip glistened, my dissolution was near. All at once, with a  burst
of  rough  glee (the sign of the nymphet!), she put her mouth to my ear--but
for quite a while my mind could not separate into words the hot  thunder  of
her  whisper,  and she laughed, and brushed the hair off her face, and tried
again, and gradually the odd sense of living in a brand new, mad  new  dream
world, where everything was permissible, came over me as I realized what she
was  suggesting.  I  answered  I  did not know what game she and Charlie had
played. "You mean you have never--?"--her features twisted into a  stare  of
disgusted incredulity. "You have never--" she started again. I took time out
by nuzzling her a little. "Lay off, will you," she said with a twangy whine,
hastily  removing  her brown shoulder from my lips. (It was very curious the
way she considered--and kept doing so for a long time--all  caresses  except
kisses  on  the  mouth  or  the stark act of love either "romantic slosh" or
"abnormal".)
     "You mean," she persisted, now kneeling above me,  "you  never  did  it
when you were a kid?"
     "Never," I answered quite truthfully.
     "Okay," said Lolita, "here is where we start."
     However, I shall not bore my learned readers with a detailed account of
Lolita's  presumption.  Suffice  it to say that not a trace of modesty did I
perceive  in  this  beautiful  hardly  formed   young   girl   whom   modern
co-education,  juvenile  mores, the campfire racket and so forth had utterly
and hopelessly depraved.  She  saw  the  stark  act  merely  as  part  of  a
youngster's  furtive  world, unknown to adults. What adults did for purposes
of procreation was no business of hers. My life was handled by little Lo  in
an  energetic,  matter-of-fact  manner  as  if  it  were an insensate gadget
unconnected with me. While eager to impress me with the world of tough kids,
she was not quite prepared for certain discrepancies between  a  kid's  life
and  mine.  Pride  alone  prevented  her  from giving up; for, in my strange
predicament, I feigned supreme stupidity and had her have her way--at  least
while  I  could still bear it. But really these are irrelevant matters; I am
not concerned with  so-called  "sex"  at  all.  Anybody  can  imagine  those
elements  of  animality. A greater endeavor lures me on: to fix once for all
the perilous magic of nymphets.

        30

     I have to tread carefully. I have  to  speak  in  a  whisper.  Oh  you,
veteran crime reporter, you grave old usher, you once popular policeman, now
in  solitary  confinement  after gracing that school crossing for years, you
wretched emeritus read to by a boy! It would never do, would it, to have you
fellows fall madly in love with my Lolita! had I been  a  painter,  had  the
management  of  The  Enchanted  Hunters  lost  its  mind  one summer day and
commissioned me to redecorate their  dining  room  with  murals  of  my  own
making, this is what I might have thought up, let me list some fragments:
     There  would  have  been  a  lake.  There  would  have been an arbor in
flame-flower. There would have been nature studies--a tiger pursuing a  bird
of  paradise,  a  choking snake sheathing whole the flayed trunk of a shoat.
There would have been a sultan, his face expressing great agony (belied,  as
it  were, by his molding caress), helping a callypygean slave child to climb
a column of onyx. There would have been those luminous globules  of  gonadal
glow  that  travel  up  the opalescent sides of juke boxes. There would have
been all kinds of camp activities on the part  of  the  intermediate  group,
Canoeing,  Coranting,  Combing  Curls  in the lakeside sun. There would have
been poplars, apples, a suburban Sunday. There would have been a  fire  opal
dissolving  within  a ripple-ringed pool, a last throb, a last dab of color,
stinging red, smearing pink, a sigh, a wincing child.

        31

     I am trying to describe these things not to relive them in  my  present
boundless  misery,  but  to  sort out the portion of hell and the portion of
heaven in that strange, awful, maddening world--nymphet  love.  The  beastly
and beautiful merged at one point, and it is that borderline I would like to
fix, and I feel I fail to do so utterly. Why?
     The  stipulation  of the Roman law, according to which a girl may marry
at twelve, was adopted  by  the  Church,  and  is  still  preserved,  rather
tacitly,  in  some  of  the United States. And fifteen is lawful everywhere.
There is nothing wrong, say both hemispheres, when a brute of forty, blessed
by the local priest and bloated with drink, sheds his sweat-drenched  finery
and  thrusts  himself  up  to  the  hilt  into  his youthful bride. "In such
stimulating temperate climates [says an old magazine in this prison library]
as St. Louis, Chicago and Cincinnati, girls mature about the  end  of  their
twelfth  year."  Dolores  Haze  was  born less than three hundred miles from
stimulating Cincinnati. I have but followed nature. I am  nature's  faithful
hound.  Why  then  this horror that I cannot shake off? Did I deprive her of
her flower? Sensitive gentlewomen of the jury, I  was  not  even  her  first
lover.

        32

     She  told  me  the  way she had been debauched. We ate flavorless mealy
bananas, bruised  peaches  and  very  palatable  potato  chips,  and  die
Kleine  told  me  everything.  Her  voluble  but  disjointed account was
accompanied by many a droll moue. As I think I have already observed,
I especially remember one wry face on an "ugh!" basis: jelly-mouth distended
sideways and eyes rolled up in a routine blend of comic disgust, resignation
and tolerance for young frailty.
     Her astounding  tale  started  with  an  introductory  mention  of  her
tent-mate  of  the  previous summer, at another camp, a "very select" one as
she put it. That tent-mate ("quite a derelict character," "half-crazy,"  but
a  "swell  kid") instructed her in various manipulations. At first, loyal Lo
refused to tell me her name.
     "Was it Grace Angel?" I asked.
     She shook her head. No, it wasn't it was the daughter of  a  big  shot.
He--
     "Was it perhaps Rose Carmine?"
     "No, of course not. Her father--"
     "Was it, then, Agnes Sheridan perchance?"
     She swallowed and shook her head--and then did a double take.
     "Say, how come you know all those kids?"
     I explained.
     "Well,"  she said. "They are pretty bad, some of that school bunch, but
not that bad. If you have to know, her name was Elizabeth Talbot,  she  goes
now to a swanky private school, her father is an executive."
     I  recalled  with  a funny pang the frequency with which poor Charlotte
used to introduce into party chat such elegant tidbits as "when my  daughter
was out hiking last year with the Talbot girl."
     I wanted to know if either mother learned of those sapphic diversions?
     "Gosh  no,"  exhaled  limp  Lo  mimicking  dread and relief, pressing a
falsely fluttering hand to her chest.
     I was more interested, however, in  heterosexual  experience.  She  had
entered  the  sixth  grade at eleven, soon after moving to Ramsdale from the
Middle West. What did she mean by "pretty bad"?
     Well, the Miranda twins had shared the same bed for years,  and  Donald
Scott,  who  was the dumbest boy in the school, had done it with Hazel Smith
in his uncle's garage, and Kenneth Knight--who was  the  brightest--used  to
exhibit himself wherever and whenever he had a chance, and--
     "Let us switch to Camp Q," I said. And presently I got the whole story.
     Barbara  Burke,  a sturdy blond, two years older than Lo and by far the
camp's best swimmer, had a very special  canoe  which  she  shared  with  Lo
"because  I  was  the  only  other  girl who could make Willow Island" (some
swimming test, I imagine). Through July, every morning--mark, reader,  every
blessed morning--Barbara and Lo would be helped to carry the boat to Onyx or
Eryx  (two  small  lakes  in the wood) by Charlie Holmes, the camp mistress'
son, aged thirteen--and the only human male for a  couple  of  miles  around
(excepting  an old meek stone-deaf handyman, and a farmer in an old Ford who
sometimes sold the campers eggs as  farmers  will);  every  morning,  oh  my
reader,  the  three  children  would  take a short cut through the beautiful
innocent forest brimming with all the emblems of youth, dew, birdsongs,  and
at one point, among the luxuriant undergrowth, Lo would be left as sentinel,
while Barbara and the boy copulated behind a bush.
     At  first,  Lo had refused "to try what it was like," but curiosity and
camaraderie prevailed, and soon she and Barbara were doing it by turns  with
the  silent, coarse and surly but indefatigable Charlie, who had as much sex
appeal  as  a  raw  carrot  but  sported   a   fascinating   collection   of
contraceptives  which  he  used  to  fish  out  of  a  third  nearby lake, a
considerably larger and more populous one, called  Lake  Climax,  after  the
booming  young factory town of that name. Although conceding it was "sort of
fun" and "fine for the complexion," Lolita, I am glad to say, held Charlie's
mind and manners in the greatest contempt.  Nor  had  her  temperament  been
roused  by  that  filthy  fiend.  In fact, I think he had rather stunned it,
despite the "fun."
     By that time it was close to ten. With the ebb of lust, an ashen  sense
of  awfulness,  abetted  by  the realistic drabness of a gray neuralgic day,
crept over me and hummed within my temples.  Brown,  naked,  frail  Lo,  her
narrow  white  buttocks  to me, her sulky face to a door mirror, stood, arms
akimbo, feet (in new slippers with pussy-fur tops) wide apart, and through a
forechanging lock tritely mugged at herself in the glass. From the  corridor
came  the  cooing voices of colored maids at work, and presently there was a
mild attempt to open the door of our room. I had Lo go to the  bathroom  and
take  a much-needed soap shower. The bed was a frightful mess with overtones
of potato chips. She tried on a  two-piece  navy  wool,  then  a  sleeveless
blouse  with  a  swirly clathrate skirt, but the first was too tight and the
second too ample, and when I begged her  to  hurry  up  (the  situation  was
beginning  to  frighten  me),  Lo viciously sent those nice presents of mine
hurtling into a corner, and put on yesterday's dress. When she was ready  at
last,  I  gave  her  a  lovely  new  purse of simulated calf (in which I had
slipped quite a few pennies and two mint-bright dimes) and told her  to  buy
herself a magazine in the lobby.
     "I'll  be  down  in  a  minute," I said. "And if I were you, my dear, I
would not talk to strangers."
     Except for my poor little gifts, there was not much to pack; but I  was
forced  to  devote  a  dangerous  amount  of  time  (was she up to something
downstairs?) to arranging the bed in such a way as to suggest the  abandoned
nest   of  a  restless  father  and  his  tomboy  daughter,  instead  of  an
ex-convict's saturnalia with a couple of fat old  whores.  Then  I  finished
dressing and had the hoary bellboy come up for the bags.
     Everything  was  fine.  There,  in  the  lobby,  she  sat,  deep  in an
overstuffed blood-red armchair, deep in a lurid movie magazine. A fellow  of
my age in tweeds (the genre of the place had changed overnight to a spurious
country-squire  atmosphere) was staring at my Lolita over his dead cigar and
stale newspaper. She wore her professional white socks and  saddle  oxfords,
and  that  bright  print  frock  with  the  square throat; a splash of jaded
lamplight brought out the golden down on her warm  brown  limbs.  There  she
sat,  her  legs carelessly highcrossed, and her pale eyes skimming along the
lines with every now and then a blink. Bill's wife had worshipped  him  from
afar  long  before  they  ever met: in fact, she used to secretly admire the
famous young actor as he ate sundaes in Schwab's  drugstore.  Nothing  could
have been more childish than her snubbed nose, freckled face or the purplish
spot  on  her  naked  neck  where  a  fairytale  vampire had feasted, or the
unconscious movement of her tongue exploring a touch of rosy rash around her
swollen lips; nothing could be more harmless than to  read  about  Jill,  an
energetic  starlet  who  made  her  own clothes and was a student of serious
literature; nothing could be more innocent than  the  part  in  that  glossy
brown  hair  with  that  silky  sheen  on  the temple; nothing could be more
naive--But what sickening envy the lecherous fellow whoever he was--come  to
think  of  it,  he  resembled  a little my Swiss uncle Gustave, also a great
admirer of le dиcouvert--would have experienced  had  he  known  that
every  nerve  in  me  was  still  anointed  and  ringed with the feel of her
body--the body of some immortal demon disguised as a female child.
     Was pink pig Mr. Swoon absolutely sure my wife had not  telephoned?  He
was.  If she did, would he tell her we had gone on to Aunt Clare's place? He
would, indeedie. I settled the bill and roused Lo from her chair.  She  read
to  the  car. Still reading, she was driven to a so-called coffee shop a few
blocks south. Oh, she ate all right. She even laid  aside  her  magazine  to
eat, but a queer dullness had replaced her usual cheerfulness. I knew little
Lo  could  be  very  nasty, so I braced myself and grinned, and waited for a
squall. I was unbathed, unshaven, and had had no bowel movement.  My  nerves
were  a-jangle.  I  did  not  like  the  way my little mistress shrugged her
shoulders and distended her nostrils when I attempted casual small talk. Had
Phyllis been in the know before she joined her parents  in  Maine?  I  asked
with  a smile. "Look," said Lo making a weeping grimace, "let us get off the
subject." I then tried--also unsuccessfully, no  matter  how  I  smacked  my
lips--to interest her in the road map. Our destination was, let me remind my
patient  reader  whose  meek temper Lo ought to have copied, the gay town of
Lepingville, somewhere near a hypothetical hospital. That destination was in
itself a perfectly arbitrary one (as, alas, so many were to be), and I shook
in my shoes as I wondered how to keep the whole arrangement  plausible,  and
what  other  plausible  objectives  to  invent after we had taken in all the
movies in Lepingville. More and more uncomfortable did Humbert Feel. It  was
something  quite special, that feeling: an oppressive, hideous constraint as
if I were sitting with the small ghost of somebody I had just killed.
     As she was in the act of getting back into the car,  an  expression  of
pain  flitted  across Lo's face. It flitted again, more meaningfully, as she
settled down beside me. No doubt, she reproduced it that second time for  my
benefit.  Foolishly,  I asked her what was the matter. "Nothing, you brute,"
she replied. "You  what?"  I  asked.  She  was  silent.  Leaving  Briceland.
Loquacious  Lo  was silent. Cold spiders of panic crawled down my back. This
was an orphan. This was  a  lone  child,  an  absolute  waif,  with  whom  a
heavy-limbed,  foul-smelling adult had had strenuous intercourse three times
that very morning. Whether or not the realization of a  lifelong  dream  had
surpassed  all  expectation,  it  had,  in  a  sense, overshot its mark--and
plunged into a nightmare. I had been careless, stupid, and ignoble. And  let
me  be  quite frank: somewhere at the bottom of that dark turmoil I felt the
writhing of desire again, so monstrous was my appetite  for  that  miserable
nymphet.  Mingled with the pangs of guilt was the agonizing through that her
mood might prevent me from making love to her again as soon  as  I  found  a
nice  country  road  where  to  park  in peace. In other words, poor Humbert
Humbert was dreadfully unhappy,  and  while  steadily  and  inanely  driving
toward  Lepingville,  he  kept  racking  his brains for some quip, under the
bright wing of which he might  dare  turn  to  his  seatmate.  It  was  she,
however, who broke the silence:
     "Oh, a squashed squirrel," she said. "What a shame."
     "Yes, isn't it?" (eager, hopeful Hum).
     "Let  us  stop at the next gas station," Lo continued. "I want to go to
the washroom."
     "We shall stop wherever you want,"  I  said.  And  then  as  a  lovely,
lonely,  supercilious  grove  (oaks, I thought; American trees at that stage
were beyond me) started to echo greenly the rush of our car, a red and ferny
road on our right turned its head before slanting into the woodland,  and  I
suggested we might perhaps--
     "Drive on," my Lo cried shrilly.
     "Righto. Take it easy." (Down, poor beast, down.)
     I glanced at her. Thank God, the child was smiling.
     "You  chump," she said, sweetly smiling at me. "You revolting creature.
I was a daisy-fresh girl, and look what you've done to me. I ought  to  call
the police and tell them you raped me. Oh, you dirty, dirty old man."
     Was  she just joking? An ominous hysterical note rang through her silly
words. Presently, making  a  sizzling  sound  with  her  lips,  she  started
complaining  of  pains,  said  she  could not sit, said I had torn something
inside her. The sweat rolled down my neck,  and  we  almost  ran  over  some
little animal or other that was crossing the road with tail erect, and again
my  vile-tempered  companion  called me an ugly name. When we stopped at the
filling station, she scrambled out without a word and was a long time  away.
Slowly,   lovingly,   an   elderly  friend  with  a  broken  nose  wiped  my
windshield--they do it differently at every place,  from  chamois  cloth  to
soapy brush, this fellow used a pink sponge.
     She  appeared at last. "Look," she said in that neutral voice that hurt
me so, "give me some dimes and nickels.  I  want  to  call  mother  in  that
hospital. What's the number?"
     "Get in," I said. "You can't call that number."
     "Why?"
     "Get in and slam the door."
     She  got  in  and slammed the door. The old garage man beamed at her. I
swung onto the highway.
     "Why can't I call my mother if I want to?"
     "Because," I answered, "your mother is dead."

        33

     In the gay town of Lepingville I bought her four books of comics, a box
of candy, a box of sanitary pads, two cokes, a manicure set, a travel  clock
with  a  luminous  dial,  a  ring with a real topaz, a tennis racket, roller
skates with white high shoes, field glasses, a portable radio  set,  chewing
gum,  a  transparent  raincoat,  sunglasses,  some  more garments--swooners,
shorts, all kinds of summer frocks. At the hotel we had separate rooms,  but
in  the  middle  of  the night she came sobbing into mine, and we made it up
very gently. You see, she had absolutely nowhere else to go.


         * PART TWO * 



        1

     It was then that began our extensive travels all over  the  States.  To
any other type of tourist accommodation I soon grew to prefer the Functional
Motel--clean,   neat,   safe   nooks,  ideal  places  for  sleep,  argument,
reconciliation, insatiable illicit love. At first, in my dread  of  arousing
suspicion,  I  would  eagerly pay for both sections of one double unit, each
containing a double bed. I wondered what type of foursome  this  arrangement
was  even  intended  for,  since only a pharisaic parody of privacy could be
attained by means of the incomplete partition dividing  the  cabin  or  room
into  two  communicating  love nests. By and by, the very possibilities that
such honest promiscuity suggested (two young couples merrily swapping  mates
or  a  child shamming sleep to earwitness primal sonorities) made me bolder,
and every now and then I would take  a  bed-and-cot  or  twin-bed  cabin,  a
prison  cell  or paradise, with yellow window shades pulled down to create a
morning illusion of Venice and sunshine when actually  it  was  Pennsylvania
and rain.
     We   came   to   know--nous   connшmes,  to  use  a  Flaubertian
intonation--the stone cottages under enormous Chateaubriandesque trees,  the
brick  unit,  the adobe unit, the stucco court, on what the Tour Book of the
Automobile Association describes as "shaded" or "spacious"  or  "landscaped"
grounds.  The  log  kind,  finished  in  knotty  pine,  reminded  Lo, by its
golden-brown glaze, of friend-chicken bones. We held in contempt  the  plain
whitewashed  clapboard Kabins, with their faint sewerish smell or some other
gloomy self-conscious stench and nothing to boast of (except  "good  beds"),
and  an  unsmiling landlady always prepared to have her gift (". . . well, I
could give you . . .") turned down.
     Nous connшmes (this is royal fun) the  would-be  enticements  of
their repetitious names--all those Sunset Motels, U-Beam Cottages, Hillcrest
Courts,  Pine  View Courts, Mountain View Courts, Skyline Courts, Park Plaza
Courts, Green Acres, Mac's Courts. There was sometimes a special line in the
write-up, such as "Children welcome, pets allowed" (You are  welcome,
you  are  allowed).  The  baths  were  mostly  tiled showers, with an
endless  variety  of  spouting   mechanisms,   but   with   one   definitely
non-Laodicean  characteristic in common, a propensity, while in use, to turn
instantly beastly hot or blindingly cold upon you, depending on whether your
neighbor turned on his cold or  his  hot  to  deprive  you  of  a  necessary
complement  in  the  shower  you  had  so carefully blended. Some motels had
instructions pasted  above  the  toilet  (on  whose  tank  the  towels  were
unhygienically  heaped)  asking  guests  not to throw into its bowl garbage,
beer cans, cartons, stillborn  babies;  others  had  special  notices  under
glass,  such  as  Things  to Do (Riding: You will often see riders coming
down Main Street on their way  back  from  a  romantic  moonlight  ride.
"Often at 3 a.m.," sneered unromantic Lo).
     Nous  connшmes  the  various types of motor court operators, the
reformed criminal, the retired teacher and  the  business  flop,  among  the
males;  and  the  motherly,  pseudo-ladylike  and madamic variants among the
females. And sometimes trains would cry in the  monstrously  hot  and  humid
night  with  heartrending and ominous plangency, mingling power and hysteria
in one desperate scream.
     We  avoided  Tourist  Homes,   country   cousins   of   Funeral   ones,
old-fashioned,  genteel  and  showerless,  with elaborate dressing tables in
depressingly  white-and-pink  little  bedrooms,  and  photographs   of   the
landlady's children in all their instars. But I did surrender, now and then,
to  Lo's  predilection  for  "real"  hotels. She would pick out in the book,
while I petted her in the parked car in  the  silence  of  a  dusk-mellowed,
mysterious  side-road,  some highly recommended lake lodge which offered all
sorts of things magnified by the flashlight she moved  over  them,  such  as
congenial  company, between-meals snacks, outdoor barbecues--but which in my
mind conjured up odious visions of stinking high school boys in  sweatshirts
and  an  ember-red  cheek  pressing  against  hers,  while poor Dr. Humbert,
embracing nothing but two masculine knees, would cold-humor his piles on the
damp turf. Most empty to her, too, were those "Colonial" Inns,  which  apart
from   "gracious   atmosphere"  and  picture  windows,  promised  "unlimited
quantities of M-m-m food." Treasured recollections of my  father's  palatial
hotel  sometimes  led  me  to  seek  for  its like in the strange country we
traveled through. I was soon discouraged; but Lo kept following the scent of
rich food ads, while I derived a not exclusively  economic  kick  from  such
roadside  signs as Timber Hotel, Children under 14 Free. On the other
hand, I shudder when recalling that soi-disant "high-class" resort in
a Midwestern state, which advertised "raid-the-icebox" midnight snacks  and,
intrigued  by  my  accent,  wanted  to know my dead wife's and dead mother's
maiden names. A two-days' stay there  cost  me  a  hundred  and  twenty-four
dollars!  And do you remember, Miranda, that other "ultrasmart" robbers' den
with complimentary morning coffee and circulating ice water, and no children
under sixteen (no Lolitas, of course)?
     Immediately upon arrival at one  of  the  plainer  motor  courts  which
became  our  habitual  haunts,  she  would  set the electric fan a-whirr, or
induce me to drop a quarter into the radio, or she would read all the  signs
and  inquire  with  a  whine  why she could not go riding up some advertised
trail or swimming in that local pool of warm mineral water. Most  often,  in
the  slouching,  bored  way  she  cultivated,  Lo  would  fall prostrate and
abominably desirable into a red springchair or a green chaise longue,  or  a
steamer  chair of striped canvas with footrest and canopy, or a sling chair,
or any other lawn chair under a garden umbrella on the patio, and  it  would
take  hours of blandishments, threats and promises to make her lend me for a
few seconds her brown limbs in the seclusion of the five-dollar room  before
undertaking anything she might prefer to my poor joy.
     A combination of naоvetи and deception, of charm and vulgarity, of blue
silks  and  rosy mirth, Lolita, when she chose, could be a most exasperating
brat. I was not really quite prepared for her fits of disorganized  boredom,
intense  and  vehement griping, her sprawling, droopy, dopey-eyed style, and
what is called goofing off--a kind of diffused clowning  which  she  thought
was  tough  in  a  boyish  hoodlum  way.  Mentally,  I  found  her  to  be a
disgustingly conventional little girl. Sweet hot jazz, square dancing, gooey
fudge sundaes, musicals,  movie  magazines  and  so  forth--these  were  the
obvious items in her list of beloved things. The Lord knows how many nickels
I  fed to the gorgeous music boxes that came with every meal we had! I still
hear the nasal voices of those invisibles serenading her, people with  names
like Sammy and Jo and Eddy and Tony and Peggy and Guy and Patty and Rex, and
sentimental  song  hits,  all  of  them  as similar to my ear as her various
candies were to my palate. She believed, with a kind of celestial trust, any
advertisement or advice that that appeared in Movie Love or Screen
Land--Starasil Starves Pimples, or  "You  better  watch  out  if  you're
wearing  your  shirttails  outside  your  jeans, gals, because Jill says you
shouldn't." If a roadside sign said: Visit Our Gift Shop--we  had  to
visit it, had to buy its Indian curios, dolls, copper jewelry, cactus
candy.  The  words  "novelties  and souvenirs" simply entranced her by their
trochaic lilt.  If  some  cafи  sign  proclaimed  Icecold  Drinks,  she  was
automatically  stirred, although all drinks everywhere were ice-cold. She it
was to whom ads were dedicated: the ideal consumer, the subject  and  object
of  every  foul  poster. And she attempted--unsuccessfully-to patronize only
those restaurants where the holy spirit of Huncan Dines had  descended  upon
the cute paper napkins and cottage-cheese-crested salads.
     In  those  days,  neither  she  nor  I had thought up yet the system of
monetary bribes which was to work such havoc with my nerves and  her  morals
somewhat  later.  I  relied  on  three  other  methods  to keep my pubescent
concubine in submission and passable temper. A few  years  before,  she  had
spent  a  rainy  summer  under  Miss  Phalen's  bleary  eye in a dilapidated
Appalachian farmhouse that had belonged to some gnarled Haze or other in the
dead past. It still stood among its rank acres of golden rod on the edge  of
a  flowerless  forest,  at the end of a permanently muddy road, twenty miles
from the nearest  hamlet.  Lo  recalled  that  scarecrow  of  a  house,  the
solitude,  the soggy old pastures, the wind, the bloated wilderness, with an
energy of disgust that distorted her mouth and  fattened  her  half-revealed
tongue.  And it was there that I warned her she would dwell with me in exile
for months and years if need be, studying under me French and Latin,  unless
her "present attitude" changed. Charlotte, I began to understand you!
     A  simple  child,  Lo  would  scream  no!  and frantically clutch at my
driving hand whenever I put a stop to her tornadoes of temper by turning  in
the  middle  of  a highway with the implication that I was about to take her
straight to that dark and dismal abode. The farther,  however,  we  traveled
away  from it west, the less tangible that menace became, and I had to adopt
other methods of persuasion.
     Among these, the reformatory threat  is  the  one  I  recall  with  the
deepest  moan  of  shame.  From  the  very beginning of our concourse, I was
clever enough to realize that I must secure  her  complete  co-operation  in
keeping  our  relations  secret,  that it should become a second nature with
her, no matter what grudge she might bear me, no matter what other  pleasure
she might seek.
     "Come  and  kiss  your  old  man,"  I  would  say, "and drop that moody
nonsense. In former times, when I was still your dream male [the reader will
notice what pains I took to speak Lo's tongue], you swooned  to  records  of
the  number  one  throb-and-sob idol of your coevals [Lo: "Of my what? Speak
English"]. That idol of your pals sounded, you thought, like friend Humbert.
But now, I am just your old man, a dream  dad  protecting  his  dream
daughter.
     "My chхre  Dolorиs !  I  want to protect you, dear, from all the
horrors that happen to little girls in coal sheds and alley ways, and  alas,
comme  vous  le  savez trop bien, ma gentille, in the blueberry woods
during the bluest of summers. Through thick and thin I will still stay  your
guardian, and if you are good, I hope a court may legalize that guardianship
before  long.  Let  us,  however,  forget,  Dolores  Haze,  so-called  legal
terminology, terminology  that  accepts  as  rational  the  term  'lewd  and
lascivious  cohabitation.'  I  am  not  a  criminal sexual psychopath taking
indecent liberties with a child. The rapist was Charlie  Holmes;  I  am  the
therapist--a  matter  of  nice  spacing in the way of distinction. I am your
daddum, Lo. Look, I've a learned book here about young girls. Look, darling,
what it says. I quote: the normal girl--normal, mark you--the normal girl is
usually extremely anxious to  please  her  father.  She  feels  in  him  the
forerunner  of  the  desired elusive male ('elusive' is good, by Polonius!).
The wise mother (and your poor mother would have been wise, had  she  lived)
will    encourage    a    companionship   between   father   and   daughter,
realizing--excuse the corny style--that the girl forms her ideals of romance
and of men from her association with her father. Now, what association  does
this  cheery book mean--and recommend? I quote again: Among Sicilians sexual
relations between a father and his daughter are  accepted  as  a  matter  of
course,  and  the  girl  who participates in such relationship is not looked
upon with disapproval by the society of which  she  is  part.  I'm  a  great
admirer  of  Sicilians,  fine athletes, fine musicians, fine upright people,
Lo, and great lovers. But let's not digress. Only the other day we  read  in
the  newspapers  some bunkum about a middle-aged morals offender who pleaded
guilty to the violation of the Mann Act and to transporting a  nine-year-old
girl  across  state  lines for immoral purposes, whatever these are. Dolores
darling! You are not nine but almost thirteen, and I would not advise you to
consider yourself my cross-country slave, and I  deplore  the  Mann  Act  as
lending  itself  to  a  dreadful pun, the revenge that the Gods of Semantics
take against tight-zippered Philistines. I am your father, and  I  am
speaking English, and I love you.
     "Finally,  let  us  see what happens if you, a minor, accused of having
impaired the morals of an adult in a respectable inn, what  happens  if  you
complain  to the police of my having kidnapped and raped you? Let us suppose
they believe you. A minor female, who allows a  person  over  twenty-one  to
know her carnally, involves her victim into statutory rape, or second-degree
sodomy,  depending  on  the technique; and the maximum penalty is ten years.
So, I go to jail. Okay. I go to jail. But what happens to  you,  my  orphan?
Well,  you  are  luckier.  You  become  the ward of the Department of Public
Welfare--which I am afraid sounds a little bleak. A nice grim matron of  the
Miss  Phalen  type,  but more rigid and not a drinking woman, will take away
your lipstick and fancy clothes. No more gadding about! I don't know if  you
have  ever  heard of the laws relating to dependent, neglected, incorrigible
and delinquent children.  While  I  stand  gripping  the  bars,  you,  happy
neglected child, will be given a choice of various dwelling places, all more
or  less  the  same,  the correctional school, the reformatory, the juvenile
detention home, or one of those admirable girls' protectories where you knit
things, and sing hymns, and have rancid pancakes on  Sundays.  You  will  go
there,  Lolita--my  Lolita,  this  Lolita  will  leave plainer
words, if we two are found out, you will be analyzed and  institutionalized,
my  pet, c'est tout. You will dwell, my Lolita will dwell (come here,
my brown flower) with thirty-nine other dopes  in  a  dirty  dormitory  (no,
allow  me,  please)  under  the  supervision of hideous matrons. This is the
situation, this is the choice. Don't you think that under the  circumstances
Dolores Haze had better stick to her old man?"
     By  rubbing  all  this in, I succeeded in terrorizing Lo, who despite a
certain brash alertness of manner and spurts of wit was not as intelligent a
child as her I.Q.  might  suggest.  But  if  I  managed  to  establish  that
background of shared secrecy and shared guilt, I was much less successful in
keeping  her  in good humor. Every morning during our yearlong travels I had
to devise some expectation, some special point in space and time for her  to
look  forward  to, for her to survive till bedtime. Otherwise, deprived of a
shaping  and  sustaining  purpose,  the  skeleton  of  her  day  sagged  and
collapsed. The object in view might be anything--a lighthouse in Virginia, a
natural  cave  in  Arkansas  converted  to  a cafи, a collection of guns and
violins somewhere in Oklahoma,  a  replica  of  the  Grotto  of  Lourdes  in
Louisiana,  shabby  photographs  of  the  bonanza mining period in the local
museum of a Rocky Mountains resort, anything whatsoever--but it  had  to  be
there, in front of us, like a fixed star, although as likely as not Lo would
feign gagging as soon as we got to it.
     By  putting  the  geography  of the United States into motion, I did my
best for hours on end to give her  the  impression  of  "going  places,"  of
rolling  on  to  some  definite destination, to some unusual delight. I have
never seen such smooth amiable roads as those that now radiated  before  us,
across  the crazy quilt of forty-eight states. Voraciously we consumed those
long highways, in rapt silence we  glided  over  their  glossy  black  dance
floors.  Not  only  had  Lo no eye for scenery but she furiously resented my
calling her attention to this or that enchanting detail of landscape;  which
I myself learned to discern only after being exposed for quite a time to the
delicate  beauty ever present in the margin of our undeserving journey. By a
paradox of pictorial thought, the average lowland North-American countryside
had at first seemed to me something  I  accepted  with  a  shock  of  amused
recognition  because  of  those  painted oilclothes which were imported from
America in the old days to be  hung  above  washstands  in  Central-European
nurseries,  and  which fascinated a drowsy child at bed time with the rustic
green views they depicted--opaque curly trees, a barn, cattle, a brook,  the
dull white of vague orchards in bloom, and perhaps a stone fence or hills of
greenish  gouache.  But gradually the models of those elementary rusticities
became stranger and stranger to the eye, the nearer I  came  to  know  them.
Beyond  the  tilled  plain,  beyond  the  toy  roofs,  there would be a slow
suffusion of inutile loveliness, a low sun in a platinum haze with  a  warm,
peeled-peach  tinge pervading the upper edge of a two-dimensional, dove-gray
cloud fusing with the distant amorous mist. There might be a line of  spaced
trees  silhouetted  against  the  horizon,  and  hot  still  noons  above  a
wilderness of clover, and Claude  Lorrain  clouds  inscribed  remotely  into
misty  azure  with  only  their cumulus part conspicuous against the neutral
swoon of the background. Or again, it might be a  stern  El  Greco  horizon,
pregnant  with inky rain, and a passing glimpse of some mummy-necked farmer,
and all around alternating strips of quick-silverish water and  harsh  green
corn, the whole arrangement opening like a fan, somewhere in Kansas.
     Now and then, in the vastness of those plains, huge trees would advance
toward  us  to cluster self-consciously by the roadside and provide a bit of
humanitarian shade above a picnic table, with sun  flecks,  flattened  paper
cups,  samaras  and discarded ice-cream sticks littering the brown ground. A
great user of roadside facilities, my unfastidious Lo would  be  charmed  by
toilet  signs--Guys-Gals,  John-Jane, Jack-Jill and even Buck's-Doe's; while
lost in an artist's dream, I would stare at the  honest  brightness  of  the
gasoline  paraphernalia  against the splendid green of oaks, or at a distant
hill scrambling out--scarred  but  still  untamed--from  the  wilderness  of
agriculture that was trying to swallow it.
     At  night, tall trucks studded with colored lights, like dreadful giant
Christmas trees, loomed in the darkness and thundered by the belated  little
sedan.  And  again  next  day a thinly populated sky, losing its blue to the
heat, would melt overhead, and Lo would clamor for a drink, and  her  cheeks
would  hollow  vigorously  over  the  straw,  and  the car inside would be a
furnace when we got in again, and the road shimmered ahead,  with  a  remote
car changing its shape mirage-like in the surface glare, and seeming to hang
for  a  moment,  old-fashionedly square and high, in the hot haze. And as we
pushed  westward,  patches  of  what  the  garage-man  called  "sage  brush"
appeared, and then the mysterious outlines of table-like hills, and then red
bluffs  ink-blotted  with  junipers,  and then a mountain range, dun grading
into blue, and blue into dream, and the desert would meet us with  a  steady
gale,  dust,  gray  thorn bushes, and hideous bits of tissue paper mimicking
pale flowers among the prickles of wind-tortured withered stalks  all  along
the  highway;  in  the  middle of which  there sometimes stood simple cows,
immobilized in a position (tail left, white eyelashes right) cutting  across
all human rules of traffic.
     My  lawyer has suggested I give a clear, frank account of the itinerary
we followed, and I suppose I have reached here a point where I cannot  avoid
that  chore. Roughly, during that mad year (August 1947 to August 1948), our
route began with a series  of  wiggles  and  whorls  in  New  England,  then
meandered  south,  up  and down, east and west; dipped deep into ce qu'on
appelle Dixieland, avoided  Florida  because  the  Farlows  were  there,
veered  west,  zigzagged  through  corn  belts and cotton belts (this is not
too clear I am afraid, Clarence, but I did not keep  any  notes,  and
have at my disposal only an atrociously crippled tour book in three volumes,
almost  a  symbol  of  my  torn  and  tattered past, in which to check these
recollections);  crossed  and  recrossed  the  Rockies,  straggled   through
southern  deserts  where  we  wintered;  reached  the  Pacific, turned north
through the pale lilac fluff of flowering shrubs along forest roads;  almost
reached  the  Canadian border; and proceeded east, across good lands and bad
lands, back to agriculture on a grand scale, avoiding, despite  little  Lo's
strident  remonstrations,  little  Lo's  birthplace, in a corn, coal and hog
producing area; and finally returned to the fold of the East,  petering  out
in the college town of Beardsley.

        2

     Now,  in perusing what follows, the reader should bear in mind not only
the general circuit as adumbrated above, with its many sidetrips and tourist
traps, secondary circles and skittish deviations, but also the fact that far
from being an indolent partie  de  plaisir,  our  tour  was  a  hard,
twisted,  teleological growth, whose sole raison d'йtre (these French
clichиs are symptomatic) was to keep my companion  in  passable  humor  from
kiss to kiss.
     Thumbing  through  that battered tour book, I dimly evoke that Magnolia
Garden in a southern state which cost me four bucks and which, according  to
the  ad  in  the  book,  you  must  visit  for  three  reasons: because John
Galsworthy (a stone-dead writer  of  sorts)  acclaimed  it  as  the  world's
fairest  garden; because in 1900 Baedeker's Guide had marked it with a star;
and finally, because . . . O, Reader,  My  Reader,  guess!  .  .  .  because
children  (and  by  Jingo was not my Lolita a child!) will "walk starry-eyed
and reverently through this foretaste of Heaven, drinking in beauty that can
influence a life." "Not mine," said grim Lo, and settled  down  on  a  bench
with the fillings of two Sunday papers in her lovely lap.
     We  passed  and  re-passed through the whole gamut of American roadside
restaurants, from the lowly Eat with its deer head (dark trace of long  tear
at  inner  canthus), "humorous" picture post cards of the posterior "Kurort"
type, impaled guest  checks,  life  savers,  sunglasses,  adman  visions  of
celestial  sundaes,  one  half  of a chocolate cake under glass, and several
horribly experienced flies zigzagging over  the  sticky  sugar-pour  on  the
ignoble  counter;  and  all  the way to the expensive place with the subdued
lights, preposterously poor  table  linen,  inept  waiters  (ex-convicts  or
college  boys), the roan back of a screen actress, the sable eyebrows of her
male of the moment, and an orchestra of zoot-suiters with trumpets.
     We inspected the world's largest  stalagmite  in  a  cave  where  three
southeastern  states  have  a  family  reunion; admission by age; adults one
dollar, pubescents sixty cents. A granite obelisk commemorating  the  Battle
of  Blue Licks, with old bones and Indian pottery in the museum nearby, Lo a
dime, very reasonable. The present log cabin boldly simulating the past  log
cabin  where  Lincoln  was  born. A boulder, with a plaque, in memory of the
author of "Trees" (by now we are in Poplar Cove, N.C., reached  by  what  my
kind, tolerant, usually so restrained tour book angrily calls "a very narrow
road,  poorly maintained," to which, though no Kilmerite, I subscribe). From
a hired motor-boat operated by an elderly, but  still  repulsively  handsome
White  Russian,  a  baron they said (Lo's palms were damp, the little fool),
who had known in California  good  old  Maximovich  and  Valeria,  we  could
distinguish  the inaccessible "millionaires' colony" on an island, somewhere
off the Georgia coast. We inspected further: a collection of European  hotel
picture  post  cards in a museum devoted to hobbies at a Mississippi resort,
where with a hot wave of pride I discovered a colored photo of  my  father's
Mirana, its striped awnings, its flag flying above the retouched palm trees.
"So  what?"  said Lo, squinting at the bronzed owner of an expensive car who
had followed us into the Hobby House. Relics of the cotton era. A forest  in
Arkansas and, on her brown shoulder, a raised purple-pink swelling (the work
of  some  gnat) which I eased of its beautiful transparent poison between my
long thumbnails and then sucked till  I  was  gorged  on  her  spicy  blood.
Bourbon  Street (in a town named New Orleans) whose sidewalks, said the tour
book, "may [I liked the "may"] feature  entertainment  by  pickaninnies  who
will  {I  liked  the  "will" even better] tap-dance for pennies" (what fun),
while "its numerous  small  and  intimate  night  clubs  are  thronged  with
visitors"  (naughty).  Collections  of frontier lore. Ante-bellum homes with
iron-trellis balconies and hand-worked stairs, the  kind  down  which  movie
ladies  with  sun-kissed  shoulders  run in rich Technicolor, holding up the
fronts of their flounced skirts with both little hands in that special  way,
and the devoted Negress shaking her head on the upper landing. The Menninger
Foundation,  a  psychiatric  clinic,  just  for  the  heck of it. A patch of
beautifully eroded clay; and yucca blossoms, so pure,  so  waxy,  but  lousy
with creeping white flies. Independence, Missouri, the starting point of the
Old  Oregon Trail; and Abiliene, Kansas, the home of the Wild Bill Something
Rodeo. Distant mountains. Near mountains. More  mountains;  bluish  beauties
never   attainable,   or  ever  turning  into  inhabited  hill  after  hill;
south-eastern  ranges,  altitudinal  failures  as   alps   go;   heart   and
sky-piercing  snow-veined  gray colossi of stone, relentless peaks appearing
from nowhere at a turn of the highway; timbered enormities, with a system of
neatly overlapping dark firs, interrupted in places by pale puffs of  aspen;
pink  and  lilac formations, Pharaonic, phallic, "too prehistoric for words"
(blasи Lo); buttes of black lava; early spring mountains with young-elephant
lanugo along their spines;  end-of-the-summer  mountains,  all  hunched  up,
their  heavy  Egyptian  limbs  folded under folds of tawny moth-eaten plush;
oatmeal hills, flecked with green round oaks; a last rufous mountain with  a
rich rug of lucerne at its foot.
     Moreover, we inspected: Little Iceberg Lake, somewhere in Colorado, and
the snow  banks,  and  the cushionets of tiny alpine flowers, and more snow;
down which Lo in red-peaked cap  tried  to  slide,  and  squealed,  and  was
snowballed  by  some youngsters, and retaliated in kind comme on dit.
Skeletons of burned aspens, patches of  spired  blue  flowers.  The  various
items  of  a  scenic  drive.  Hundreds  of  scenic drives, thousands of Bear
Creeks, Soda  Springs,  Painted  Canyons.  Texas,  a  drought-struck  plain.
Crystal Chamber in the longest cave in the world, children under 12 free, Lo
a  young captive. A collection of a local lady's homemade sculptures, closed
on a miserable Monday morning, dust, wind, witherland. Conception Park, in a
town on the Mexican border which I dared not  cross.  There  and  elsewhere,
hundreds  of  gray  hummingbirds  in  the  dusk,  probing the throats of dim
flowers. Shakespeare, a ghost town in New Mexico, where bad man Russian Bill
was colorfully hanged seventy years ago. Fish hatcheries.  Cliff  dwellings.
The  mummy  of a child (Florentine Bea's Indian contemporary). Our twentieth
Hell's Canyon. Our fiftieth Gateway to something or other  fide  that
tour  book,  the  cover  of  which  had been lost by that time. A tick in my
groin. Always the same three old men, in hats and  suspenders,  idling  away
the  summer  afternoon under the trees near the public fountain. A hazy blue
view beyond railings on a mountain pass, and the backs of a family  enjoying
it   (with   Lo,   in   a  hot,  happy,  wild,  intense,  hopeful,  hopeless
whisper--"Look, the McCrystals, please, let's talk to  them,  please"--let's
talk  to  them,  reader!--"please!  I'll do anything you want, oh, please. .
.").  Indian  ceremonial  dances,   strictly   commercial.   ART:   American
Refrigerator  Transit Company. Obvious Arizona, pueblo dwellings, aboriginal
pictographs, a dinosaur track in  a  desert  canyon,  printed  there  thirty
million  years  ago, when I was a child. A lanky, six-foot, pale boy with an
active Adam's apple, ogling Lo and her orange-brown bare  midriff,  which  I
kissed  five  minutes  later,  Jack.  Winter  in  the  desert, spring in the
foothills, almonds in bloom. Reno, a dreary town in Nevada, with a nightlife
said to be "cosmopolitan and mature." A winery in California, with a  church
built in the shape of a wine barrel. Death Valley. Scotty's Castle. Works of
Art  collected  by  one  Rogers  over  a period of years. The ugly villas of
handsome actresses. R. L.  Stevenson's  footprint  on  an  extinct  volcano.
Mission  Dolores: good title for book. Surf-carved sandstone festoons. A man
having a lavish epileptic fit on the ground in  Russian  Gulch  State  Park.
Blue, blue Crater Lake. A fish hatchery in Idaho and the State Penitentiary.
Somber  Yellowstone Park and its colored hot springs, baby geysers, rainbows
of bubbling mud--symbols of my passion. A herd of antelopes  in  a  wildlife
refuge.  Our  hundredth  cavern,  adults  one  dollar, Lolita fifty cents. A
chateau built by a French marquess in N.D. The Corn Palace in S.D.; and  the
huge  heads of presidents carved in towering granite. The Bearded Woman read
our jingle and now she is no longer single. A zoo in Indiana where  a  large
troop  of  monkeys  lived  on  concrete  replica  of  Christopher  Columbus'
flagship. Billions of dead, or halfdead, fish-smelling May  flies  in  every
window  of  every  eating place all along a dreary sandy shore. Fat gulls on
big stones as seen from the ferry  City  of  Cheboygan,  whose  brown
woolly  smoke  arched  and  dipped  over  the  green  shadow  it cast on the
aquamarine lake. A motel whose ventilator pipe passed under the city  sewer.
Lincoln's  home,  largely  spurious,  with parlor books and period furniture
that most visitors reverently accepted as personal belongings.
     We had rows, minor and major. The biggest ones we had  took  place:  at
Lacework  Cabins,  Virginia;  on Park Avenue, Little Rock, near a school; on
Milner Pass, 10,759 feet high, in Colorado; at the corner of Seventh  Street
and  Central  Avenue  in  Phoenix,  Arizona;  on  Third Street, Los Angeles,
because the tickets to some studio or other were sold out; at a motel called
Poplar Shade in Utah, where six pubescent trees were scarcely taller than my
Lolita, and where she asked, ю propos de rien, how long did  I  think
we  were  going  to  live in stuffy cabins, doing filthy things together and
never behaving like ordinary people? On N. Broadway, Burns,  Oregon,  corner
of  W. Washington, facing Safeway, a grocery. In some little town in the Sun
Valley of Idaho, before a brick hotel, pale and flushed bricks nicely mixed,
with, opposite, a poplar playing its liquid shadows all over the local Honor
Roll. In a sage brush wilderness, between Pinedale and Farson. Somewhere  in
Nebraska,  on  Main  Street, near the First National Bank, established 1889,
with a view of a railway crossing in the vista of  the  street,  and  beyond
that  the white organ pipes of a multiple silo. And on McEwen St., corner of
Wheaton Ave., in a Michigan town bearing his first name.
     We came to know the curious roadside species, Hitchhiking Man,  Homo
pollex  of  science, with all its many sub-species and forms; the modest
soldier, spic and  span,  quietly  waiting,  quietly  conscious  of  khaki's
viatric  appeal;  the schoolboy wishing to go two blocks; the killer wishing
to go two thousand  miles;  the  mysterious,  nervous,  elderly  gent,  with
brand-new  suitcase and clipped mustache; a trio of optimistic Mexicans; the
college student displaying the grime of vacational outdoor work  as  proudly
as  the  name  of  the  famous  college  arching  across  the  front  of his
sweatshirt; the desperate lady whose battery  has  just  died  on  her;  the
clean-cut,  glossy-haired,  shifty-eyed,  white-faced  young  beasts in loud
shirts and coats, vigorously, almost priapically thrusting out tense  thumbs
to tempt lone women or sadsack salesmen with fancy cravings.
     "Let's take him," Lo would often plead, rubbing her knees together in a
way she  had,  as some particularly disgusting pollex, some man of my
age and shoulder breadth, with  the  face  ю  claques  of  unemployed
actor, walked backwards, practically in the path of our car.
     Oh, I had to keep a very sharp eye on Lo, little limp Lo! Owing perhaps
to constant  amorous  exercise,  she  radiated,  despite  her  very childish
appearance, some special languorous glow which threw garage  fellows,  hotel
pages,  vacationists,  goons  in  luxurious  cars,  maroon morons near blued
pools, into fits of concupiscence which might have tickled my pride, had  it
not  incensed my jealousy. For little Lo was aware of that glow of hers, and
I would often catch her coulant un regard in the  direction  of  some
amiable  male,  some  grease  monkey, with a sinewy golden-brown forearm and
watch-braceleted wrist, and hardly had I turned my back to go and  buy  this
very Lo a lollipop, than I would hear her and the fair mechanic burst into a
perfect love song of wisecracks.
     When,  during  our  longer  stops,  I  would relax after a particularly
violent morning in bed, and out of the goodness of  my  lulled  heart  allow
her--indulgent  Hum!--to  visit the rose garden or children's library across
the street with a motor  court  neighbor's  plain  little  Mary  and  Mary's
eight-year-old  brother, Lo would come back an hour late, with barefoot Mary
trailing far behind, and the little boy  metamorphosed  into  two  gangling,
golden-haired  high school uglies, all muscles and gonorrhea. The reader may
well imagine what I answered my pet when--rather uncertainly,  I  admit--she
would  ask  me  if  she could go with Carl and Al here to the roller-skating
rink.
     I remember the first time, a dusty windy afternoon, I did let her go to
one such rink. Cruelly she said it would be no fun  if  I  accompanied  her,
since  that  time  of  day  was  reserved  for  teenagers. We wrangled out a
compromise: I remained in the car, among other (empty) cars with their noses
to the canvas-topped open-air rink, where some fifty young people,  many  in
pairs,  were  endlessly rolling round and round to mechanical music, and the
wind silvered the trees. Dolly wore blue jeans and white high shoes, as most
of the other girls did. I kept  counting  the  revolutions  of  the  rolling
crowd--and  suddenly  she  was  missing. When she rolled past again, she was
together with three hoodlums whom I had heard analyze a  moment  before  the
girl  skaters  from  the outside--and jeer at a lovely leggy young thing who
had arrived clad in red shorts instead of those jeans and slacks.
     At inspection stations on highways entering Arizona  or  California,  a
policeman's  cousin  would peer with such intensity at us that my poor heart
wobbled. "Any honey?" he  would  inquire,  and  every  time  my  sweet  fool
giggled.  I still have, vibrating all along my optic nerve, visions of Lo on
horseback, a link in the chain of a guided trip along  a  bridle  trail:  Lo
bobbing  at a walking pace, with an old woman rider in front and a lecherous
red-necked  dude-rancher  behind;  and  I  behind  him,   hating   his   fat
flowery-shirted  back  even more fervently than a motorist does a slow truck
on a mountain road. Or else, at a ski lodge, I would see her  floating  away
from  me,  celestial and solitary, in an ethereal chairlift, up and up, to a
glittering summit where laughing athletes stripped to the waist were waiting
for her, for her.
     In whatever town we stopped I would inquire, in my polite European way,
anent the whereabouts of natatoriums, museums, local schools, the number  of
children in the nearest school and so forth; and at school bus time, smiling
and  twitching  a little (I discovered this tic nerveux because cruel
Lo was the first to mimic it), I would park at a strategic  point,  with  my
vagrant  schoolgirl  beside  me  in  the  car,  to  watch the children leave
school--always a pretty sight. This sort of thing soon began to bore  my  so
easily  bored  Lolita,  and,  having  a  childish lack of sympathy for other
people's whims, she would insult me and my desire  to  have  her  caress  me
while  blue-eyed  little  brunettes  in  blue  shorts,  copperheads in green
boleros, and blurred boyish blondes in faded slacks passed by in the sun.
     As a sort of compromise,  I  freely  advocated  whenever  and  wherever
possible  the  use  of  swimming  pools with other girl-children. She adored
brilliant water and was a remarkably smart diver. Comfortably robed, I would
settle down in the rich post-meridian shade after my  own  demure  dip,  and
there  I  would  sit,  with  a  dummy  book or a bag of bonbons, or both, or
nothing but  my  tingling  glands,  and  watch  her  gambol,  rubber-capped,
bepearled, smoothly tanned, as glad as an ad, in her trim-fitted satin pants
and  shirred  bra.  Pubescent sweetheart! How smugly would I marvel that she
was mine, mine, mine, and revise the recent matitudinal swoon to the moan of
the mourning doves, and devise the  late  afternoon  one,  and  slitting  my
sun-speared  eyes,  compare  Lolita  to whatever other nymphets parsimonious
chance collected around her for my anthological  delectation  and  judgment;
and  today,  putting  my hand on my ailing heart, I really do not think that
any of them ever surpassed her in desirability, or if they did,  it  was  so
two  or  three  times at the most, in a certain light, with certain perfumes
blended in the air--once in the hopeless case of a pale Spanish  child,  the
daughter   of   a   heavy-jawed   nobleman,  and  another  time--mais  je
divague.
     Naturally, I had to be  always  wary,  fully  realizing,  in  my  lucid
jealousy,  the danger of those dazzling romps. I had only to turn away for a
moment--to walk, say, a few steps in order to see if our cabin was  at  last
ready  after the morning change of linen--and Lo and Behold, upon returning,
I would find the former, les yeux perdus,  dipping  and  kicking  her
long-toed feet in the water on the stone edge of which she lolled, while, on
either  side of her, there crouched a brun adolescent whom her russet
beauty and the quicksilver in the baby folds of her  stomach  were  sure  to
cause to se tordre--oh Baudelaire!--in recurrent dreams for months to
come.
     I tried to teach her to play tennis so we might have more amusements in
common;  but  although  I had been a good player in my prime, I proved to be
hopeless as a teacher; and so, in California, I got her to take a number  of
very  expensive  lessons  with  a famous coach, a husky, wrinkled old-timer,
with a harem of ball boys; he looked an awful wreck off the court,  but  now
and then, when, in the course of a lesson, to keep up the exchange, he would
put  out  as  it  were an exquisite spring blossom of a stroke and twang the
ball back to his pupil, that divine  delicacy  of  absolute  power  made  me
recall  that,  thirty years before, I had seen him in Cannes demolish
the great Gobbert! Until she began taking those lessons, I thought she would
never learn the game. On this or that hotel court I would drill Lo, and  try
to  relive the days when in a hot gale, a daze of dust, and queer lassitude,
I fed ball after ball to gay, innocent, elegant Annabel (gleam of  bracelet,
pleated  white skirt, black velvet hair band). With every word of persistent
advice I would only augment Lo's sullen fury. To our  games,  oddly  enough,
she  preferred--at  least,  before  we reached California--formless pat ball
approximations--more ball hunting than  actual  play--with  a  wispy,  weak,
wonderfully pretty in an ange gauche way coeval. A helpful spectator,
I would go up to that other child, and inhale her faint musky fragrance as I
touched her forearm and held her knobby wrist, and push this way or that her
cool  thigh  to  show her the back-hand stance. In the meantime, Lo, bending
forward, would let her sunny-brown curls  hang  forward  as  she  stuck  her
racket, like a cripple's stick, into the ground and emitted a tremendous ugh
of  disgust  at  my intrusion. I would leave them to their game and look on,
comparing their bodies in motion, a silk scarf round my throat; this was  in
south  Arizona,  I think--and the days had a lazy lining warmth, and awkward
Lo would slash at the ball and miss it, and curse, and send a simulacrum  of
a  serve  into the net, and show the wet glistening young down of her armpit
as she brandished her racket in despair, and her even more  insipid  partner
would  dutifully rush out after every ball, and retrieve none; but both were
enjoying themselves beautifully, and in clear ringing tones kept  the  exact
score of their ineptitudes all the time.
     One  day,  I  remember,  I  offered  to bring them cold drinks from the
hotel, and went up the gravel path, and came back with two tall  glasses  of
pineapple  juice,  soda and ice; and then a sudden void within my chest made
me stop as I saw that the tennis court was deserted. I stooped to  set  down
the  glasses  on  a bench and for some reason, with a kind of icy vividness,
saw Charlotte's face in death, and I glanced around, and noticed Lo in white
shorts receding through the speckled shadow of a garden path in the  company
of  a tall man who carried two tennis rackets. I sprang after them, but as I
was crashing through the shrubbery, I saw, in an  alternate  vision,  as  if
life's  course  constantly  branched,  Lo,  in slacks, and her companion, in
shorts, trudging up and down a small weedy area,  and  beating  bushes  with
their rackets in listless search for their last lost ball.
     I  itemize these sunny nothings mainly to prove to my judges that I did
everything in my power to give my Lolita a really good time. How charming it
was to see her, a child herself, showing  another  child  some  of  her  few
accomplishments, such as for example a special way of jumping rope. With her
right  hand  holding  her  left  arm  behind  her  untanned back, the lesser
nymphet, a diaphanous darling, would be all eyes, as the  pavonine  sun  was
all eyes on the gravel under the flowering trees, while in the midst of that
oculate  paradise,  my  freckled  and  raffish  lass  skipped, repeating the
movements of so many others I had gloated over  on  the  sun-shot,  watered,
damp-smelling sidewalks and ramparts of ancient Europe. Presently, she would
hand  the  rope back to her little Spanish friend, and watch in her turn the
repeated lesson, and brush away the hair from her brow, and fold  her  arms,
and step on one toe with the other, or drop her hands loosely upon her still
unflared  hips, and I would satisfy myself that the damned staff had at last
finished cleaning up our cottage; whereupon, flashing a smile  to  the  shy,
dark-haired  page girl of my princess and thrusting my fatherly fingers deep
into Lo's hair from behind, and then gently but firmly clasping them  around
the  nape of her neck, I would lead my reluctant pet to our small home for a
quick connection before dinner.
     "Whose cat has scratched poor you?" A full-blown fleshy handsome  woman
of the repulsive type to which I was particularly attractive might ask me at
the  "lodge,"  during  a table d'hote dinner followed by dancing promised to
Lo. This was one of the reasons why I tried to keep as far away from  people
as  possible,  while  Lo,  on the other hand, would do her utmost to draw as
many potential witnesses into her orbit as she could.
     She would be, figuratively speaking wagging her tiny  tail,  her  whole
behind  in  fact as little bitches do--while some grinning stranger accosted
us and began a bright conversation  with  a  comparative  study  of  license
plates. "Long way from home!" Inquisitive parents, in order to pump Lo about
me,  would  suggest  her  going  to a movie with their children. We had some
close shaves. The waterfall  nuisance  pursued  me  of  course  in  all  our
caravansaries.  But  I  never  realized  how wafery their wall substance was
until one evening, after I had loved  too  loudly,  a  neighbor's  masculine
cough  filled the pause as clearly as mine would have done; and next morning
as I was having breakfast at the milk bar (Lo was  a  late  sleeper,  and  I
liked  to  bring her a pot of hot coffee in bed), my neighbor of the eve, an
elderly fool  wearing  plain  glasses  on  his  long  virtuous  nose  and  a
convention badge on his lapel, somehow managed to rig up a conversation with
me,  in  the course of which he inquired, if my missus was like his missus a
rather reluctant get-upper when not on the farm; and  had  not  the  hideous
danger  I  was  skirting  almost suffocated me, I might have enjoyed the odd
look of surprise  on  his  thin-lipped  weather-beaten  face  when  I  dryly
answered, as I slithered off my stool, that I was thank God a widower.
     How  sweet  it  was to bring that coffee to her, and then deny it until
she had done her morning duty. And I was such a thoughtful  friend,  such  a
passionate  father,  such a good pediatrician, attending to all the wants of
my little auburn brunette's body! My only grudge against nature was  that  I
could  not  turn  my Lolita inside out and apply voracious lips to her young
matrix, her unknown heart, her nacreous liver, the sea-grapes of her  lungs,
her  comely  twin  kidneys. On especially tropical afternoons, in the sticky
closeness of the siesta, I liked the cool feel of armchair  leather  against
my  massive nakedness as I held her in my lap. There she would be, a typical
kid picking her nose while engrossed in the lighter sections of a newspaper,
as indifferent to my ecstasy as if it were something she  had  sat  upon,  a
shoe, a doll, the handle of a tennis racket, and was too indolent to remove.
Her eyes would follow the adventures of her favorite strip characters: there
was  one  well-drawn  sloppy  bobby-soxer,  with high cheekbones and angular
gestures, that I was not above enjoying myself; she studied the photographic
results of head-on collisions; she never doubted the reality of place, time,
and circumstance alleged to match the publicity  pictures  of  naked-thighed
beauties;  and  she  was  curiously  fascinated  by the photographs of local
brides, some in full wedding apparel, holding bouquets and wearing glasses.
     A fly would settle and walk in the vicinity of her navel or explore her
tender pale areolas. She tried to catch it in her fist (Charlotte's  method)
and then would turn to the column Let's Explore Your Mind.
     "Let's  explore  your  mind.  Would  sex  crimes be reduced if children
obeyed a few don'ts? Don't play around public toilets. Don't take  candy  or
rides from strangers. If picked up, mark down the license of the car."
     ". . . and the brand of the candy," I volunteered.
     She went on, her cheek (recedent) against mine (pursuant); and this was
a good day, mark, O reader!
     "If you don't have a pencil, but are old enough to read--"
     "We," I quip-quoted, "medieval mariners, have placed in this bottle--"
     "If,"  she  repeated,  "you  don't have a pencil, but are old enough to
read and write--this is what the guy means, isn't it, you dope--=scratch the
number somehow on the roadside."
     "With your little claws, Lolita."
     She had entered  my  world,  umber  and  black  Humberland,  with  rash
curiosity; she surveyed it with a shrug of amused distaste; and it seemed to
me  now that she was ready to turn away from it with something akin to plain
repulsion. Never did she vibrate under my touch, and a strident "what  d'you
think you are doing?" was all I got for my pains. To the wonderland I had to
offer,  my  fool  preferred  the corniest movies, the most cloying fudge. To
think that between a Hamburger and a Humburger, she would--invariably,  with
icy precision--plump for the former. There is nothing more atrociously cruel
than  an  adored  child. Did I mention the name of that milk bar I visited a
moment ago? It was, of all things, The Frigid Queen. Smiling a little sadly,
I dubbed her My Frigid Princess. She did not see the wistful joke.
     Oh, do not scowl at me, reader, I do not intend to convey the  impressin
that  I  did  not  manage  to  be happy. Readeer must understand that in the
possession and thralldom of a nymphet the enchanted traveler stands,  as  it
were,  beyond  happiness.  For  there  is  no  other  bliss  on earth
comparable to that of fondling a nymphet. It is hors  concours,  that
bliss,  it  belongs  to another class, another plane of sensitivity. Despite
our tiffs, despite her nastiness, despite all the fuss and faces  she  made,
and  the vulgarity, and the danger, and the horrible hopelessness of it all,
I still dwelled deep in my elected paradise--a paradise whose skies were the
color of hell-flames--but still a paradise.
     The able psychiatrist who studies my case--and whom by now Dr.  Humbert
has  plunged,  I  trust,  into  a state of leporine fascination--is no doubt
anxious to have me take Lolita to the seaside and have  me  find  there,  at
last,  the  "gratification"  of  a  lifetime  urge,  and  release  from  the
"subconscious" obsession of an incomplete childhood romance with the initial
little Miss Lee.
     Well, comrade, let me tell you that I  did  look  for  a  beach,
though I also have to confess that by the time we reached its mirage of gray
water,  so  many  delights  had  already  been  granted  me  by my traveling
companion that the search for a Kingdom by the Sea, a Sublimated Riviera, or
whatnot, far from being the impulse of  the  subconscious,  had  become  the
rational  pursuit  of  a  purely theoretical thrill. The angels knew it, and
arranged things accordingly. A visit to a plausible  cove  on  the  Atlantic
side  was  completely  messed  up  by  foul weather. A thick damp sky, muddy
waves, a sense of boundless but somehow matter-of-fact mist--what  could  be
further  removed  from  the  crisp  charm,  the  sapphire  occasion and rosy
contingency of my Riviera romance? A couple of semitropical beaches  on  the
Gulf,  though bright enough, were starred and spattered by venomous beasties
and swept by hurricane winds. Finally, on a Californian  beach,  facing  the
phantom of the Pacific, I hit upon some rather perverse privacy in a kind of
cave  whence you could hear the shrikes of a lot of girl scouts taking their
first surf bath on a separate part of the beach, behind rotting  trees;  but
the  fog  was like a wet blanket, and the sand was gritty and clammy, and Lo
was all gooseflesh and grit, and for the first time in  my  life  I  had  as
little desire for her as for a manatee. Perhaps, my learned readers may perk
up if I tell them that even had we discovered a piece of sympathetic seaside
somewhere,  it  would  have  come  too  late,  since  my real liberation had
occurred much earlier: at the moment, in point of fact, when  Annabel  Haze,
alias  Dolores  Lee,  alias  Loleeta,  had  appeared tome, golden and brown,
kneeling, looking up, on that shoddy  veranda,  in  a  kind  of  fictitious,
dishonest,  but  eminently  satisfactory seaside arrangement (although there
was nothing but a second-rate lake in the neighborhood.).
     So much for  those  special  sensations,  influence,  if  not  actually
brought  about,  by  the tenets of modern psychiatry. Consequently, I turned
away--I headed my Lolita away--from beaches which were either too bleak when
lone, or too populous when ablaze. However, in recollection, I  suppose,  of
my  hopeless  hauntings  of  public  parks  in  Europe,  I  was still keenly
interested  in  outdoor  activities  and  desirous   of   finding   suitable
playgrounds in the open where I had suffered such shameful privations. Here,
too,  I  was  to  be  thwarted. The disappointment I must now register (as I
gently grade my story into an expression of the continuous  risk  and  dread
that  ran  through my bliss) should in no wise reflect on the lyrical, epic,
tragic  but  never   Arcadian   American   wilds.   They   are   beautiful,
heart-rendingly beautiful, those wilds, with a quality of wide-eyed, unsung,
innocent   surrender  that  my  lacquered,  toy-bright  Swiss  villages  and
exhaustively lauded Alps no longer possess. Innumerable lovers have  clipped
and  kissed  on the trim turf of old-would mountainsides, on the innerspring
moss, by a handy, hygienic rill, on rustic benches under the initialed oaks,
and in so many cabanes in so many beech forests. But in the Wilds  of
America  the  open-air  lover  will  not find it easy to indulge in the most
ancient of all crimes and pastimes. Poisonous plants burn  his  sweetheart's
buttocks,  nameless insects sting his; sharp items of the forest floor prick
his knees, insects hers; and all around there abides a sustained  rustle  of
potential  snakes--que  dis-je,  of  semi-extinct dragons!--while the
crablike seeds of ferocious flowers cling, in  a  hideous  green  crust,  to
gartered black sock and sloppy white sock alike.
     I  am  exaggerating  a  little. One summer noon, just below timberline,
where heavenly-hued blossoms that I would fain  call  larkspur  crowded  all
along  a purly moutain brook, we did find, Lolita and I, a secluded romantic
spot, a hundred feet or so above the pass where we had  left  our  car.  The
slope  seemed  untrodden.  A  last  panting  pine  was  taking a well-earned
breather on the rock it had reached. A marmot whistled at us  and  withdrew.
Beneath  the  lap-robe  I  had  spread fo Lo, dryflowers crepitated softly.
Venus came and went. The jagged cliff crowning the upper talus and a  tangle
of  shrugs  growing  below us seemed to offer us protection from sun and man
alike. Alas, I had not reckoned with a faint side trail that  curled  up  in
cagey fashion among the shrubs and rocks a few feet from us.
     It  was  then  that we came close to detection than ever before, and no
wonder the experience curbed forever my yearning for rural amours.
     I remember the operation was over, all over, and she was weeping in  my
arms;--a  salutory storm of sobs after one of the fits of moodiness that had
become so frequent with her in the course of that otherwise admirable  year!
I  had  just  retracted  some  silly  promise she had forced me to make in a
moment of blind impatient passion, and thee she was sprawling  and  sobbing,
and  pinching  my  caressing  hand,  and  I  was  laughing  happily, and the
atrocious, unbelievable, unbearable, and, I suspect, eternal horror  that  I
know  now  was  still but a dot of blackness in the blue of my bliss;
and so we lay, when with one of those jolts that have ended by  knocking  my
poor  heart out of its groove, I met the unblinking dark eyes of two strange
and beautiful children, faunlet and nymphet, whom their identical flat  dark
hair  and  bloodless  cheeks  proclaimed  siblings  if not twins. They stood
crouching and gaping at us,  both  in  blue  playsuits,  blending  with  the
mountain  blossoms. I plucked at the lap-robe for desperate concealment--and
within the same instant, something that looked like a polka-dotted  pushball
among the undergrowth a few paces away, went into a turning motion which was
transformed  into  the  gradually  rising  figure  of  a  stout  lady with a
raven-black bob, who automatically added a wild lily to her  bouquet,  while
staring  over  her  shoulder  at  us from behind her lovely carved bluestone
children.
     Now that I have an altogether different mess on my conscience,  I  know
that  I  am a courageous man, but in those days I was not aware of it, and I
remember being surprised by my own coolness. With the quiet  murmured  order
one  gives  a  sweat-stained  distracted cringing trained animal even in the
worst of plights (what mad hope or  hate  makes  the  young  beast's  flanks
pulsate, what black stars pierce the heart of the tamer!), I made Lo get up,
and  we  decorously  walked, and then indecorously scuttled down to the car.
Behind it a nifty station wagon was parked, and a handsome Assyrian  with  a
little  blue-black  beard,  un  monsieur trхs bien, in silk shirt and
magenta slacks, presumably the corpulent  botanist's  husband,  was  gravely
taking  the  picture  of a signboard giving the altitude of the pass. It was
well over 10,000 feet and I was quite out of breath; and with a scrunch  and
a skid we drove off, Lo still struggling with her clothes and swearing at me
in language that I never dreamed little girls could know, let alone use.
     There  were  other  unpleasant  incidents.  There was the movie theatre
once, for example. Lo at the time still  had  for  the  cinema  a  veritable
passion  (it  was to decline into tepid condescension during her second high
school year). We took in, voluptuously and  indiscriminately,  oh,  I  don't
know,  one  hundred  and fifty or two hundred programs during that one year,
and during some of the denser periods of movie-going  we  saw  many  of  the
newsreels  up  to  half-a-dozen  times  since  the same weekly one went with
different main pictures and pursued us from town to town. Her favorite kinds
were, in this order: musicals, underworlders, westerners. In the first, real
singers and dancers had unreal stage careers in an  essentially  grief-proof
sphere of existence wherefrom death and truth were banned, and where, at the
end, white-haired, dewy-eyed, technically deathless, the initially reluctant
father  of a show-crazy girl always finished by applauding her apotheosis on
fabulous  Broadway.  The  underworld  was  a  world  apart:  there,   heroic
newspapermen  were  tortured,  telephone  bills  ran  to billions, and, in a
robust atmosphere of incompetent marksmanship, villains were chased  through
sewers  and store-houses by pathologically fearless cops (I was to give them
less exercise). Finally there was the mahogany landscape, the  florid-faced,
blue-eyed  roughriders,  the  prim  pretty schoolteacher arriving in Roaring
Gulch, the rearing  horse,  the  spectacular  stampede,  the  pistol  thrust
through  the  shivered  windowpane,  the stupendous fist fight, the crashing
mountain of dusty old-fashioned furniture, the table used as a  weapon,  the
timely  somersault,  the  pinned  hand  still  groping for the dropped bowie
knife, the grunt, the sweet crash of fist against  chin,  the  kick  in  the
belly,  the  flying  tackle;  and  immediately after a plethora of pain that
would have hospitalized a Hercules (I should know by now), nothing  to  show
but  the  rather  becoming bruise on the bronzed cheek of the warmed-up hero
embracing his gorgeous frontier bride. I remember one  matinee  in  a  small
airless  theatre  crammed  with  children and reeking with the hot breath of
popcorn. The moon was yellow above the neckerchiefed crooner, and his finger
was on his strumstring, and his foot was on a pine log, and I had innocently
encircled Lo's shoulder and approached my jawbone to her  temple,  when  two
harpies  behind us started muttering the queerest things--I do not know if I
understood aright, but what I thought I did,  made  me  withdraw  my  gentle
hand, and of course the rest of the show was fog to me.
     Another  jolt  I  remember  is  connected  with  a  little burg we were
traversing at night, during our return journey. Some twenty miles earlier  I
had  happened  to tell her that the day school she would attend at Beardsley
was a rather high-class, non-coeducational one,  with  no  modern  nonsense,
whereupon  Lo  treated  me  to  one of those furious harangues of hers where
entreaty and insult, self-assertion and double talk, vicious  vulgarity  and
childish  despair,  were  interwoven  in  an exasperating semblance of logic
which prompted a semblance of explanation from  me.  Enmeshed  in  her  wild
words  (swell chance . . . I'd be a sap if I took your opinion seriously . .
. Stinker . . . You can't boss me . . . I despise you . . . and so forth), I
drove  through  the  slumbering  town  at  a  fifty-mile-per-hour  pace   in
continuance  of  my  smooth  highway  swoosh, and a twosome of patrolmen put
their spotlight on the car, and told me to pull over. I shushed Lo  who  was
automatically  raving  on.  The  men  peered  at  her and me with malevolent
curiosity. Suddenly all dimples, she beamed sweetly at them,  as  she  never
did  at  my  orchideous  masculinity;  for,  in a sense, my Lo was even more
scared of the law than  I--and  when  the  kind  officers  pardoned  us  and
servilely  we  crawled  on, her eyelids closed and fluttered as she mimicked
limp prostration.
     At this point I have a curious confession to make. You will  laugh--but
really  and truly I somehow never managed to find out quite exactly what the
legal situation was. I do not know it yet. Oh, I have learned a few odds and
ends. Alabama prohibits  a  guardian  from  changing  the  ward's  residence
without  an  order  of  the  court;  Minnesota,  to  whom I take off my hat,
provides that when a relative assumes permanent  care  and  custody  of  any
child  under  fourteen,  the  authority  of a court does not come into play.
Query: is the stepfather of a gaspingly adorable pubescent pet, a stepfather
of only one month's standing, a neurotic widower of mature years  and  small
but  independent  means,  with  the  parapets of Europe, a divorce and a few
madhouses behind him, is he to be considered a relative, and thus a  natural
guardian?  And  if  not,  must  I,  and  could I reasonably dare notify some
Welfare Board and file a petition (how do you file a petition?), and have  a
court's  agent  investigate  meek,  fishy me and dangerous Dolores Haze? The
many books on marriage, rape, adoption and so on, that I guiltily  consulted
at  the  public  libraries  of  big  and small towns, told me nothing beyond
darkly insinuating that the state is the super-guardian of  minor  children.
Pilvin  and  Zapel, if I remember their names right, in an impressive volume
on  the  legal  side  of  marriage,  completely  ignored  stepfathers   with
motherless  girls on their hands and knees. My best friend, a social service
monograph(Chicago, 1936), which was dug out for me at  great  pains  form  a
dusty  storage  recess  by  an  innocent  old  spinster,  said  "There is no
principle that every minor must have a guardian; the court  is  passive  and
enters  the  fray  only  when  the  child's  situation becomes conspicuously
perilous." A guardian, I concluded, was appointed only when he expressed his
solemn and formal desire; but months might elapse before he was given notice
to appear at a hearing and grow his pair of gray wings, and in the  meantime
the  fair  demon child was legally left to her own devices which, after all,
was the case of Dolores Haze. Then came the hearing. A  few  questions  from
the  bench,  a  few  reassuring answers from the attorney, a smile, a nod, a
light drizzle outside, and the appointment was made. And still I dared  not.
Keep  away,  be  a  mouse,  curl up in yourhole. Courts became extravagantly
active only when there was  some  monetary  question  involved:  two  greedy
guardians, a robbed orphan, a third, still greedier, party. But here all was
in  perfect  order,  and  inventory  had  been  made, and her mother's small
property was waiting untouched for Dolores Haze to grow up. The best  policy
seemed  to  be to refrain from any application. Or would some busybody, some
Humane Society, butt in if I kept too quiet?
     Friend Farlow, who was a lawyer of sorts and ought to have been able to
give me some solid advice, was too much occupied with Jean's  cancer  to  do
anything  more  than  what he had promised--namely, to look after Chrlotte's
meager estate while I recovered very gradually from the shock of her  death.
I  had  conditioned  him into believing Dolores was my natural child, and so
could not expect him to bother his head about the situation. I  am,  as  the
reader  must have gathered by now, a poor businessman; but neither ignorance
nor indolence should have prevented  me  from  seeking  professional  advice
elsewhere.  What stopped me was the awful feeling that if I meddled with fate
in any way and tried to rationalize her fantastic gift, that gift  would  be
snatched  away  like  that  palace  on the mountain top in the Oriental tale
which vanished whenever a prospective owner asked its custodian how  come  a
strip  of  sunset  sky  was clearly visible from afar between black rock and
foundation.
     I decided that at Beardsley (the site of Bearsley College for Women)  I
would  have  access  to  works  of reference that I had not yet been able to
study, such as Woerner's Treatise "On the American Law of Guardianship"  and
certain  United  States  Children's Bureau Publications. I also decided that
anything was better for Lo than  the  demoralizing  idleness  in  which  she
lived.  I could persuade her to do so many things--their list might stupefy
a professional educator; but no matter how I pleaded  or  stormed,  I  could
never  make her read any other book than the so-called comic books or stories
in magazines for American females. Any literature a peg  higher  smacked  to
her  of  school,  and though theoretically willing to enjoy A Girl of the
Limberlost or the Arabian Nights, or Little Women, she was
quite sure she would not  fritter  away  her  "vacation"  on  such  highbrow
reading matter.
     I  now  think it was a great mistake to move east again and have her go
to that private school in Beardsley, instead of  somehow  scrambling  across
the  Mexican  border  while  the  scrambling was good so as to lie low for a
couple of years in subtropical bliss until I could safely  marry  my  little
Creole;  for  I must confess that depending on the condition of my glands and
ganglia, I could switch in the course of the  same  day  from  one  pole  of
insanity to the other--from the thought that around 1950 I would have to get
rid   somehow   of   a   difficult   adolescent  whose  magic  nymphage  had
evaporated--to the thought that with  patience  and  luck  might  have  her
produce  eventually a nymphet with my blood in her exquisite veins, a Lolita
the Second, who would be eight or nine around 1960, when I  would  still  be
dans la force de l'бge; indeed, the telescopy of my mind, or un-mind,
was  strong  enough  to distinguish in the remoteness of time a vieillard
encore vert--or was  it  green  rot?--bizarre,  tender,  salivating  Dr.
Humbert,  practicing on supremely lovely Lolita the Third the art of being a
granddad.
     In the days of that wild journey of ours, I doubted not that as  father
to  Lolita  the  First I was a ridiculous failure. I did my best; I read and
reread a book with the  unintentionally  biblical  title  Know  Your  Own
Daughter,  which  I  got  at  the  same store where I bought Lo, for her
thirteenth  birthday,  a  de  luxe  volume  with  commercially   "beautiful"
illustrations, of Andersen's The Little Mermaid. But even at our very
best  moments, when we sat reading on a rainy day (Lo's glance skipping from
the window to her wrist watch and back again), or had a quiet hearty meal in
a crowded diner, or played a childish game of cards, or  went  shopping,  or
silently  stared,  with other motorists and their children, at some smashed,
blood-bespattered car with a young woman's shoe in  the  ditch  (Lo,  as  we
drove  on:  "that was the exact type of moccasin I was trying to describe to
that jerk in the store"); on all those random occasions, I seemed to  myself
as implausible a father as she seemed to be a daughter. Was, perhaps, guilty
locomotion  instrumental  in  vitiating  our  powers of impersonation? Would
improvement be forthcoming with a fixed domicile and a routine  schoolgirl's
day?
     In  my  choice  of Beardsley I was guided not only by the fact of there
being a comparatively sedate school for girls located there, but also by the
presence of the women's college. In my desire to get myself casи,  to
attach myself somehow to some patterned surface which my stripes would blend
with,  I  thought  of  a man I knew in the department of French at Beardsley
College; he was good enough to use  my  textbook  in  his  classes  and  had
attempted  to  get  me over once to deliver a lecture. I had no intention of
doing so, since, as I have once remarked in the course of these confessions,
there are few physiques I loathe more than the heavy low-slung pelvis, thick
calves and deplorable complexion of the average coed (in whom I see,  maybe,
the  coffin  of  coarse  female  flesh  within  which my nymphets are buried
alive); but I did crave for a label, a background, and a simulacrum, and, as
presently will become clear, there was a reason, a rather zany  reason,  why
old Gaston Godin's company would be particularly safe.
     Finally, there was the money question. My income was cracking under the
strain of our joy-ride. True, I clung to the cheaper motor courts; but every
now and  then,  there  would  be a loud hotel de luxe, or a pretentious dude
ranch, to mutilate our budget; staggering sums, moreover, were  expended  on
sightseeing  and  Lo's  clothes,  and  the  old  Haze  bus, although a still
vigorous and very devoted machine, necessitated  numerous  minor  and  major
repairs.  In  one  of  our strip maps that has happened to survive among the
papers which the authorities have so  kindly  allowed  me  to  use  for  the
purpose  of  writing my statement, I find some jottings that help me compute
the following. During that extravagant year  1947-1948,  August  to  August,
lodgings  and  food  cost  us  around  5,500 dollars; gas, oil and repairs,
1,234, and various extras almost as much; so that during about 150  days  of
actual  motion  (we  covered  about  27,000  miles!)  plus  some 200 days of
interpolated standstills, this  modest  rentier  spent  around  8,000
dollars,  or  better  say 10,000 because, unpractical as I am, I have surely
forgotten a number of items.
     And so  we  rolled  East,  I  more  devastated  than  braced  with  the
satisfaction  of  my  passion,  and  she  glowing  with health, her bi-iliac
garland still as brief as a lad's, although she had added two inches to  her
stature  and  eight  pounds  to  her  weight. We had been everywhere. We had
really seen nothing. And I catch myself thinking that our long  journey  had
only  defiled  with  a  sinuous trail of slime the lovely, trustful, dreamy,
enormous country that by then, in retrospect, was  no  more  to  us  than  a
collection  of dog-eared maps, ruined tour books, old tires, and her sobs in
the night--every night, every night--the moment I feigned sleep.

        4

     When, through decorations of light and shade, we  drove  to  14  Thayer
Street,  a  grave little lad met us with the keys and a note from Gaston who
had rented the house for us. My Lo, without granting  her  new  surroundings
one glance, unseeingly turned on the radio to which instinct led her and lay
down on the living room sofa with a batch of old magazines which in the same
precise  and  blind  manner  she  landed by dipping her hand into the nether
anatomy of a lamp table.
     I really did not mind where to dwell provided I could lock my Lolita up
somewhere; but I had, I suppose, in the course  of  my  correspondence  with
vague  Gaston, vaguely visualized a house of ivied brick. Actually the place
bore a dejected resemblance to the Haze home (a mere 400  distant):  it  was
the  same sort of dull gray frame affair with a shingled roof and dull green
drill awnings; and the  rooms,  though  smaller  and  furnished  in  a  more
consistent  plush-and-plate  style, were arranged in much the same order. My
study turned out to be, however, a much larger room,  lined  from  floor  to
ceiling  with  some  two  thousand  books on chemistry which my landlord (on
sabbatical leave for the time being) taught at Beardsley College.
     I had hoped Beardsley School for girls, an expensive day  school,  with
lunch  thrown  in  and  a  glamorous gymnasium, would, while cultivating all
those young bodies, provide some formal education for their minds  as  well.
Gaston  Godin, who was seldom right in his judgment of American habitus, had
warned me that the institution might turn out to be one of those where girls
are taught, as he put it with a foreigner's love for such  things:  "not  to
spell  very  well, but to smell very well." I don't think they achieved even
that.
     At my first interview with  headmistress  Pratt,  she  approved  of  my
child's  "nice blue eyes" (blue! Lolita!) and of my own friendship with that
"French genius" (a genius! Gaston!)--and then, having turned Dolly over to a
Miss Cormorant, she wrinkled her brow in a kind of recueillement  and
said:
     "We  are  not  so much concerned, Mr. Humbird, with having our students
become bookworms or be able to reel off all the  capitals  of  Europe  which
nobody  knows anyway, or learn by heart the dates of forgotten battles. What
we are concerned with is the adjustment of the child to group life. This  is
why  we  stress  the four D's: Dramatics, Dance, Debating and Dating. We are
confronted by certain facts. Your delightful Dolly will presently  enter  an
age group where dates, dating, date dress, date book, date etiquette, mean as
much  to her as, say, business, business connections, business success, mean
to you, or as much as [smiling] the happiness  of  my  girls  means  to  me.
Dorothy  Humbird  is already involved in a whole system of social life which
consists, whether we like it or not, of hot-dog stands,  corner  drugstores,
malts  and  cokes,  movies,  square-dancing, blanket parties on beaches, and
even hair-fixing parties! Naturally at Beardsley  School  we  disapprove  of
some  of  these  activities;  and we rechannel others into more constructive
directions. But we do try to turn our backs on the fog and squarely face the
sunshine. To put it briefly, while adopting certain teaching techniques,  we
are  more interested in communication than in composition. That is, with due
respect to Shakespeare and others, we want our girls  to  communicate
freely  with  the  live  world around them rather than plunge into musty old
books. We are still groping perhaps, but  we  grope  intelligently,  like  a
gynecologist  feeling  a  tumor.  We  thing, Dr. Humburg, in organissmal and
organizational terms. We have done away with the mass or  irrelevant  topics
that  have traditionally been presented to young girls, leaving no place, in
former days, for the knowledges and the skills, and the attitudes they  will
need in managing their lives and--as the cynic might add--the lives of their
husbands.  Mr.  Humberson, let us put it this way: the position of a star is
important, but the most practical spot for an icebox in the kitchen  may  be
even  more important to the budding housewife. You say that all you expect a
child to obtain from school is a sound education. But what  do  we  mean  by
education?  In  the old days it was in the main a verbal phenomenon; I mean,
you could have a child learn by heart a good  encyclopedia  and  he  or  she
would  know as much as or more than a school could offer. Dr. Hummer, do you
realize that for the modern pre-adolescent child, medieval dates are of less
vital value than weekend ones [twinkle]?--to repeat a pun that I  heard  the
Beardsley  college  psychoanalyst  permit herself the other day. We live not
only in a world of thoughts, but also in a  world  of  things.  Wrds  without
experience  are  meaningless.  What  on earth can Dorothy Hummerson care for
Greece and the Orient with their harems and slaves?"
     This program rather appalled me, but I spoke to two intelligent  ladies
who had been connected with the school, and they affirmed that the girls did
quite  a  bit of sound reading and that the "communication" line was more or
less ballyhoo aimed at giving old-fashioned Beardsley School  a  financially
remunerative modern touch, though actually it remained as prim as a prawn.
     Another  reason attracting me to that particular school may seem funny
to some readers, but it was very important to me, for that is the way  I  am
made.  Across  our  street,  exactly  in  front  of  our house, there was, I
noticed, a gap of weedy wasteland, with some colorful bushes and a  pile  of
bricks  and  a few scattered planks, and the foam of shabby mauve and chrome
autumn roadside flowers; and through that  gap  you  could  see  a  shimmery
section  of  School Rd., running parallel to our Thayer St., and immediately
beyond that, the playground of  the  school  Apart  from  the  psychological
comfort  this  general  arrangement  should afford me by keeping Dolly's day
adjacent to mine, I  immediately  foresaw  the  pleasure  I  would  have  in
distinguishing  from  my study-bedroom, by means of powerful binoculars, the
statistically  inevitable  percentage  of  nymphets  among  the  other  girl
children  playing  around  Dolly  during  recess; unfortunately, on the very
first day of school, workmen arrived and put up a fence some  way  down  the
gap,  and  in  no time a construction of tawny wood maliciously arose beyond
that fence utterly blocking my magic vista; and as soon as they had  erected
a  sufficient  amount of material to spoil everything, those absurd builders
suspended their work and never appeared again.

        5

     In a street called Thayer Street, in the residential green,  fawn,  and
golden  of  a  mellow  academic townlet, one was bound to have a few amiable
fine-dayers yelping at you. I prided myself on the exact temperature  of  my
relations  with  them:  never rude, always aloof. My west-door neighbor, who
might have been a businessman or a college teacher, or both, would speak  to
me  once  in  a  while as he barbered some late garden blooms or watered his
car, or, at a later date, defrosted his driveway  (I  don't  mind  if  these
verbs are all wrong), but my brief grunts, just sufficiently articulate to
sound  like  conventional  assents or interrogative pause-fillers, precluded
any evolution toward chumminess. Of the  two  houses  flanking  the  bit  of
scrubby  waste  opposite,  one  was  closed,  and  the  other  contained two
professors of English, tweedy  and  short-haired  Miss  Lester  and  fadedly
feminine Miss Fabian, whose only subject of brief sidewalk conversation with
me  was  (God bless their tact!) the young loveliness of my daughter and the
naоve charm of Gaston Godin. My east-door  neighbor  was  by  far  the  most
dangerous  one,  a  sharp-nosed  stock character whose late brother had been
attached to the College  as  Superintendent  of  Buildings  and  Grounds.  I
remember  her  waylaying  Dolly,  while  I  stood at the living room window,
feverishly awaiting my darling's return from school.  The  odious  spinster,
trying  to  conceal  her  morbid  inquisitiveness  under  a  mask  of dulcet
goodwill, stood leaning on her slim umbrella (the sleet had just stopped,  a
cold wet sun had sidled out), and Dolly, her brown coat open despite the raw
weather, her structural heap of books pressed against her stomach, her knees
showing  pink  above  her  clumsy wellingtons, a sheepish frightened little
smile flitting over and off her snub-nosed face, which--owing perhaps to the
pale   wintry   light--looked   almost   plain,   in   a   rustic,   German,
mдgdlein-like  way,  as  she  stood  there and dealt with Miss East's
questions "And where is your mother, my dear? And what is your poor father's
occupation? And where did you  love  before?"  Another  time  the  loathsome
creature  accosted  me  with  a welcoming whine--but I evaded her; and a few
days later there came from her a note in a blue-margined  envelope,  a  nice
mixture  of  poison  and treacle, suggesting Dolly come over on a Sunday and
curl up in a chair to look through the "loads of  beautiful  books  my  dear
mother  gave  me  when I was a child, instead of having the radio on at full
blast till all hours of the night."
     I had also to be careful in regard to a Mrs. Holigan, a  charwoman  and
cook of sorts whom I had inherited with the vacuum cleaner from the previous
tenants.  Dolly  got lunch at school, so that this was no trouble, and I had
become adept at providing her with a big breakfast and warming up the dinner
that Mrs. Holigan prepared before leaving. That kindly  and  harmless  woman
had,  thank God, a rather bleary eye that missed details, and I had become a
great expert in bedmaking; but still I  was  continuously  obsessed  by  the
feeling  that some fatal stain had been left somewhere, or that, on the rare
occasions where Holigan's presence happened to coincide with Lo's, simple Lo
might succumb to buxom sympathy in the course of  a  cozy  kitchen  chat.  I
often  felt  we  lived  in  a  lighted  house  of glass, and any moment some
thin-lipped parchment face would peer through a carelessly  unshaded  window
to  obtain  a free glimpse of things that the most jaded voyeur would
have paid a small fortune to watch.

        6

     A word about Gaston Godin. The main reason why I enjoyed--or  at  least
tolerated  with  relief--his company was the spell of absolute security that
his ample person cast on my secret. Not that he knew it; I  had  no  special
reason  to confide in him, and he was much too self-centered and abstract to
notice or suspect anything that might lead to a frank question on  his  part
and  a  frank answer on mine. He spoke well of me to Beardsleyans, he was my
good herald. Had he discovered mes  goшts  and  Lolita's  status,  it
would  have  interested  him  only  insofar  as  throwing  some light on the
simplicity of my attitude towards him, which attitude was as free  of
polite  strain as it was of ribald allusions; for despite his colorless mind
and dim memory, he was perhaps aware that I knew more  about  him  than  the
burghers of Beardsley did. He was a flabby, dough-faced, melancholy bachelor
tapering upward to a pair of narrow, not quite level shoulders and a conical
pear-head  which  had  sleek black hair on one side and only a few plastered
wisps on the other. But the lower part of his  body  was  enormous,  and  he
ambulated with a curious elephantine stealth by means of phenomenally stout
legs.  He  always  wore black, even his tie was black; he seldom bathed; his
English was a burlesque. And, nonetheless, everybody considered him to be  a
supremely  lovable, lovably freakish fellow! Neighbors pampered him; he knew
by name all the small boys in our vicinity (he lived a few blocks away  from
me)and had some of them clean his sidewalk and burn leaves in his back yard,
and  bring  wood  from  his  shed,  and even perform simple chores about the
house, and he would feed them fancy chocolates,  with  real  liqueurs
inside--in  the privacy of an orientally furnished den in his basement, with
amusing daggers and pistols arrayed on the moldy,  rug-adorned  walls  among
the  camouflaged  hot-water  pipes.  Upstairs  he had a studio--he painted a
little, the old fraud. He had decorated its sloping wall (it was really  not
more   than  a  garret)  with  large  photographs  of  pensive  Andrи  Gide,
Tchaоkovsky, Norman Douglas, two other well-known English writers,  Nijinsky
(all  thighs  and  fig leaves), Harold D. Doublename (a misty-eyed left-wing
professor at a Midwesten university)  and  Marcel  Proust.  All  these  poor
people seemed about to fall on you from their inclined plane. He had also an
album with snapshots of all the Jackies and Dickies of the neighborhood, and
when  I  happened  to  thumb  through it and make some casual remark, Gaston
would purse his fat lips and murmur with a wistful pout  "Oui,  ils  sont
gentils."  His  brown eyes would roam around the various sentimental and
artistic  bric-a-brac  present,  and  his  own  banal   toiles   (the
conventionally  primitive eyes, sliced guitars, blue nipples and geometrical
designs of the day), and with a vague gesture toward a painted  wooden  bowl
or  veined  vase,  he  would say "Prenez donc une de ces poires. La bonne
dame d'en  face  m'en  offre  plus  que  je  n'en  peux  savourer."  Or:
"Mississe  Taille  Lore vient de me donner ces dahlias, belles fleurs que
j'exхcre." (Somber, sad, full of world-weariness.)
     For obvious reasons, I preferred myhouse to his for the games of  chess
we  had  two or three times weekly. He looked like some old battered idol as
he sat with his pudgy hands in his lap and stared at the board as if it were
a corpse. Wheezing he would mediate for  ten  minutes--then  make  a  losing
move.  Or the good man, after even more thought, might utter: Au roi!
With a slow old-dog woof that had a gargling sound at the back of  it  which
made his jowls wabble; and then he would lift his circumflex eyebrows with a
deep sigh as I pointed out to him that he was in check himself.
     Sometimes,  from  where  we sat in my cold study I could hear Lo's bare
feet practicing dance techniques in the living room downstairs; but Gaston's
outgoing senses were comfortably dulled, and he remained  unaware  of  those
naked  rhythms--and-one,  and-two, and-one, and-two, weight transferred on a
straight right leg, leg up and out to the side, and-one, and-two,  and  only
when  she  started  jumping, opening her legs at the height of the jump, and
flexing one leg, and extending the other, and flying,  and  landing  on  her
toes--only  then did my pale, pompous, morose opponent rub his head or cheek
a if confusing those distant thuds with the awful  stabs  of  my  formidable
Queen.
     Sometimes  Lola would slouch in while we pondered the board--and it was
every time a treat to see Gaston,  his  elephant  eye  still  fixed  on  his
pieces,  ceremoniously  rise  to shake hands with her, and forthwith release
her limp fingers, and without looking once at her, descend  again  into  his
chair  to topple into the trap I had laid for him. One day around Christmas,
after I had not seen him for a fortnight or so, he asked  me  "Et  toutes
vos  fillettes, elles vont bien?" from which it became evident to
me that he had multiplied my  unique  Lolita  by  the  number  of  sartorial
categories  his downcast moody eye had glimpsed during a whole series of her
appearances: blue jeans, a skirt, shorts, a quilted robe.
     I am loath to dwell so long on the poor fellow (sadly  enough,  a  year
later,  during  a  voyage  to  Europe,  from which he did not return, he got
involved in a sale histoire, in Napes of all places!). I  would  have
hardly  alluded  to  him  at  all had not his Beardsley existence had such a
queer bearing on my case. I need him for my defense. There he was devoid  of
any  talent  whatsoever,  a  mediocre  teacher,  a worthless scholar, a glum
repulsive fat old invert, highly contemptuous of the American way  of  life,
triumphantly  ignorant of the English language--there he was in priggish New
England, crooned over by the old and caressed by  the  young--oh,  having  a
grand time and fooling everybody; and here was I.

        7

     I  am  now faced with the distasteful task of recording a definite drop
in Lolita's morals. If her  share  in  the  ardors  she  kindled  had  never
amounted  to  much,  neither had pure lucre ever come to the fore. But I was
weak, I was not wise, my school-girl nymphet had  me  in  thrall.  With  the
human  element  dwindling, the passion, the tenderness, and the torture only
increased; and of this she took advantage.
     Her weekly allowance, paid to her under condition she fulfill her basic
obligations, was twenty-one cents at the start  of  the  Beardsley  era--and
went  up  to  one  dollar five before its end. This was a more than generous
arrangement seeing she constantly  received  from  me  all  kinds  of  small
presents   and  had  for  the  asking  any  sweetmeat  or  movie  under  the
moon--although, of course, I might fondly demand an additional kiss, or even
a whole collection of assorted caresses, when I knew she coveted very  badly
some  item  of  juvenile amusement. She was, however, not easy to deal with.
Only very listlessly did she earn her three pennies--or  three  nickels--per
day; and she proved to be a cruel negotiator whenever it was in her power to
deny  me  certain  life-wrecking,  strange,  slow paradisal philters without
which I could not live more than a few days in a row, and which, because  of
the  very nature of love's languor, I could not obtain by force. Knowing the
magic  and  might  of  her  own  soft   mouth,   she   managed--during   one
schoolyear!--to  raise the bonus price of a fancy embrace to three, and even
four bucks! O Reader! Laugh not, as you imagine me, on the very rack of  joy
noisily  emitting dimes and quarters, and great big silver dollars like some
sonorous, jingly and wholly demented machine vomiting  riches;  and  in  the
margin  of  that leaping epilepsy she would firmly clutch a handful of coins
in her little fist, which, anyway, I used to pry open afterwards unless  she
gave  me the slip, scrambling away to hide her loot. And just as every other
day I would cruise all around the school area and  on  comatose  feet  visit
drugstores,  and peer into foggy lanes, and listen to receding girl laughter
in between my heart throbs and the falling leaves, so every now and  then  I
would burgle her room and scrutinize torn papers in the wastebasket with the
painted roses, and look under the pillow of the virginal bed I had just made
myself.   Once   I  found  eight  one-dollar  notes  in  one  of  her  books
(fittingly--Treasure Island), and once a  hole  in  the  wall  behind
Whistler's   Mother   yielded  as  much  as  twenty-four  dollars  and  some
change--say twenty-four sixty--which I quietly  removed,  upon  which,  next
day,  she  accused, to my face, honest Mrs. Holigan of being a filthy thief.
Eventually, she lived up to her I.Q. by finding a safer hoarding place which
I never discovered; but by that time I had brought prices  down  drastically
by  having  her  earn the hard and nauseous way permission to participate in
the school's theatrical program; because what I feared most was not that she
might ruin me, but that she might accumulate sufficient cash to run away.  I
believe  the  poor  fierce-eyed child had figured out that with a mere fifty
dollars in her purse she might somehow reach Broadway  or  Hollywood--or  the
foul kitchen of a diner (Help Wanted) in a dismal ex-prairie state, with the
wind  blowing,  and  the stars blinking, and the cars, and the bars, and the
barmen, and everything soiled, torn, dead.

        8

     I did my best, your Honor, to tackele the problem of boys.  Oh,  I  used
even to read in the Beardsley Star a so-called Column for Teens, to find out
how to behave!

     A  word  to fathers. Don't frighten away daughter's friend. Maybe it
is a bit hard for  you  to  realize  that  now  the  boys  are  finding  her
attractive.  To  you  she is still a little girl. To the boys she's charming
and fun, lovely and gay. They like her. Today you clinch  big  deals  in  an
executive's  office,  but  yesterday  you  were just highschool Jim carrying
Jane's school books. Remember? Don't you want your daughter,  now  that  her
turn  has come, to be happy in the admiration and company of boys she likes?
Don't you want your daughter, now that her turn has come, to be happy in the
admiration and company of boys she  likes?  Don't  you  want  them  to  have
wholesome fun together?

     Wholesome fun? Good Lord!

     Why  not  treat  the  young fellows as guests in your house? Why not
make conversation with them? Draw them out, make  them  laugh  and  feel  at
ease?

     Welcome, fellow, to this bordello.

     If  she  breaks  the  rules  don't  explode out loud in front of her
partner in crime. Let her take the brunt of your displeasure in private. And
stop making the boys feel she's the daughter of an old ogre.

     First of all the old ogre drew up a list under  "absolutely  forbidden"
and  another  under  "reluctantly allowed." Absolutely forbidden were dates,
single or double or triple--the next step being of  course  mass  orgy.  She
might  visit  a  candy bar with her girl friends, and there giggle-chat with
occasional young males, while I waited in the car at  a  discreet  distance;
and  I  promised her that if her group were invited by a socially acceptable
group  in  Butler's  Academy  for  Bo[ys  for  their  annual  ball  (heavily
chaperoned,  of  course),  I  might  consider the question whether a girl of
fourteen can don her first "formal" (a kind of gown  that  makes  thin-armed
teen-agers  look like flamingoes). Moreover, I promised her to throw a party
a t our house to which she would be allowed  to  invite  her  prettier  girl
friends  and  the  nicer  boys she would have met by that time at the Butler
dance. But I was quite positive that as long as my regime lasted  she  would
never,  never be permitted to go with a youngster in rut to a movie, or neck
in a car, or go to boy-girl parties at the houses of schoolmates, or  indulge
out  of  my  earshot  in  boy-girl  telephone  conversations,  even if "only
discussing his relations with a friend of mine."
     Lo was enraged by all this--called me a lousy crook  and  worse--and  I
would probably have lost my temper had I not soon discovered, to my sweetest
relief,  that what really angered her was my depriving her not of a specific
satisfaction but of a general right.  I  was  impinging,  you  see,  on  the
conventional  program,  the  stock pastimes, the "things that are done," the
routine of youth; for there  is  nothing  more  conservative  than  a  child,
especially  a  girl-child,  be  she  the  most  auburn  and russet, the most
mythopoeic nymphet in October's orchard-haze.
     Do not misunderstand me. I cannot be absolutely  certain  that  in  the
course  of  the winter she did not manage to have, in a casual way, improper
contacts with unknown young fellows; of course,  no  matter  how  closely  I
controlled  her  leisure,  there would constantly occur unaccounted-for time
leaks with over-elaborate explanations to stop them  up  in  retrospect;  of
course,  my  jealousy  would  constantly  catch  its jagged claw in the fine
fabrics of nymphet falsity; but I did definitely feel--and can now vouchsafe
for the accuracy of my feeling--that there was no reason for serious  alarm.
I  felt that way not because I never once discovered any palpable hard young
throat to crush among the masculine mutes that flickered  somewhere  in  the
background;  but  because  it was to me "overwhelmingly obvious" (a favorite
expression with my aunt Sybil) that all varieties of high school  boys--from
the   perspiring   nincompoop   whom   "holding   hands"   thrills,  to  the
self-sufficient rapist with pustules and a souped-up car--equally  bored  my
sophisticated  young  mistress. "All this noise about boys gags me," she had
scrawled on the inside of a schoolbook, and underneath, in Mona's hand (Mona
is due any minute now), there was the sly quip: "What  about  Rigger?"  (due
too).
     Faceless,  then,  are  the  chappies  I happened to see in her company.
There was for instance Red Sweater who one day, the day  we  had  the  first
snow--saw  her home; from the parlor window I observed them talking near our
porch. She wre her first cloth coat with a fur collar;  there  was  a  small
brown  cap  on  my favorite hairdo--the fringe in front and the swirl at the
sides and the natural curls at the back--and  her  damp-dark  moccasins  and
white  socks  were  more sloppy than ever. She pressed as usual her books to
her chest while speaking or listening, and her feet gestured all  the  time:
she  would  stand on her left instep with her right toe, remove it backward,
cross her feet, rock slightly, sketch a few steps, and then start the series
all over again. There was Windbreaker who  talked  to  her  in  front  of  a
restaurant  one  Sunday  afternoon  while his mother and sister attempted to
walk me away for a chat; I dragged along and looked back at  my  only  love.
She  had  developed more than one conventional mannerism, such as the polite
adolescent way of showing one is literally "doubled  up"  with  laughter  by
inclining one's head, and so (as she sensed my call), still feigning helpless
merriment, she walked backward a couple of steps, and then faced about,  and
walked  toward  me  with  a  fading  smile.  On  the  other  hand, I greatly
liked--perhaps  because  it  reminded  me   of   her   first   unforgettable
confession--her  trick  of sighing "oh dear!" in humorous wistful submission
to fate, or emitting a long "no-o" in a deep almost growling undertone  when
the  blow  of fate had actually fallen. Above all--since we are speaking of
movement and youth--I liked to see her spinning up and down Thayer Street on
her beautiful young bicycle: rising on the pedals to work on  them  lustily,
then  sinking back in a languid posture while the speed wore itself off; and
then she would stop at our mailbox and, still astride, would flip through  a
magazine  she found there, and put it back, and press her tongue to one side
of her upper lip and push off with her foot, and again sprint  through  pale
shade and sun.
     On the whole she seemed to me better adapted to her surroundings than I
had hoped  she  would  be  when  considering  my spoiled slave-child and the
bangles of demeanor she naоvely affected the winter  before  in  california.
Although  I  could  never get used to the constant state of anxiety in which
the guilty, the great, the tenderhearted live, I felt I was doing my best in
the way of mimicry. As I lay on my narrow studio  bed  after a session  of
adoration  and  despair  in  Lolita's  cold  bedroom,  I  used to review the
concluded day by checking my own image as  it  prowled  rather  than  passed
before  the  mind's  red  eye.  I  watched dark-and-handsome, not un-Celtic,
probably  high-church,  possibly  very  high-church,  Dr.  Humbert  see  his
daughter  off  to  school  I  watched  him  greet  with  his  slow smile and
pleasantly arched thick black ad-eyebrows good Mrs. Holigan, who smelled  of
the  plague  (and  would  head,  I  knew,  for  master's  gin  at  the first
opportunity). With Mr. West, retired  executioner  or  writer  of  religious
tracts--who  cared?--I saw neighbor what's his name, I think they are French
or Swiss, meditate in his frank-windowed study  over  a  typewriter,  rather
gaunt-profiled,  an  almost  Hitlerian  cowlick  on his pale brow. Weekends,
wearing a well-tailored overcoat and brown gloves,  Professor  H.  might  be
seen   with   his   daughter   strolling  to  Walton  Inn  (famous  for  its
violet-ribboned china bunnies and chocolate boxes among which  you  sit  and
wait  for  a  "table  for two" still filthy with your predecessor's crumbs).
Seen on weekdays, around one p.m. , saluting with  dignity  Argus-eyed  East
while  maneuvering  the  car  out  of  the  garage  and  around  the  damned
evergreens, and down onto the slippery road. Raising a cold eye from book to
clock in the positively sultry Beardsley College library, among bulky  young
women  caught  and  petrified  in  the  overflow of human knowledge. Walking
across the campus with the college clergyman,  the  Rev.  Rigger  (who  also
taught  Bible  in  Beardsley  School).  "Somebody  told  me her mother was a
celebrated actress killed  in  an  airplane  accident.  Oh?  My  mistake,  I
presume.  Is  that so? I see. How sad." (Sublimating her mother, eh?) Slowly
pushing my little pram through the labyrinth of the supermarket, in the wake
of Professor W., also a slow-moving and gentle widower with the  eyes  of  a
goat.  Shoveling  the snow in my shirt-sleeves, a voluminous black and white
muffler around my neck. Following with no  show  of  rapacious  haste  (even
taking  time  to  wipe  my feet on the mat) my school-girl daughter into the
house. Taking  Dolly  to  the  dentist--pretty  nurse  beaming  at  her--old
magazines--ne  montrez pas vos zhambes. At dinner with Dolly in town,
Mr.  Edgar  H.  Humbert  was  seen  eating  his  steak  in  the  continental
knife-and-fork  manner. Enjoying, in duplicate, a concert: two marble-faced,
becalmed Frenchmen sitting side by  side,  with  Monsieur  H.  H.'s  musical
little  girl  on her father's right, and the musical little boy of Professor
W. (father spending a hygienic evening in Providence) on  Monsieur  G.  G.'s
left.  Opening  the  garage,  a  square of light that engulfs the car and is
extinguished. Brightly pajamaed, jerking down the window  shade  in  Dolly's
bedroom.  Saturday  morning,  unseen,  solemnly weighing the winter-bleached
lassie in the bathroom. Seen and heard Sunday morning, no  churchgoer  after
all,  saying don't be too late, to Dolly who is bound for the covered court.
Letting in a queerly observant schoolmate of Dolly's: "First time I've  seen
a man wearing a smoking jacket, sir--except in movies, of course."

        9

     Her  girlfriends,  whom  I  looked forward to meet, proved on the whole
disappointing. There was Opal Something, and Linda Hall, and  Avis  Chapman,
and  Eva Rosen, and Mona Dahl (save one, all these names are approximations,
of course). Opal was a bashful, formless, bespectacled,  bepimpled  creature
who  doted  on  Dolly  who  bullied  her.  With Linda Hall the school tennis
champion, Dolly played singles at least twice a week: I suspect Linda was  a
true  nymphet, but for some unknown reason she did not come--was perhaps not
allowed to come--to our house; so I recall her only as a  flash  of  natural
sunshine  on  an indoor court. Of the rest, none had any claims to nymphetry
except Eva Rosen. Avis ws a plump lateral child with hairy legs, while Mona,
though handsome in a coarse sensual way and only a year older than my  aging
mistress,  had  obviously  long ceased to be a nymphet, if she ever had been
one. Eva Rosen, a displaced little person from France, was on the other hand
a good example  of  a  not  strikingly  beautiful  child  revealing  to  the
perspicacious amateur some of the basic elements of nymphet charm, such as a
perfect  pubescent figure and lingering eyes and high cheekbones. Her glossy
copper hair had  Lolita's  silkiness,  and  the  features  of  her  delicate
milky-white face with pink lips and silverfish eyelashes were less foxy than
those  of  her  likes--the  great clan of intra-racial redheads; nor did she
sport their green uniform but wore, as I remember her, a  lot  of  black  or
cherry  dark--a  very  smart  black  pullover, for instance, and high-heeled
black shoes, and garnet-red fingernail polish. I spoke French to  her  (much
to  Lo's disgust). The child's tonalities were still admirably pure, but for
school words and play words she resorted to  current  American  and  then  a
slight  Brooklyn  accent would crop up in her speech, which was amusing in a
little Parisian who went to a select New England school with phoney  British
aspirations.  Unfortunately,  despite  "that  French  kid's  uncle" being "a
millionaire," Lo dropped Eva for some reason before I had had time to  enjoy
in my modest way her fragrant presence in the Humbert open house. The reader
knows what importance I attached to having a bevy of page girls, consolation
prize  nymphets,  around my Lolita. For a while, I endeavored to interest my
senses in Mona Dahl who was a good deal around, especially during the spring
term when Lo and she got so  enthusiastic  about  dramatics.  I  have  often
wondered  what secrets outrageously treacherous Dolores Haze had imparted to
Mona while blurting out to me by urgent and well-paid request various really
incredible details concerning an affair that Mona had had with a  marine  at
the seaside. It was characteristic of Lo that she chose for her closest chum
that  elegant,  cold, lascivious, experienced young female whom I once heard
(misheard, Lo swore) cheerfully say in the hallway to Lo--who  had  remarked
that  her  (Lo's) sweater was of virgin wool: "The only thing about you that
is, kiddo . . ." She had a curiously husky voice,  artificially  waved  dull
dark  hair,  earrings, amber-brown prominent eyes and luscious lips. Lo said
teachers had remonstrated with her on  her  loading  herself  with  so  much
costume  jewelry. Her hands trembled. She was burdened with a 150 I.Q. And I
also knew she had a tremendous chocolate-brown  mole  on  he  womanish  back
which  I  inspected  the  night  Lo and she had worn low-cut pastel-colored,
vaporous dresses for a dance at the Butler Academy.
     I am anticipating a little, but I cannot help  running  my  memory  all
over  the  keyboard  of that school year. In the meeting my attempts to find
out what kind of boys Lo knew, Miss Dahl was elegantly evasive. Lo  who  had
gone  to  play  tennis at Linda's country club had telephoned she might be a
full half hour late, and so, would I  entertain  Mona  who  was  coming  to
practice with her a scene from The Taming of the Shrew. Using all the
modulations,  all  the  allure  of  manner  and voice she was capable of and
staring  at  me  with  perhaps--could  I  be  mistaken?--a  faint  gleam  of
crystalline  irony, beautiful Mona replied: "Well, sir, the fact is Dolly is
not much concerned with mere boys. Fact is, we are rivals. She and I have  a
crush  on  the  Reverend Rigger." (This was a joke--I have already mentioned
that gloomy giant of a man, with the jaw of a horse: he was to  bore  me  to
near  murder  with his impressions of Switzerland at a tea party for parents
that I am unable to place correctly in terms of time.)
     How had the ball been? Oh, it  had  been  a  riot.  A  what?  A  panic.
Terrific,  in  a word. Had Lo danced a lot? Oh, not a frightful lot, just as
much as she could stand. What did she, languorous Mona, think  of  Lo?  Sir?
Did  she  think Lo was doing well at school? Gosh, she certainly was quite a
kid. But her general behavior was--? Oh, she was a  swell  kid.  But  still?
"Oh,  she's  a  doll,"  concluded Mona, and sighed abruptly, and picked up a
book that happened to lie at hand, and with a change of expression,  falsely
furrowing her brow, inquired: "Do tell me about Ball Zack, sir. Is he really
that  good?"  She  moved  up  so  close  to my chair that I made out through
lotions and creams her  uninteresting  skin  scent.  A  sudden  odd  thought
stabbed  me:  was  my  Lo  playing  the pimp? If so, she had found the wrong
substitute. Avoiding Mona'' cool gaze, I talked  literature  for  a  minute.
Then  Dolly arrived--and slit her pale eyes at us. I left the two friends to
their own devices. One of the latticed squares in a small cobwebby  casement
window at the turn of the staircase was glazed with ruby, and that raw wound
among the unstained rectangles and its asymmetrical position--a night's move
from the top--always strangely disturbed me.

        10

     Sometimes  . . . Come on, how often exactly, Bert? Can you recall four,
five, more such occasions? Or would no human  heart  have  survived  two  or
three?  Sometimes  (I  have nothing to say in reply to your question), while
Lolita would be  haphazardly  preparing  her  homework,  sucking  a  pencil,
lolling  sideways in an easy chair with both legs over its arm, I would shed
all my  pedagogic  restraint,  dismiss  all  our  quarrels,  forget  all  my
masculine  pride--and  literally crawl on my knees to your chair, my Lolita!
You would give me one look--a gray furry question mark of a  look:  "Oh  no,
not  again"  (incredulity,  exasperation);  for you never deigned to believe
that I could, without any specific designs, ever crave to bury  my  face  in
your plaid skirt, my darling! The fragility of those bare arms of yours--how
I  longed  to enfold them, all your four limpid lovely limbs, a folded colt,
and take your head between my unworthy hands, and pull the temple-skin  back
on  both  sides, and kiss your chinesed eyes, and--"Pulease, leave me alone,
will you," you would say, "for Christ's sake leave me alone."  And  I  would
get  up from the floor while you looked on, your face deliberately twitching
in imitation of my tic nerveux. But never mind, never mind, I am only
a brute, never mind, let us go on with my miserable story.

        11

     One Monday forenoon, in December I think, Pratt asked me to  come  over
for  a  talk.  Dolly's  last  report  had  been poor, I knew. But instead of
contenting myself with some such plausible explanation of this  summons,  I
imagined  all  sort  of horrors, and had to fortify myself with a pint of my
"pin" before I could face the interview. Slowly, all Adam's apple and heart,
I went up the steps of the scaffold.
     A huge woman, gray-haired, drowsy, with a broad  flat  nose  and  small
eyes  behind  black-rimmed  glasses--"Sit  down,"  she  said, pointing to an
informal and humiliating hassock, while she perched with ponderous  spryness
on  the  arm  of  an  oak  chair. For a moment or two, she peered at me with
smiling curiosity. She had done it at our first meeting, I  recalled,  but  I
could  afford  then  to  scowl  back.  Her  eye  left  me.  She  lapsed into
thought--probably assumed. Making up her mind she rubbed, fold on fold,  her
dark  gray  flannel  skirt  at  the  knee,  dispelling  a  trace of chalk or
something. Then she said, still rubbing, not looking up:
     "Let me ask a blunt  question,  Mr.  Haze.  You  are  an  old-fashioned
Continental father, aren't you?"
     "Why,  no," I said, "conservative, perhaps, but not what you would call
old-fashioned."
     She sighed, frowned, then clapped her big plump  hands  together  in  a
let's-get-down-to-business manner, and again fixed her beady eyes upon me.
     "Dolly  Haze,"  she  said,  "is a lovely child, but the onset of sexual
maturing seems to give her trouble."
     I bowed slightly. What else could I do?
     "She is still  shuttling,"  said  Miss  Pratt,  showing  how  with  her
liver-spotted  hands,  "between  the  anal and genital zones of development.
Basically she is a lovely--"
     "I beg your pardon," I said, "what zones?"
     "That's the old-fashioned European in you!" cried  Pratt  delivering  a
slight  tap  on  my wrist watch and suddenly disclosing her dentures. "All I
mean is that biologic drives--do you smoke?--are not fused in Dolly, do  not
fall  so  to  speak  into  a--into  a rounded pattern." Her hands held for a
moment an invisible melon.
     "She is attractive, bright though careless" (breathing heavily, without
leaving her perch, the woman took time out to look  at  the  lovely  child's
report  sheet  on  the  desk at her right). "Her marks are getting worse and
worse. Now I wonder, Mr. Haze--" Again the false meditation.
     "Well," she went on with zest, "as for me, I do smoke, and, as dear Dr.
Pierce used to say: I'm not proud of it but I jeest love it." She lit up and
the smoke she exhaled from her nostrils was like a pair of tusks.
     "Let me give you a few details, it won't take a moment. Now here let me
see [rummaging among her papers]. She is defiant  toward  Miss  Redcock  and
impossibly  rude  to Miss Cormorant. Now here is one of our special research
reports: Enjoys singing with group in class though  mind  seems  to  wander.
Crosses  her  knees  and  wags  left  leg  to  rhythm.  Type  of by-words: a
two-hundred-forty-two word area of the commonest pubescent slang  fenced  in
by a number of obviously European polysyllabics. Sighs a good deal in class.
Let  me  see. Yes. Now comes the last week in November. Sighs a good deal in
class. Chews gum vehemently. Does not bite her nails though if she did, this
would conform better to her  general  pattern--scientifically  speaking,  of
course. Menstruation, according to the subject, well established. Belongs at
present  to  no church organization. By the way, Mr. Haze, her mother was--?
Oh, I see. And you are--? Nobody's business is, I suppose,  God's  business.
Something  else  we  wanted  to  know.  She  was  no  regular home duties, I
understand. Making a princess of your Dolly, Mr. Haze, he? Well,  what  else
have  we  got here? Handles books gracefully. Voice pleasant. Giggles rather
often. A little dreamy. Has  private  jokes  of  her  own,  transposing  for
instance  the  first  letters  of some of her teachers names. Hair light and
dark brown, lustrous--well  [laughing]  you  are  aware  of  that,  I
suppose.  Nose  unobstructed,  feet high-arched, eyes-let me see, I had here
somewhere a still more recent report. Aha,  here  we  are.  Miss  Gold  says
Dolly's  tennis  form is excellent to superb, even better than Linda Hall's,
but concentration and point-accumulation  are  just  "poor  to  fair."  Miss
Cormorant  cannot  decide whether Dolly has exceptional emotional control or
none at all. Miss Horn reports  she--I  mean,  Dolly--cannot  verbalize  her
emotions,  while  according  to  Miss  Cole  Dolly's metabolic efficiency is
superfine. Miss  Molar  thinks  Dolly  is  myopic  and  should  see  a  good
ophthalmologist, but Miss Redcock insists that the girl simulates eye-strain
to  get  away  with  scholastic incompetence. And to conclude, Mr. Haze, our
researchers are wondering about something really crucial. Now I want to  ask
you something. I want to know if your poor wife, or yourself, or anyone else
in the family--I understand she has several aunts and a maternal grandfather
in  California?--oh,  had!--I'm sorry--well, we all wonder if anybody
in the family has instructed Dolly in the process of mammalian reproduction.
The general impression  is  that  fifteen-year-old  Dolly  remains  morbidly
uninterested  in  sexual matters, or to be exact, represses her curiosity in
order to save her ignorance and self-dignity. All right-fourteen.  You  see,
Mr. Haze, Beardsley School does not believe in bees and blossoms, and storks
and  love birds, but it does believe very strongly in preparing its students
for mutually satisfactory mating and successful child rearing. We feel Dolly
could make excellent progress if only she would put her mind  to  her  work.
Miss Cormorant's report is significant in that respect. Dolly is inclined to
be,  mildly  speaking  impudent.  But all feel that primo, you should
have your family doctor tell her the facts of life and, secundo, that
you allow her to enjoy the company  of  her  schoolmates'  brothers  at  the
Junior  Club  or in Dr. Rigger's organization, or in the lovely homes of our
parents."
     "She may meet boys at her own lovely home," I said.
     "I hope she will," said Pratt buoyantly. "When we questioned her  about
her  troubles,  Dolly  refused  to  discuss  the home situation, but we have
spoken to some of her friends and really--well, for example, we  insist  you
un-veto  her nonparticiaption in the dramatic group. You just must allow her
to take part in The Hunted Enchanters. She was such a  perfect  little
nymph  in the try-out, and sometime in spring the author will stay for a few
days at Beardsley College and may attend a  rehearsal  or  two  in  our  new
auditorium.  I  mean  it is all part of the fun of being young and alive and
beautiful. You must understand--"
     "I always thought of myself," I said, "as a very understanding father."
     "Oh, no doubt, no doubt, but Miss Cormorant thinks, and I  am  inclined
to  agree  with her, that Dolly is obsessed by sexual thoughts for which she
finds no outlet, and will tease and  martyrize  other  girls,  or  even  our
younger instructors because they do have innocent dates with boys."
     Shrugged my shoulders. A shabby иmigrи.
     "Let  us  put  our two heads together, Mr. Haze. What on earth is wrong
with that child?"
     "She seems quite normal and happy to me," I said  (disaster  coming  at
last? Was I found out? Had they got some hypnotist?).
     "What worries me," said Miss Pratt looking at her watch and starting to
go over the whole subject again, "is that both teachers and schoolmates find
Dolly  antagonistic,  dissatisfied, cagey--and everybody wonders why you are
so firmly opposed to all the natural recreations of a normal child."
     "Do you mean sex play?" I asked jauntily, in despair,  a  cornered  old
rat.
     "Well, I certainly welcome this civilized terminology," said Pratt with
a grin.  "But  this  is not quite the point. Under the auspices of Beardsley
School, dramatics, dances and other natural activities are  not  technically
sex play, though girls do meet boys, if that is what you object to."
     "All  right,"  I  said, my hassock exhaling a weary sign. "You win. She
can take part in that play. Provided male parts are taken by female parts."
     "I  am  always  fascinated,"  said  Pratt,  "by   the   admirable   way
foreigners--or  at  least  naturalized Americans--use our rich language. I'm
sure Miss Gold, who conducts the play group, will be overjoyed. I notice she
is one of the few teachers that seem to like--I mean who seem to find  Dolly
manageable.  This takes care of general topics, I guess; now comes a special
matter. We are in trouble again."
     Pratt paused truculently,  then  rubbed  her  index  finger  under  her
nostrils with such vigor that her nose performed a kind of war dance.
     "I'm a frank person," she said, "but conventions are conventions, and I
find it  difficult  . . . Let me put it this way . . . The Walkers, who live
in what we call around here the Duke's Manor, you know the great gray  house
on  the hill--they send their two girls to our school, and we have the niece
of President Moore with us, a really gracious  child,  not  to  speak  of  a
number  of  other  prominent  children. Well, under the circumstances, it is
rather a jolt when Dolly, who looks like a little lady, uses words which you
as a foreigner probably simply do not know or do not understand. Perhaps  it
might  be better--Would you like me to have Dolly come up here right away to
discuss things? No? You see--oh well, let's have it out. Dolly has written a
most obscene four-letter word which our Dr. Cutler tells me  is  low-Mexican
for  urinal  with  her lipstick on some health pamphlets which Miss Redcock,
who is getting married in June, distributed among the girls, and we  thought
she should stay after hours--another half hour at least. But if you like--"
     "No,"  I  said,  "I don't want to interfere with rules. I shall talk to
her later. I shall thrash it out."
     "Do," said the woman rising from her chair arm. "And perhaps we can get
together again soon, and if things do not improve we might have  Dr.  Cutler
analyze her."
     Should I marry Pratt and strangle her?
     ".  .  .And  perhaps  your  family  doctor  might  like  to examine her
physically--just a routine check-up. She is in Mushroom--the last  classroom
along that passage."
     Beardsley  School, it may be explained, copied a famous girls school in
England by  having  "traditional"  nicknames  for  its  various  classrooms:
Mushroom,  Room-In 8, B-Room, Room-BA and so on. Mushroom was smelly, with a
sepia print of Reynolds'  "Age  of  Innocence"  above  the  chalkboard,  and
several  rows  of clumsy-looking pupil desks. At one of these, my Lolita was
reading the chapter on "Dialogue" in Baker's Dramatic Technique,  and
all  was  very  quiet,  and  there  was  another  girl  with  a  very naked,
porcelain-white neck and wonderful platinum hair, who sat in  front  reading
too,  absolutely  lost  to  the  world  and interminably winding a soft curl
around one finger, and I sat beside Dolly just behind  that  neck  and  that
hair,  and  unbuttoned  my  overcoat  and  for  sixty-five  cents  plus  the
permission to participate in the  school  play,  had  Dolly  put  her  inky,
chalky,  red-knuckled hand under the desk. Oh, stupid and reckless of me, no
doubt, but after the torture I had been subjected to, I simply had  to  take
advantage of a combination that I knew would never occur again.

        12

     Around Christmas she caught a bad chill and was examined by a friend of
Miss Lester,   a   Dr.   Ilse  Tristramson  (hi,  Ilse,  you  were  a  dear,
uninquisitive soul, and you touched my  dove  very  gently).  She  diagnosed
bronchitis, patted Lo on the back (all its bloom erect because of the fever)
and put her to bed for a week or longer. At first she "ran a temperature" in
American  parlance,  and  I  could  not  resist  the exquisite caloricity of
unexpected delights--Venus febriculosa--though it was a very languid  Lolita
that  moaned  and coughed and shivered in my embrace. And as soon as she was
well again, I threw a Party with Boys.
     Perhaps I had drunk a little too much in preparation  for  the  ordeal.
Perhaps  I  made  a fool of myself. The girls had decorated and plugged in a
small fir tree--German custom, except that colored bulbs had superseded  wax
candles.  Records  were  chosen  and fed into my landlord's phonograph. Chic
Dolly wore a nice gray dress with fitted bodice and flared skirt. Humming, I
retired to my study upstairs--and then every ten or twenty minutes  I  would
come  down  like  an  idiot just for a few seconds; to pick up ostensibly my
pipe from the mantelpiece or hunt for the  newspaper;  and  with  every  new
visit  these  simple actions became harder to perform, and I was reminded of
the dreadfully distant days when I used to brace myself to casually enter  a
room in the Ramsdale house where Little Carmen was on.
     The  party  was  not a success. Of the three girls invited, one did not
come at all, and one of the boys brought his cousin  Roy,  so  there  was  a
superfluity  of  two boys, and the cousins knew all the steps, and the other
fellows could hardly dance at all, and most of  the  evening  was  spent  in
messing up the kitchen, and then endlessly jabbering about what card game to
play,  and  sometime  later, two girls and four boys sat on the floor of the
living room, with all windows open, and played a word game which Opal  could
not  be  made  to understand, while Mona and Roy, a lean handsome lad, drank
ginger ale in the kitchen, sitting on the table and dangling their legs, and
hotly discussing Predestination and the Law of Averages. After they had  all
gone my Lo said ugh, closed her eyes, and dropped into a chair with all four
limbs  starfished  to express the utmost disgust and exhaustion and swore it
was the most revolting bunch of boys she had ever seen. I bought her  a  new
tennis racket for that remark.
     January  was humid and warm, and February fooled the forsythia: none of
the townspeople had ever  seen  such  weather.  Other  presents  came
tumbling  in.  For  her  birthday  I  bought her a bicycle, the doe-like and
altogether  charming  machine  already  mentioned--and  added  to   this   a
History  of  Modern American Painting: her bicycle manner, I mean her
approach to it, the hip movement in mounting, the grace and so on,  afforded
me  supreme  pleasure;  but  my  attempt to refine her pictorial taste was a
failure; she wanted to know if the guy noon-napping on Doris Lee's  hay  was
the  father of the pseudo-voluptuous hoyden in the foreground, and could not
understand why I said Grant Wood or Peter Hurd was good, and Reginald  Marsh
or Frederick Waugh awful.

        13

     By  the  time spring had touched up Thayer Street with yellow and green
and pink, Lolita was irrevocably stage-struck.  Pratt,  whom  I  chanced  to
notice  one  Sunday  lunching  with some people at Walton Inn, caught my eye
from afar and went through the  motion  of  sympathetically  and  discreetly
clapping her hands while Lo was not looking. I detest the theatre as being a
primitive  and  putrid  form,  historically  speaking; a form that smacks of
stone-age rites and communal nonsense despite those individual injections of
genius,  such  as,  say,  Elizabethan  poetry  which   a   closeted   reader
automatically  pumps  out of the stuff. Being much occupied at the time with
my own literary labors, I did not bother to read the complete text of The
Enchanted Hunters, the playlet in which Dolores Haze  was  assigned  the
part  of a farmer's daughter who imagines herself to be a woodland witch, or
Diana, or something, and who, having  got  hold  of  a  book  on  hypnotism,
plunges  a  number  of lost hunters into various entertaining trances before
falling in her turn under the spell of a vagabond  poet  (Mona  Dahl).  That
much  I  gleaned from bits of crumpled and poorly typed script that Lo sowed
all over the house. The coincidence  of  the  title  with  the  name  of  an
unforgettable  inn was pleasant in a sad little way: I wearily thought I had
better not bring it to my own enchantress's notice, lest a brazen accusation
of mawkishness hurt me even more than her failure to notice it  for  herself
had  done.  I  assumed  the playlet was just another, practically anonymous,
version of some  banal  legend.  Nothing  prevented  one,  of  course,  from
supposing  that  in quest of an attractive name the founder of the hotel had
been immediately  and  solely  influenced  by  the  chance  fantasy  of  the
second-rate  muralist  he  had hired, and that subsequently the hotel's name
had suggested the play's title. But in my credulous, simple, benevolent mind
I happened to twist it the other way round, and  without  giving  the  whole
matter  much though really, supposed that mural, name and title had all been
derived from a common source, from some local tradition, which I,  an  alien
unversed  in New England lore, would not be supposed to know. In consequence
I was under the impression (all this quite casually, you  understand,  quite
outside  my  orbit  of importance) that the accursed playlet belonged to the
type of whimsy for juvenile consumption, arranged and rearranged many times,
such as  Hansel  and  Gretel  by  Richard  Roe,  or  The  Sleeping
Beauty  by  Dorothy  Doe, or The Emperor's New Clothes by Maurice
Vermont and Marion Rumpelmeyer--all this to be found  in  any  Plays  for
School  Actors  or  Let's  Have a Play! In other words, I did not
know--and would not have cared, if I did --that  actually  The  Enchanted
Hunters  was  a  quite recent and technically original composition which
had been produced for the first time only three or  four  months  ago  by  a
highbrow  group  in  New  York.  To  me--inasmuch  as  I could judge from my
charmer's part--it seemed to be a pretty dismal kind  of  fancy  work,  with
echoes  from  Lenormand  and Maeterlinck and various quiet British dreamers.
The red-capped, uniformly attired  hunters,  of  which  one  was  a  banker,
another  a  plumber, a third a policeman, a fourth an undertaker, a fifth an
underwriter, a sixth an escaped convict (you see the  possibilities!),  went
through a complete change of mind in Dolly's Dell, and remembered their real
lives only as dreams or nightmares from which little Diana had aroused them;
but a seventh Hunter (in a green cap, the fool) was a Young Poet, and
he  insisted,  much  to  Diana's  annoyance,  that she and the entertainment
provided (dancing nymphs, and elves, and monsters)  were  his,  the  Poet's,
invention.  I understand that finally, in utter disgust at his cocksureness,
barefooted Dolores was to lead check-trousered Mona  to  the  paternal  farm
behind  the  Perilous  Forest  to prove to the braggart she was not a poet's
fancy, but a rustic, down-to-brown-earth lass--and a last-minute kiss was to
enforce the play's profound message, namely, that mirage and  reality  merge
in  love.  I  considered it wiser not to criticize the thing in front of Lo:
she  was  so  healthily  engrossed  in  "problems  of  expression,"  and  so
charmingly  did  she  put  her narrow Florentine hands together, batting her
eyelashes and pleading with me not to come to rehearsals as some  ridiculous
parents  did because she wanted to dazzle me with a perfect First Night--and
because I was, anyway, always butting in and saying  the  wrong  thing,  and
cramping her style in the presence of other people.
     There  was  one  very  special rehearsal . . . my heart, my heart . . .
there was one day in May marked by a lot of gay flurry--it all rolled  past,
beyond  my  ken,  immune  to  my memory, and when I saw Lo next, in the late
afternoon, balancing on her bike, pressing the palm of her hand to the  damp
bark  of  a young birch tree on the edge of our lawn, I was so struck by the
radiant tenderness of her smile that for  an  instant  I  believed  all  our
troubles  gone.  "Can  you  remember,"  she said, "what was the name of that
hotel, you know [nose pucketed], come on, you know--with those  white
columns  and the marble swan in the lobby? Oh, you know [noisy exhalation of
breath]--the hotel where you raped me. Okay, skip it. I mean, was it [almost
in a whisper] The Enchanted Hunters? Oh, it was?  [musingly]  Was  it?"--and
with  a yelp of amorous vernal laughter she slapped the glossy bole and tore
uphill, to the end of the street, and  then  rode  back,  feet  at  rest  on
stopped  pedals,  posture  relaxed,  one hand dreaming in her print-flowered
lap.

        14

     Because it supposedly tied up with her interest in dance and dramatics,
I had permitted Lo to take piano lessons with a Miss Emperor (as  we  French
scholars  may  conveniently  call  her) to whose blue-shuttered little white
house a mile or so beyond Beardsley Lo would spin  off  twice  a  week.  One
Friday  night toward the end of May (and a week or so after the very special
rehearsal Lo had not had me attend) the telephone in my study, where  I  was
in  the  act of mopping up Gustave's--I mean Gaston's--king's side, rang and
Miss Emperor asked if Lo was coming next Tuesday because she had missed last
Tuesday's and today's lessons. I said she would by all  means--and  went  on
with  the  game.  As  the  reader  may  well  imagine, my faculties were now
impaired, and a move or two later, with Gaston to play,  I  noticed  through
the  film  of my general distress that he could collect my queen; he noticed
it too, but thinking it might be a trap on the part of his tricky  opponent,
he demurred for quite a minute, and puffed and wheezed, and shook his jowls,
and  even  shot furtive glances at me, and made hesitating half-thrusts with
his pudgily  bunched  fingers--dying  to  take  that  juicy  queen  and  not
daring--and all of a sudden he swooped down upon it (who knows if it did not
teach him certain later audacities?), and I spent a dreary hour in achieving
a  draw. He finished his brandy and presently lumbered away, quite satisfied
with this result (mon pauvre ami, je ne vous ai jamais revu et  quoiqu'il
y  ait  bien peu de chance que vous voyiez mon livre, permiettez-moi de vous
dire que je vous  serre  la  main  bien  cordialement,  et  que  toutes  mes
fillettes  vous  saluent).  I  found  Dolores Haze at the kitchen table,
consuming a wedge of pie, with her eyes fixed on her script.  They  rose  to
meet  mine  with  a  kind  of  celestial  vapidity.  She remained singularly
unruffled when confronted with my discovery,  and  said  d'un  petit  air
faussement  contrit  that she knew she was a very wicked kid, but simply
had not been able to resist the enchantment, and had  used  up  those  music
hours--O  Reader,  My  Reader!--in a nearby public park rehearsing the magic
forest scene with Mona. I said "fine"--and stalked to the telephone.  Mona's
mother  answered:  "Oh  yes, she's in" and retreated with a mother's neutral
laugh of polite pleasure to shout off stage "Roy calling!" and the very next
moment Mona rustled up, and forthwith, in  a  low  monotonous  not  untender
voice  started  berating  Roy  for  something  he  had  said  or  done and I
interrupted her, and presently Mona  was  saying  in  her  humbles,  sexiest
contralto,  "yes,  sir,"  "surely,  sir"  "I am alone to blame, sir, in this
unfortunate business," (what elocution! what poise!) "honest,  I  feel  very
bad about it"--and so on and so forth as those little harlots say.
     So  downstairs  I  went clearing my throat and holding my heart. Lo was
now in the living room, in her favorite overstuffed chair. As  she  sprawled
there,  biting at a hangnail an mocking me with her heartless vaporous eyes,
and all the time rocking a stool upon which she had placed the  heel  of  an
outstretched  shoeless  foot, I perceived all at once with a sickening qualm
how much she had changed since I first met her two years ago.  Or  had  this
happened  during  those last two weeks? Tendresse? Surely that was an
exploded myth. She sat right in the focus of my incandescent anger. The  fog
of  all lust had been swept away leaving nothing but this dreadful lucidity.
Oh, she had changed! Her complexion  was  now  that  of  any  vulgar  untidy
highschool  girl  who  applies  shared  cosmetics  with grubby fingers to an
unwashed face  and  does  not  mind  what  soiled  texture,  what  pustulate
epidermis  comes  in contact with her skin. Its smooth tender bloom had been
so lovely in former days, so bright with tears, when  I  used  to  roll,  in
play,  her  tousled  head  on  my knee. A coarse flush had now replaced that
innocent fluorescence. What was locally known as a "rabbit cold" had painted
with flaming pink the edges of her contemptuous nostrils.  As  in  terror  I
lowered  my  gaze,  it  mechanically slid along the underside of her tensely
stretched bare thigh--how polished and muscular her legs had grown! She kept
her wide-set eyes, clouded-glass gray and slightly bloodshot, fixed upon me,
and I saw the stealthy thought showing through them that perhaps  after  all
Mona  was  right,  and  she,  orphan  Lo,  could  expose  me without getting
penalized herself. How wrong I was. How mad I was! Everything about her  was
of  the  same  exasperating  impenetrable order--the strength of her shapely
legs, the dirty sole of her white sock, the thick sweater she  wore  despite
the  closeness of the room, her wenchy smell, and especially the dead end of
her face with its strange flush and freshly made-up lips. Some  of  the  red
had  left  stains  on  her  front  teeth,  and  I  was  struck  by a ghastly
recollection--the  evoked  image  not  of  Monique,  but  of  another  young
prostitute  in  a  bell-house, ages ago, who had been snapped up by somebody
else before I had time to decide whether her mere youth warranted my risking
some  appalling  disease,  and  who  had   just   such   flushed   prominent
pommettes  and a dead maman, and big front teeth, and a bit of
dingy red ribbon in her country-brown hair.
     "Well, speak," said Lo. "Was the corroboration satisfactory?"
     "Oh, yes," I said. "Perfect. yes. And I do not doubt you  two  made  it
up.  As  a matter of fact, I do not doubt you have told her everything about
us."
     "Oh, yeah?"
     I controlled my breath and said: "Dolores, this must stop right away. I
am ready to yank you out of Beardsley and lock you up you  know  where,  but
this  must  stop.  I  am  ready to take you away the time it takes to pack a
suitcase. This must stop or else anything may happen."
     "Anything may happen, huh?"
     I snatched away the stool she was rocking with her heel  and  her  foot
fell with a thud on the floor.
     "Hey," she cried, "take it easy."
     "First of all you go upstairs," I cried in my turn,--and simultaneously
grabbed at her and pulled her up. From that moment, I stopped restraining my
voice,  and  we  continued  yelling at each other, and she said, unprintable
things. She said she loathed me. She made monstrous faces at  me,  inflating
her  cheeks  and  producing  a  diabolical  plopping  sound.  She said I had
attempted to violate her several times when I was her mother's  roomer.  She
said  she  was sure I had murdered her mother. She said she would sleep with
the very first fellow who asked her and I could do nothing about it. I  said
she  was to go upstairs and show me all her hiding places. It was a strident
and hateful scene. I held her by her knobby wrist and she kept  turning  and
twisting  it  this way and that, surreptitiously trying to find a weak point
so as to wrench herself free at a favorable moment, but  I  held  her  quite
hard  and  in  fact hurt her rather badly for which I hope my heart may rot,
and once or twice she jerked her arm so violently that I  feared  her  wrist
might snap, and all the while she stared at me with those unforgettable eyes
where  could anger and hot tears struggled, and our voices were drowning the
telephone, and when I grew aware of its ringing she instantly escaped.
     With people in movies I seem to  share  the  services  of  the  machina
telephonica and its sudden god. This time it was an irate neighbor. The east
window  happened  to  be agape in the living room, with the blind mercifully
down, however; and behind it the damp black night  of  a  sour  New  England
spring had been breathlessly listening to us. I had always thought that type
of  haddocky  spinster  with the obscene mind was the result of considerable
literary inbreeding in modern fiction; but now I am convinced that prude and
prurient Miss East--or to explode her  incognito,  Miss  Fenton  Lebone--had
been  probably  protruding  three-quarter-way from her bedroom window as she
strove to catch the gist of our quarrel.
     ". . . This racket . . . lacks all  sense  of  .  .  .  "  quacked  the
receiver, "we do not live in a tenement here. I must emphatically . . . "
     I apologized for my daughter's friends being so loud. Young people, you
know--and cradled the next quack and a half.
     Downstairs the screen door banged. Lo? Escaped?
     Through  the  casement on the stairs I saw a small impetuous ghost slip
through  the  shrubs;  a  silvery  dot  in  the  dark--hub  of  the  bicycle
wheel--moved, shivered, and she was gone.
     It  so  happened  that  the car was spending the night in a repair shop
downtown. I had no other alternative than  to  pursue  on  foot  the  winged
fugitive.  Even  now, after more than three years have heaved and elapsed, I
cannot visualize that spring-night street, that  already  so  leafy  street,
without  a  gasp  of  panic.  Before  their  lighted  porch  Miss Lester was
promenading Miss Favian's dropsical dackel. Mr. Hyde almost knocked it over.
Walk three steps and runt three.  A  tepid  rain  started  to  drum  on  the
chestnut  leaves.  At  the  next  corner,  pressing  Lolita  against an iron
railing, a blurred youth held and kissed--no, not her,  mistake.  My  talons
still tingling, I flew on.
     Half a mile or so east of number fourteen, Thayer Street tangles with a
private  lane  and  a  cross street; the latter leads to the town proper; in
front of the first drugstore, I saw--with what melody  of  relief!--Lolita's
fair  bicycle  waiting for her. I pushed instead of pulling, pulled, pushed,
pulled, and entered. Look out! some ten paces away Lolita, though the  glass
of  a  telephone  booth  (membranous  god  still with us), cupping the tube,
confidentially hunched over it, slit her eyes at me, turned  away  with  her
treasure, hurriedly hung up, and walked out with a flourish.
     "Tried  to reach you at home," she said brightly. "A great decision has
been made. But first buy me a drink, dad."
     She watched the listless pale fountain girl put in the ice, pour in the
coke, add the cherry syrup--and my heart was bursting with  love-ache.  That
childish  wrist.  My  lovely child. You have a lovely child, Mr. Humbert. We
always admire her as she passes by.  Mr.  Pim  watched  Pippa  suck  in  the
concoction.
     J'ai  toujours  admirи l'oeuvre du sublime dublinois. And in the
meantime the rain had become a voluptuous shower.
     "Look," she said as she rode the bike beside me, one foot scraping  the
darkly  glistening  sidewalk, "look, I've decided something. I want to leave
school I hate that school I hate the play, I really do! Never go back.  Find
another. Leave at once. Go for a long trip again. But this time we'll
go wherever I want, won't we?"
     I nodded. My Lolita.
     "I  choose?  C'est  entendu?" she asked wobbling a little beside
me. Used French only when she was a very good little girl.
     "Okay. Entendu. Now hop-hop-hop, Lenore, or you'll get  soaked."
(A storm of sobs was filling my chest.)
     She  bared  her  teeth  and  after  her adorable school-girl fashioned,
leaned forward, and away she sped, my bird.
     Miss Lester's finely groomed hand held a porch-door open for a waddling
old dog qui prenait son temps.
     Lo was waiting for me near the ghostly birch tree.
     "I am drenched," she declared at the top of her voice. "Are  you  glad?
To hell with the play! See what I mean?"
     An invisible hag's claw slammed down an upper-floor window.
     In  our hallway, ablaze with welcoming lights, my Lolita peeled off her
sweater, shook her gemmed hair, stretched towards me two bare  arms,  raised
one knee:
     "Carry me upstairs, please. I feel sort of romantic tonight."
     It  may interest physiologists to learn, at this point, that I have the
ability--a most singular case, I  presume--of  shedding  torrents  of  tears
throughout the other tempest.

        15

     The  brakes  were relined, the waterpipes unclogged, the valves ground,
and a number of other repairs and improvements were paid  for  by  not  very
mechanically-minded  but  prudent  papa  Humbert,  so  that  the  late  Mrs.
Humbert's car was in  respectable  shape  when  ready  to  undertake  a  new
journey.
     We  had  promised  Beardsley School, good old Beardsley School, that we
would be back as soon as my Hollywood engagement came to an  end  (inventive
Humbert  was  to  be, I hinted, chief consultant in the production of a film
dealing with "existentialism," still a hot thing at the  time).  Actually  I
was  toying  with  the idea of gently trickling across the Mexican border--I
was braver now than last year--and there deciding what to do with my  little
concubine  who  was  now sixty inches tall and weighed ninety pounds. We had
dug out our tour books and maps. She had traced our route with immense zest.
Was it thanks to those theatricals that she had now  outgrown  her  juvenile
jaded  airs  and was so adorably keen to explore rich reality? I experienced
the queer lightness of dreams that pale but  warm  Sunday  morning  when  we
abandoned  Professor  Chem's puzzled house and sped along Main Street toward
the four-lane highway. My  Love's  striped,  black-and-white  cotton  frock,
jauntry blue with the large beautifully cut aquamarine on a silver chainlet,
which  gemmed  her  throat:  a  spring  rain gift from me. We passed the New
Hotel, and she laughed.  "A  penny  for  your  thoughts,"  I  said  and  she
stretched out her palm at once, but at that moment I had to apply the breaks
rather  abruptly  at  a  red  light.  As we pulled up, another car came to a
gliding stop alongside, and a very striking looking, athletically lean young
woman (where had I seen her?) with a  high  complexion  and  shoulder-length
brilliant bronze hair, greeted Lo with a ringing "Hi!"--and then, addressing
me,  effusively, edusively (placed!), stressing certain words, said: "What a
shame to was to tear Dolly away from the play--you should have
heard the author raving  about  her  after  that  rehearsal--"
"Green  light,  you  dope,"  said  Lo  under her breath, and simultaneously,
waving in bright adieu a bangled arm, Joan of Arc (in a performance  we  saw
at  the  local  theatre)  violently  outdistanced  us  to swerve into Campus
Avenue.
     "Who was it exactly? Vermont or Rumpelmeyer?"
     "No--Edusa Gold--the gal who coaches us."
     "I was not referring to her. Who exactly concocted that play?"
     "Oh! Yes, of course. Some old woman, Clare Something,  I  guess.  There
was quite a crowd of them there."
     "So she complimented you?"
     "Complimented  my  eye--she  kissed me on my pure brow"--and my darling
emitted that new yelp of merriment which--perhaps  in  connection  with  her
theatrical mannerisms--she had lately begun to affect.
     "You  are  a  funny  creature,  Lolita,"  I  said--or  some such words.
"Naturally, I am overjoyed you gave up that absurd stage business. But  what
is  curious  is  that  you  dropped  the  whole thing only a week before its
natural climax. Oh, Lolita, you should be careful  of  those  surrenders  of
yours. I remember you gave up Ramsdale for camp, and camp for a joyride, and
I  could list other abrupt changes in your disposition. You must be careful.
There are things that should never be given  up.  You  must  persevere.  You
should  try  to  be a little nicer to me, Lolita. You should also watch your
diet. The tour of your thigh, you know, should not exceed  seventeen  and  a
half  inches.  More  might  be  fatal (I was kidding, of course). We are now
setting out on a long happy journey. I remember--"

        16

     I remember as a child in Europe gloating over a map  of  North  America
that  had  "Appalachian  Mountains"  boldly  running  from Alabama up to New
Brunswick, so that the whole region they spanned--Tennessee, the  Virginias,
Pennsylvania,  New  York,  Vermont,  New Hampshire and Maine, appeared to my
imagination as a gigantic Switzerland or even Tibet, all mountain,  glorious
diamond  peak  upon peak, giant conifers, le montagnard иmigrи in his
bear skin glory, and Felis tigris goldsmithi, and Red  Indians  under
the  catalpas.  That  it  all  boiled  down  to a measly suburban lawn and a
smoking garbage incinerator, was appalling.  Farewell,  Appalachia!  Leaving
it,  we crossed Ohio, the three states beginning with "I," and Nebraska--ah,
that first whiff of the West! We traveled very leisurely, having more than a
week to reach Wace, Continental Divide, where she  passionately  desired  to
see  he Ceremonial Dances marking the seasonal opening of Magic Cave, and at
least three weeks to reach Elphinstone, gem of a  western  State  where  she
yearned  to  climb  Red  Rock  from  which a mature screen star had recently
jumped to her death after a drunken row with her gigolo.
     Again we were welcomed to wary motels by  means  of  inscriptions  that
read:
     "We  wish  you  feel  at  home  while  here.  All  equipment was
carefully checked upon your arrival. Your license number is on record  here.
Use  hot  water  sparingly. We reserve the right to eject without notice any
objectionable person. Do not throw waste material of any kind in  the
toilet  bowl.  Thank  you.  Call again. The Management. P.S. We consider our
guests the Finest People of the World."
     In these frightening places we paid ten for twins, flies queued outside
at the screenless door and successfully  scrambled  in,  the  ashes  of  our
predecessors  still  lingered  in  the  ashtrays,  a woman's hair lay on the
pillow, one heard one's neighbor hanging his coat in his closet, the hangers
were ingeniously fixed to their bars by coils of wire so as to thwart theft,
and, in crowning insult, the pictures above the  twin  beds  were  identical
twins.  I  also  noticed  that  commercial fashion was changing. There was a
tendency for cabins to fuse and gradually form the caravansary, and, lo (she
was not interested but the reader may be), a second story was added,  and  a
lobby  grew  in,  and  cars were removed to a communal garage, and the motel
reverted to the good old hotel.
     I now warn the reader not to mock me and my mental daze. It is easy for
him and me to decipher now a past  destiny;  but  a  destiny  in  the
making is, believe me, not one of those honest mystery stories where all you
have  to  do  is  keep an eye on the clues. In my youth I once read a French
detective tale where the clues were actually in italics;  but  that  is  not
McFate's   way--even   if  one  does  learn  to  recognize  certain  obscure
indications.
     For instance: I would not  swear  that  there  was  not  at  least  one
occasion,  prior  to,  or  at  the very beginning of, the Midwest lap of our
journey, when she managed to convey some information to,  or  otherwise  get
into  contact  with,  a  person  or persons unknown. We had stopped at a gas
station, under the sign of Pegasus, and she had slipped out of her seat  and
escaped to the rear of the premises while the raised hood, under which I had
bent  to  watch  the  mechanic's manipulations, hid her for a moment from my
sight. Being inclined to be lenient, I only  shook  my  benign  head  though
strictly  speaking  such  visits were taboo, since I felt instinctively that
toilets--as also telephones--happened to be, for reasons  unfathomable,  the
points  where  my  destiny  was  liable  to  catch. We all have such fateful
objects--it  may  be  a  recurrent  landscape  in  one  case,  a  number  in
another--carefully   chosen  by  the  gods  to  attract  events  of  special
significance for us: here shall John  always  stumble;  there  shall  Jane's
heart always break.
     Well--my  car  had  been  attended to, and I had moved it away from the
pumps to let a pickup truck be serviced--when  the  growing  volume  of  her
absence  began  to  weigh  upon  me in the windy grayness. Not for the first
time, and not for the last, had I stared in such dull discomfort of mind  at
those  stationary  trivialities  that  look  almost  surprised, like staring
rustics, to find themselves in the stranded traveler's field of vision: that
green garbage can, those very black, very whitewalled tires for sale,  those
bright  cans  of  motor oil, that red icebox with assorted drinks, the four,
five, seven discarded bottles within the  incompleted  crossword  puzzle  of
their  wooden  cells, that bug patiently walking up the inside of the window
of the office. Radio music was coming from its open door,  and  because  the
rhythm was not synchronized with the heave and flutter and other gestures of
wind-animated  vegetation,  one  had  the  impression  of an old scenic film
living its own life while piano or fiddle followed a  line  of  music  quite
outside  the  shivering flower, the swaying branch. The sound of Charlotte's
last sob incongruously vibrated through me as,  with  her  dress  fluttering
athwart  the  rhythm, Lolita veered from a totally unexpected direction. She
had found the toilet occupied and had crossed over to the sign of the Conche
in the next block. They said there  they  were  proud  of  their  home-clean
restrooms.  These  prepaid  postcards, they said, had been provided for your
comments. No postcards. No soap. Nothing. No comments.
     That day or the next, after a tedious drive  through  a  land  of  food
crops,  we reached a pleasant little burg and put up at Chestnut Court--nice
cabins, damp green grounds, apple trees,  an  old  swing--and  a  tremendous
sunset  which  the tried child ignored. She had wanted to go through Kasbeam
because it was only thirty miles  north  from  her  home  town  but  on  the
following  morning  I  found her quite listless, with no desire to see again
the sidewalk where she had played hopscotch  some  five  years  before.  For
obvious  reasons  I  had  rather  dreaded that side trip, even though we had
agreed not to make ourselves conspicuous in any way--to remain  in  the  car
and  not  look  up  old friends. My relief at her abandoning the project was
spoiled by the thought  that  had  she  felt  I  were  totally  against  the
nostalgic  possibilities  of  Pisky,  as I had been last year, she would not
have given up so easily. On my mentioning this with a sigh, she  sighed  too
and  complained  of  being  out  of  sorts. She wanted to remain in bed till
teatime at least, with lots of magazines, and then if she  felt  better  she
suggested  we  just  continue  westward.  I  must say she was very sweet and
languid, and craved for fresh fruits, and I decided to go and  fetch  her  a
toothsome  picnic lunch in Kasbeam. Our cabin stood on the timbered crest of
a hill, and from our window you could see the road winding  down,  and  then
running  as  straight  as a hair parting between two rows of chestnut trees,
towards the pretty town, which looked singularly distinct and toylike in the
pure morning distance. One could make out an elf-like girl on an insect-like
bicycle, and a dog, a bit too large proportionately, all as clear  as  those
pilgrims  and  mules  winding  up  wax-pale roads in old paintings with blue
hills and red little people. I have the European urge to use my feet when  a
drive  can be dispensed with, so I leisurely walked down, eventually meeting
the cyclist--a plain plump girl  with  pigtails,  followed  by  a  huge  St.
Bernard dog with orbits like pansies. In Kasbeam a very old barber gave me a
very  mediocre haircut: he babbled of a baseball-playing son of his, and, at
every explodent, spat into my neck, and every now and then wiped his glasses
on my sheet-wrap, or interrupted his tremulous scissor work to produce faded
newspaper clippings, and so inattentive was I that it came  as  a  shock  to
realize  as  he  pointed  to  an  easeled  photograph among the ancient gray
lotions, that the mustached young ball player had been  dead  for  the  last
thirty years.
     I  had a cup of hot flavorless coffee, bought a bunch of bananas for my
monkey, and spent another ten minutes or so  in  a  delicatessen  store.  At
least  an  hour and a half must have elapsed when this homeward-bound little
pilgrim appeared on the winding road leading to Chestnut Castle.
     The girl I had seen on my way to town was now  loaded  with  linen  and
engaged  in  helping  a  misshapen  man  whose  big head and coarse features
reminded me of the "Bertoldo" character in low  Italian  comedy.  They  were
cleaning  the cabins of which there was a dozen or so on Chestnut Crest, all
pleasantly spaced amid the copious verdure. It was noon, and most  of  them,
with  a  final  bang  of  their  screen  doors, had already got rid of their
occupants. A very elderly, almost mummy-like couple in a very new model were
in the act of creeping out of one of the contiguous garages; from another  a
red hood protruded in somewhat cod-piece fashion; and nearer to our cabin, a
strong  and  handsome young man with a shock of black hair and blue eyes was
putting a portable refrigerator into a station wagon.  For  some  reason  he
gave  me  a sheepish grin as I passed. On the grass expanse opposite, in the
many-limbed shade of luxuriant trees,  the  familiar  St.  Bernard  dog  was
guarding  his  mistress'  bicycle, and nearby a young woman, far gone in the
family way, had seated a rapt baby on a swing and  was  rocking  it  gently,
while  a  jealous  boy  of  two or three was making a nuisance of himself by
trying to push or pull the swing board;  he  finally  succeeded  in  getting
himself  knocked down by it, and bawled loudly as he lay supine on the grass
while his mother continued  to  smile  gently  at  neither  of  her  present
children.  I  recall  so  clearly  these minutiae probably because I was to
check my impressions so thoroughly only a few minutes  later;  and  besides,
something  in me had been on guard ever since that awful night in Beardsley.
I now refused to be diverted by the feeling of well-being that my  walk  had
engendered--by  the  young summer breeze that enveloped the nape of my neck,
the giving crunch of the damn gravel, the juice tidbit. I had sucked out at
last from a hollowy tooth, and even the comfortable weight of my  provisions
which the general condition of my heart should not have allowed me to carry;
but  even  that  miserable  pump of mine seemed to be working sweetly, and I
felt adolori d'amoureuse langueur, to quote dear old  Ronsard,  as  I
reached the cottage where I had left my Dolores.
     To  my surprise I found her dressed. She was sitting on the edge of the
bed in slacks and T-shirt, and was looking at me as if she could  not  quite
place  me.  The frank soft shape of her small breasts was brought out rather
than blurred by the limpness of her thin shirt, and this frankness irritated
me. She had not washed; yet her mouth was freshly though  smudgily  painted,
and  her  broad  teeth  glistened  like  wine-tinged ivory, or pinkish poker
chips. And there she sat, hands clasped in her  lap,  and  dreamily  brimmed
with a diabolical glow that had no relations to me whatever.
     I  plumped down my heavy paper bag and stood staring at the bare ankles
of her sandaled feet, then at her silly face, then again at her sinful feet.
"You've been out," I said (the sandals were filthy with gravel).
     "I just got up," she replied, and added upon intercepting  my  downward
glance: "Went out for a sec. Wanted to see if you were coming back."
     She became aware of the bananas and uncoiled herself tableward.
     What  special  suspicion  could  I  have? None indeed--but those muddy,
moony eyes of hers, that singular warmth emanating from her! I said nothing.
I looked at the road meandering  so  distinctly  within  the  frame  of  the
window.  .  .  Anybody  wishing  to  betray  my  trust would have found it a
splendid lookout. With rising appetite, Lo applied herself to the fruit. All
at once I remembered the ingratiating  grin  of  the  Johnny  next  door.  I
stepped  out quickly. All cars had disappeared except his station wagon; his
pregnant young wife was not getting into it with her  baby  and  the  other,
more or less canceled, child.
     "What's the matter, where are you going?" cried Lo from the porch.
     I  said  nothing.  I pushed her softness back into the room and went in
after her. I ripped her shirt off. I unzipped the rest of her,  I  tore  off
her sandals. Wildly, I pursued the shadow of her infidelity; but the scent I
traveled  upon  was  so slight as to be practically undistinguishable from a
madman's fancy.

        17

     Gros  Gaston,  in  his   prissy   way,   had   liked   to   make
presents--presents  just  a  prissy  wee  bit  out of the ordinary, or so he
prissily thought. Noticing one night that my box of chessmen was broken,  he
sent  me  next  morning,  with a little lad of his, a copper case: it had an
elaborate Oriental design over the lid and could be  securely  locked.  Once
glance  sufficed  to  assure  me  that it was one of those cheap money boxes
called for some reason "luizettas" that you buy in  Algiers  and  elsewhere,
and wonder what to do with afterwards. It turned out to be much too flat for
holding  my  bulky chessmen, but I kept it--using it for a totally different
purpose.
     In order to break some pattern of fate in which I obscurely felt myself
being enmeshed, I had  decided--despite  Lo's  visible  annoyance--to  spend
another  night  at  Chestnut  Court;  definitely  waking  up  at four in the
morning, I ascertained that Lo was still sound asleep (mouth open, in a kind
of dull amazement at the curiously inane life we all had rigged up for  her)
and satisfied myself that the precious contents of the "luizetta" were safe.
There,  snugly  wrapped  in  a  white  woolen scarf, lay a pocket automatic:
caliber .32, capacity of magazine 8 cartridges, length a  little  under  one
ninth  of  Lolita's  length,  stock checked walnut, finish full blued. I had
inherited it from the late Harold Haze, with a 1938 catalog  which  cheerily
said in part: "Particularly well adapted for use in the home and car as well
as  on the person." There it lay, ready for instant service on the person or
persons, loaded and fully cocked with the slide  lock  in  safety  position,
thus  precluding any accidental discharge. We must remember that a pistol is
the Freudian symbol of the Ur-father's central forelimb.
     I was now glad I had it with me--and even more glad that I had  learned
to  use  it  two  years before, in the pine forest around my and Charlotte's
glass lake. Farlow, with whom I  had  roamed  those  remote  woods,  was  an
admirable  marksman, and with his .38 actually managed to hit a hummingbird,
though I must say not much of it could be retrieved for proof--only a little
iridescent fluff. A  burley  ex-policeman  called  Krestovski,  who  in  the
twenties  had  shot  and killed two escaped convicts, joined us and bagged a
tiny woodpecker--completely out of season, incidentally. Between  those  two
sportsmen I of course was a novice and kept missing everything, though I did
would a squirrel on a later occasion when I went out alone. "You like here,"
I whispered to my light-weight compact little chum, and then toasted it with
a dram of gin.

        18

     The  reader  must  now  forget  Chestnuts  and  Colts, and accompany us
further  west.  The  following  days  were  marked  by  a  number  of  great
thunderstorms--or  perhaps,  thee  was but one single storm which progressed
across country in ponderous frogleaps and which we could not shake off  just
as we could not shake off detective Trapp: for it was during those days that
the  problem  of the Aztec Red Convertible presented itself to me, and quite
overshadowed the theme of Lo's lovers.
     Queer!  I  who  was  jealous  of  every  male  we  met--queer,  how   I
misinterpreted  the  designations of doom. Perhaps I had been lulled by Lo's
modest behavior in winter, and anyway it would have been  too  foolish  even
for  a  lunatic  to suppose another Humbert was avidly following Humbert and
Humbert's nymphet with Jovian fireworks, over the great and ugly  plains.  I
surmised,  donc,  that  the  Red  Yak keeping behind us at a discreet
distance mile after mile was operated by a detective whom some busybody  had
hired  to  see  what  exactly  Humbert  Humbert  was  doing  with that minor
stepdaughter of his. As happens with me at periods of electrical disturbance
and crepitating lightnings, I had hallucinations. Maybe they were more  than
hallucinations. I do not know what she or he, or both had put into my liquor
but one night I felt sure somebody was tapping on the door of our cabin, and
I  flung  it  open, and noticed two things--that I was stark naked and that,
white-glistening in the rain-dripping darkness, there stood  a  man  holding
before his face the mask of Jutting Chin, a grotesque sleuth in the funnies.
He  emitted  a  muffled guffaw and scurried away, and I reeled back into the
room, and fell asleep again, and am not sure even to this day that the visit
was not a drug-provoked dream: I have thoroughly  studied  Trapp's  type  of
humor, and this might have been a plausible sample. Oh, crude and absolutely
ruthless!  Somebody,  I imagined, was making money on those masks of popular
monsters and morons. Did I see next  morning  two  urchins  rummaging  in  a
garbage  can  and  trying  on Jutting Chin? I wonder. It may all have been a
coincidence--due to atmospheric conditions, I suppose.
     Being a murderer with  a  sensational  but  incomplete  and  unorthodox
memory,  I cannot tell you, ladies and gentlemen, the exact day when I first
knew with utter certainty that the red convertible was following  us.  I  do
remember,  however,  the  first  time  I saw its driver quite clearly. I was
proceeding slowly one afternoon through torrents of  rain  and  kept  seeing
that red ghost swimming and shivering with lust in my mirror, when presently
the  deluge  dwindled to a patter, and then was suspended altogether. With a
swishing sound a sunburst swept the highway,  and  needing  a  pair  of  new
sunglasses,  I  pussled  up  at  a filling station. What was happening was a
sickness, a cancer, that could not be helped, so I simply ignored  the  fact
that  our  quiet pursuer, in his converted state, stopped a little behind us
at a cafe or bar bearing the idiotic sign: The Bustle: A Deceitful  Seatful.
Having  seen  to  the needs of my car, I walked into the office to get those
glasses and pay for the gas. As I was in the act  of  signing  a  traveler's
check  and wondered about my exact whereabouts, I happened to glance through
a side window, and saw a terrible thing. A broad-backed man, baldish, in  an
oatmeal  coat  and  dark-brown trousers, was listening to Lo who was leaning
out of the car and talking to him very  rapidly,  her  hand  with  outspread
fingers  going up and down as it did when she was very serious and emphatic.
What struck me with sickening force was--how should I put  it?--the  voluble
familiarity  of  her way, as if they had known each other--oh, for weeks and
weeks. I saw him scratch his cheek and nod, and turn, and walk back  to  his
convertible, a broad and thickish man of my age, somewhat resembling Gustave
Trapp,  a  cousin  of my father's in Switzerland--same smoothly tanned face,
fuller than mine, with a small dark mustache and a rosebud degenerate mouth.
Lolita was studying a road map when I got back into the car.
     "What did that man ask you, Lol?"
     "Man? Oh, that man. Oh yes. Oh, I don't know. He wondered if  I  had  a
map. Lost his way, I guess."
     We drove on, and I said:
     "Now  listen,  Lo. I do not know whether you are lying or not, and I do
not know whether you are insane or not, and I do not care  for  the  moment;
but  that person has been following us all day, and his car was at the motel
yesterday, and I think he is a cop. You know perfectly well what will happen
and where you will go if the police find out about things.  Now  I  want  to
know exactly what he said to you and what you told him."
     She laughed.
     "If  he's  really  a  cop,"  she said shrilly but not illogically, "the
worst thing we could do, would be to show him we  are  scared.  Ignore  him,
Dad."
     "Did he ask where we were going?"
     "Oh, he knows that" (mocking me).
     "Anyway,"  I  said,  giving  up,  "I  have seen his face now. He is not
pretty. He looks exactly like a relative of mine called Trapp."
     "Perhaps he is Trapp. If I  were  you--Oh,  look,  all  the  nines  are
changing  into  the  next  thousand. When I was a little kid," she continued
unexpectedly, "I used to think they'd stop and go back to nines, if only  my
mother agreed to put the car in reverse."
     It  was  the  first  time,  I  think,  she  spoke  spontaneously of her
pre-Humbertian childhood; perhaps, the theatre had taught  her  that  trick;
and silently we traveled on, unpursued.
     But  next day, like pain in a fatal disease that comes back as the drug
and hope wear off, there it was again behind us, that glossy red beast.  The
traffic on the highway was light that day; nobody passed anybody; and nobody
attempted  to  get  in  between  our  humble  blue car and its imperious red
shadow--as if there were some spell cast on that interspace, a zone of  evil
mirth  and magic, a zone whose very precision and stability had a glass-like
virtue that was almost artistic. The driver  behind  me,  with  his  stuffed
shoulders  and  Trappish  mustache,  looked  like  a  display dummy, and his
convertible seemed to move only because an invisible  rope  of  silent  silk
connected  it  with  out  shabby vehicle. We were many times weaker than his
splendid, lacquered machine, so that I did not even attempt to outspeed him.
O lente currite noctis equi! O softly  run,  nightmares!  We  climbed
long  grades  and rolled downhill again, and heeded speed limits, and spared
slow children, and reproduced in sweeping terms the black wiggles of  curves
on their yellow shields, and no matter how and where we drove, the enchanted
interspace slid on intact, mathematical, mirage-like, the viatic counterpart
of  a  magic  carpet.  And all the time I was aware of a private blaze on my
right: her joyful eye, her flaming cheek.
     A traffic policeman, deep in the nightmare  of  crisscross  streets--at
half-past-four  p.m.  in  a  factory  town--was  the  hand  of  chance  that
interrupted the spell. He beckoned me on, and then with the  same  hand  cut
off  my  shadow. A score of cars were launched in between us, and I sped on,
and deftly turned into a narrow lane. A sparrow alighted with a jumbo  bread
crumb, was tackled by another, and lost the crumb.
     When  after  a few grim stoppages and a bit of deliberate meandering, I
returned to the highway, our shadow had disappeared.
     Lola snorted and said: "If he is what you think he  is,  how  silly  to
give him the slip."
     "I have other notions by now," I said.
     "You  should--ah--check them by--ah--keeping in touch with him, fahther
deah," said Lo, writhing  in  the  coils  of  her  own  sarcasm.  "Gee,  you
are mean," she added in her ordinary voice.
     We  spent a grim night in a very foul cabin, under a sonorous amplitude
of rain, and with a kind of prehistorically loud thunder incessantly rolling
above us.
     "I am not a lady and do not like lightning," said Lo,  whose  dread  of
electric storms gave me some pathetic solace.
     We had breakfast in the township of Soda, pop. 1001.
     "Judging  by  the  terminal  figure,"  I  remarked, "Fatface is already
here."
     "Your humor," said Lo, "is sidesplitting, deah fahther."
     We were in sage-brush country by that time, and there was a day or  two
of  lovely  release  (I  had  been a fool, all was well, that discomfort was
merely a  trapped  flatus),  and  presently  the  mesas  gave  way  to  real
mountains, and, on time, we drove into Wace.
     Oh,  disaster.  Some  confusion had occurred, she had misread a date in
the Tour Book, and the Magic Cave ceremonies were over! She took it bravely,
I must admit--and, when we discovered there was in kurortish Wace  a  summer
theatre  in  full  swing,  we  naturally drifted toward it one fair mid-June
evening. I really could not tell you the plot of the play we saw. A  trivial
affair,  no  doubt, with self-conscious light effects and a mediocre leading
lady. The only detail that pleased me was a garland of seven little  graces,
more or less immobile, prettily painted, barelimbed--seven bemused pubescent
girls  in  colored  gauze  that  had  been recruited locally (judging by the
partisan flurry here and there among the  audience)  and  were  supposed  to
represent  a  living  rainbow,  which  lingered throughout the last act, and
rather teasingly faded behind a  series  of  multiplied  veils.  I  remember
thinking  that this idea of children-colors had been lifted by authors Clare
Quilty and Vivian Darkbloom from a passage in James Joyce, and that  two  of
the  colors  were quite exasperatingly lovely--Orange who kept fidgeting all
the time, and Emerald who, when her eyes got used  to  the  pitch-black  pit
where we all heavily sat, suddenly smiled at her mother or her protector.
     As  soon  as the thing was over, and manual applause--a sound my nerves
cannot stand--began to crash all around me, I started to pull  and  push  Lo
toward  the exit, in my so natural amorous impatience to get her back to our
neon-blue cottage in the stunned, starry  night:  I  always  say  nature  is
stunned  by the sights she sees. Dolly-Lo, however, lagged behind, in a rosy
daze, her pleased eyes narrowed, her sense of vision swamping  the  rest  of
her senses to such an extent that her limp hands hardly came together at all
in  the  mechanical  action  of clapping they still went through. I had seen
that kind of thing in children before but, by God, this was a special child,
myopically beaming at the already remote stage where I glimpsed something of
the joint authors--a man's tuxedo and the bare  shoulders  of  a  hawk-like,
black-haired, strikingly tall woman.
     "You've  again  hurt my wrist, you brute," said Lolita in a small voice
as she slipped into her car seat.
     "I am dreadfully sorry, my darling,  my  own  ultraviolet  darling,"  I
said,  unsuccessfully  trying to catch her elbow, and I added, to change the
conversation--to change the direction of fate, oh God, oh  God:  "Vivian  is
quite  a  woman.  I am sure we saw her yesterday in that restaurant, in Soda
pop."
     "Sometimes," said Lo, "you are quite revoltingly dumb. First, Vivian is
the male author, the gal author is Clare; and second, she is forty,  married
and has Negro blood."
     "I thought," I said kidding her, "Quilty was an ancient flame of yours,
in the days when you loved me, in sweet old Ramsdale."
     "What?" countered Lo, her features working. "that fat dentist? You must
be confusing me with some other fast little article."
     And  I  thought  to  myself  how  those  fast  little  articles  forget
everything, everything, while we, old lovers, treasure every inch  of  their
nymphancy.

        19

     With  Lo's  knowledge  and  assent,  the  two post offices given to the
Beardsley postmaster  as  forwarding  addresses  were  P.O.  Wace  and  P.O.
Elphinstone.  Next  morning we visited the former and had to wait in a short
but slow queue. Serene  Lo  studied  the  rogues'  gallery.  Handsome  Bryan
Bryanski,  alias  Anthony  Bryan,  alias  Tony Brown, eyes hazel, complexion
fair, was wanted for kidnapping. A sad-eyed  old  gentleman's  faux-pas  was
mail  fraud,  and,  as  if that were not enough, he was cursed with deformed
arches. Sullen Sullivan came with a caution: Is believed armed,  and  should
be  considered  extremely  dangerous.  If you want to make a movie out of my
book, have one of these faces gently melt into my own,  while  I  look.  And
moreover  there  was  a  smudgy  snapshot  of  a Missing Girl, age fourteen,
wearing brown shoes when last seen, rhymes. Please notify Sheriff Buller.
     I forget my letters; as to Dolly's, there was her  report  and  a  very
special-looking  envelope.  This  I  deliberately  opened  and  perused  its
contents. I concluded I was doing the foreseen since she  did  not  seem  to
mind and drifted toward the newsstand near the exit.
     "Dolly-Lo:  Well,  the  play  was a grand success. All three hounds lay
quiet having been slightly drugged by Cutler, I suspect, and Linda knew  all
your  lines. She was fine, she had alertness and control, but lacked somehow
the  responsiveness,  the  relaxed  vitality,  the  charm   of
my--and the author's--Diana; but there was no author to applaud us as
last  time,  and the terrific electric storm outside interfered with our own
modest offstage thunder. Oh dear, life does  fly.  Now  that  everything  is
over,  school, play, the Roy mess, mother's confinement (our baby, alas, did
not live!), it all seems such a long time ago, though  practically  I  still
bear traces of the paint.
     "We are going to New York after tomorrow, and I guess I can't manage to
wriggle out of accompanying my parents to Europe. I have even worse news for
you. Dolly-Lo!  I  may not be back at Beardsley if and when you return. With
one thing and another, one being you know who, and the other not  being  who
you think you know, Dad wants me to go to school in Paris for one year while
he and Fullbright are around.
     "As  expected, poor Poet stumbled in Scene III when arriving at the bit
of French nonsense. Remember? Ne manque pas de dire ю ton amant, Chimхne,
comme le lac est beau car il faut qu'il t'y mиne. Lucky  beau!  Qu'il
t'y--What  a  tongue-twister!  Well,  be good, Lollikins. Best love from
your Poet, and best regards to the Governor. Your Mona. P.S. Because of  one
thing  and  another,  my correspondence happens to be rigidly controlled. So
better wait till I write you from Europe." (She never did as far as I  know.
The  letter contained an element of mysterious nastiness that I am too tired
today to analyze. I found it later preserved in one of the Tour  Books,  and
give it here ю titre documentaire. I read it twice.)
     I  looked  up  from  the  letter  and  was about to--There was no Lo to
behold. While I was engrossed  in  Mona's  witchery,  Lo  had  shrugged  her
shoulders  and  vanished.  "Did  you happen to see--" I asked of a hunchback
sweeping the floor near the entrance. He had, the old lecherer.  He  guessed
she had seen a friend and had hurried out. I hurried out too. I stopped--she
had  not.  I  hurried  on. I stopped again. It had happened at last. She had
gone for ever.
     In later years I have often wondered why she did not go  forever
that  day.  Was  it  the  retentive  quality of her new summer clothes in my
locked car? Was it some unripe particle in some general plan? Was it  simply
because,  all  things  considered,  I might as well be used to convey her to
Elphinstone--the secret terminus, anyway? I only know I  was  quite  certain
she  had  left me for ever. The noncommittal mauve mountains half encircling
the town seemed to me to swarm with panting, scrambling,  laughing,  panting
Lolitas who dissolved in their haze. A big W made of white stones on a steep
talus in the far vista of a cross street seemed the very initial of woe.
     The new and beautiful post office I had just emerged from stood between
a dormant  movie  house  and  a  conspiracy  of poplars. The time was 9 a.m.
mountain time. The street was charming it into  beauty,  was  one  of  those
fragile  young  summer  mornings  with flashes of glass here and there and a
general air  of  faltering  and  almost  fainting  at  the  prospect  of  an
intolerably  torrid  noon.  Crossing  over, I loafed and leafed, as it were,
through one long block: Drugs, Real  Estate,  Fashions,  Auto  Parts,  Cafe,
Sporting Goods, Real Estate, Furniture, Appliances, Western Union, Cleaners,
Grocery.  Officer,  officer,  my  daughter has run away. In collusion with a
detective;  in  love  with  a  black-mailer.  Took  advantage  of  my  utter
helplessness.  I  peered into all the stores. I deliberated inly if I should
talk to any of the sparse foot-passengers. I did not. I sat for a  while  in
the  parked car. I inspected the public garden on the east side. I went back
to Fashions  and  Auto  Parts.  I  told  myself  with  a  burst  of  furious
sarcasm--un  ricanement--that  I  was  crazy to suspect her, that she
would turn up any minute.
     She did.
     I wheeled around and shook off the hand she had  placed  on  my  sleeve
with a timid and imbecile smile.
     "Get into the car," I said.
     She  obeyed, and I went on pacing up and down, struggling with nameless
thoughts, trying to plan some way of tackling her duplicity.
     Presently she left the car and was  at  my  side  again.  My  sense  of
hearing  gradually  got tuned in to station Lo again, and I became aware she
was telling me that she had met a former girl friend.
     "Yes? Whom?"
     "A Beardsley girl."
     "Good. I now every name in your group. Alice Adams?"
     "The girl was not in my group."
     "Good. I have a complete student list with me. Her name please."
     "She was not in my school She is just a town girl in Beardsley."
     "Good. I have the Beardsley directory with me too. We'll  look  up  all
the Browns."
     "I only know her first name."
     "Mary or Jane?"
     "No--Dolly, like me."
     "So  that's  the  dead  end"  (the mirror you break your nose against).
"Good. Let us try another angle. You have been absent twenty-eight  minutes.
What did the two Dollys do?"
     "We went to a drugstore."
     "And you had there--?"
     "Oh, just a couple of Cokes."
     "Careful, Dolly. We can check that, you know."
     "At least, she had. I had a glass of water."
     "Good. Was it that place there?"
     "Sure."
     "Good, come on, we'll grill the soda jerk."
     "Wait a sec. Come to think it might have been further down--just around
the corner."
     "Come  on  all  the  same.  Go  in please. Well, let's see." (Opening a
chained telephone book.) "Dignified Funeral Service. NO, not  yet.  Here  we
are:  Druggists-Retail.  Hill  Drug  Store. Larkin's Pharmacy. And two more.
That's all Wace seems to have in the way of soda fountains--at least in  the
business section. Well, we will check them all."
     "Go to hell," she said.
     "Lo, rudeness will get you nowhere."
     "Okay," she said. "But you're not going to trap me. Okay, so we did not
have a pop. We just talked and looked at dresses in show windows."
     "Which? That window there for example?"
     "Yes, that one there, for example."
     "Oh Lo! Let's look closer at it."
     It was indeed a pretty sight. A dapper young fellow was vacuum-cleaning
a carpet  upon which stood two figures that looked as if some blast had just
worked havoc with them. One figure was stark naked, wigless and armless. Its
comparatively small stature and smirking pose suggested that when clothed it
had represented, and would represent when clothed  again,  a  girl-child  of
Lolita's  size. But in its present state it was sexless. Next to it, stood a
much taller veiled bride, quite perfect and intact  except  for  the
lack  of  one arm. On the floor, at the feet of these damsels, where the man
crawled about laboriously with his cleaner, there lay  a  cluster  of  three
slender  arms,  and  a blond wig. Two of the arms happened to be twisted and
seemed to suggest a clasping gesture of horror and supplication.
     "Look, Lo," I said quietly. "Look well.  Is  not  that  a  rather  good
symbol  of  something  or other? However"--I went on as we got back into the
car--"I have taken certain precautions. Here (delicately opening  the  glove
compartment), on this pad I have our boy friend's car number."
     As the ass I was I had not memorized it. What remained of it in my mind
were the  initial letter and the closing figure as if the whole amphitheater
of six signs receded concavely behind a tinted glass too opaque to allow the
central series to be deciphered, but just translucent enough to make out its
extreme edges--a capital P and a 6. I have to go into those  details  (which
in   themselves  can  interest  only  a  professional  psychologue)  because
otherwise the reader (ah, if  I  could  visualize  him  as  a  blond-bearded
scholar  with  rosy lips sucking la pomme de sa canne as he quaffs my
manuscript!) might not understand the quality of  the  shock  I  experienced
upon  noticing  that the P had acquired the bustle of a B and that the 6 had
been deleted altogether. The  rest,  with  erasures  revealing  the  hurried
shuttle  smear  of  a  pencil's  rubber  end,  and  with  parts  of  numbers
obliterated or reconstructed in a child's hand, presented a tangle of barbed
wire to any logical interpretation. All I knew was the  state--one  adjacent
to the state Beardsley was in.
     I  said  nothing. I put the pad back, closed the compartment, and drove
out  of  Wace.  Lo  had  grabbed  some  comics  from  the  back  seat   and,
mobile-white-bloused,  one  brown  elbow  out of the window, was deep in the
current adventure of some clout or clown. Three or four miles out of Wace, I
turned into the shadow of a picnic ground where the morning had  dumped  its
litter  of  light  on  an  empty  table;  Lo  looked up with a semi-smile of
surprise and without a word I  delivered  a  tremendous  backhand  cut  that
caught her smack on her hot hard little cheekbone.
     And  then  the  remorse,  the  poignant sweetness of sobbing atonement,
groveling love, the hopelessness of sensual reconciliation.  In  the  velvet
night,  at  Mirana  Motel  (Mirana!)  I  kissed  the  yellowish soles of her
long-toed feet, I immolated myself . . . But it was all of  no  avail.  both
doomed were we. And soon I was to enter a new cycle of persecution.
     In  a street of Wace, on its outskirts . . . Oh, I am quite sure it was
not a delusion.  In  a  street  of  Wace,  I  had  glimpsed  the  Aztec  Red
Convertible,  or  its identical twin. Instead of Trapp, it contained four or
five loud young people of several sexes--but I said nothing.  After  Wace  a
totally new situation arose. For a day or two, I enjoyed the mental emphasis
with  which I told myself that we were not, and never had been followed; and
then I became sickeningly conscious that Trapp had changed his  tactics  and
was still with us, in this or that rented car.
     A  veritable  Proteus of the highway, with bewildering ease he switched
from one vehicle to another. This technique implied the existence of garages
specializing in "stage-automobile" operations, but I  never  could  discover
the  remises  he  used. He seemed to patronize at first the Chevrolet genus,
beginning with a Campus Cream convertible, then going on to a small  Horizon
Blue  sedan,  and thenceforth fading into Surf Gray and Driftwood Gray. Then
he turned to other makes and passed through a pale  dull  rainbow  of  paint
shades,  and  one  day  I  found  myself  attempting to cope with the subtle
distinction between our own Dream Blue Melmoth and the Crest Blue Oldsmobile
he had rented; grays, however, remained his favorite cryptochromism, and, in
agonizing nightmares, I tried in vain to sort out properly  such  ghosts  as
Chrysler's Shell Gray, Chevrolet's Thistle Gray, Dodge's French Gray . . .
     The  necessity  of  being  constantly  on  the  lookout  for his little
mustache and open shirt--or for his baldish pate and broad shoulders--led me
to a profound study of all cars  on  the  road--behind,  before,  alongside,
coming,  going, every vehicle under the dancing sun: the quiet vacationist's
automobile with the box of Tender-Touch tissues  in  the  back  window;  the
recklessly  speeding  jalopy  full of pale children with a shaggy dog's head
protruding, and a crumpled mudguard; the bachelor's tudor sedan crowded with
suits on hangers; the huge fat house trailer weaving in front, immune to the
Indian file of fury boiling  behind  it;  the  car  with  the  young  female
passenger  politely  perched in the middle of the front seat to be closer to
the young male driver; the car carrying on its roof a red boat bottom up . .
. The gray car slowing up before us, the gray car catching up with us.
     We were in mountain country, somewhere between Snow and  Champion,  and
rolling down an almost imperceptible grade, when I had my next distinct view
of  Detective  Paramour  Trapp.  The  gray  mist  behind us had deepened and
concentrated into the compactness of a Dominion Blue sedan. All of a sudden,
as if the car I drove responded to my poor heart's pangs, we were slithering
from side to side, with something making a helpless plap-plap-plap under us.
     "You got a flat, mister," said cheerful Lo.
     I pulled up--near a precipice. She folded her arms and put her foot  on
the  dashboard. I got out and examined the right rear wheel. The base of its
tire was sheepishly and hideously square. Trapp had stopped some fifty yards
behind us. His distant face formed a grease  spot  of  mirth.  This  was  my
chance. I started to walk towards him--with the brilliant idea of asking him
for a jack through I had one. He backed a little. I stubbed my toe against a
stone--and  there  was  a sense of general laughter. Then a tremendous truck
loomed from behind Trapp and thundered by me--and immediately after, I heard
it utter a convulsive honk. Instinctively I looked back--and saw my own  car
gently  creeping away. I could make out Lo ludicrously at the wheel, and the
engine was certainly running--though I remembered I had cut it but  had  not
applied  the  emergency brake; and during the brief space of throb-time that
it took me to reach the croaking machine which came to a standstill at last,
it dawned upon me that during the last two years little  Lo  had  had  ample
time to pick up the rudiments of driving. As I wrenched the door open, I was
goddamn sure she had started the car to prevent me from walking up to Trapp.
Her trick proved useless, however, for even while I was puruing her  he  had
made an energetic U-turn and was gone. I rested for a while. Lo asked wasn't
I  going to thank her--the car had started to move by itself and--Getting no
answer, she immersed herself in a study of the map.  I  got  out  again  and
commenced  the "ordeal of the orb," as Charlotte used to say. Perhaps, I was
losing my mind.
     We continued our grotesque journey. After a forlorn and useless dip, we
went up and up. On a steep grade I found myself behind  the  gigantic  truck
that  had  overtaken  us.  It  was  now  groaning  up a winding road and was
impossible to pass.  Out  of  its  front  part  a  small  oblong  of  smooth
silver--the  inner  wrapping  of chewing gum--escaped and flew back into our
windshield. It occurred to me that if I were really losing my mind, I  might
end by murdering somebody. In fact--said high-and-dry Humbert to floundering
Humbert--it  might be quite clever to prepare things--to transfer the weapon
from box to pocket--so as to be ready to take  advantage  of  the  spell  of
insanity when it does come.

        20

     By  permitting Lolita to study acting I had, fond fool, suffered her to
cultivate deceit. It now appeared that it had not been merely  a  matter  of
learning  the  answers  to  such  questions as what is the basic conflict in
"Hedda Gabler," or where are the climaxes in "Love Under  the  Lindens,"  or
analyze  the  prevailing mood of "Cherry Orchard"; it was really a matter of
learning to  betray  me.  How  I  deplored  now  the  exercises  in  sensual
simulation  that  I had so often seen her go through in our Beardsley parlor
when I would observe her  from  some  strategic  point  while  she,  like  a
hypnotic  subject  of  a  performer in a mystic rite, produced sophisticated
version of infantile make-believe by going through the  mimetic  actions  of
hearing  a  moan  in  the  dark, seeing for the first time a brand new young
stepmother, tasting  something  she  hated,  such  as  buttermilk,  smelling
crushed  grass  in  a  lush orchard, or touching mirages of objects with her
sly, slender, girl-child hands. Among my papers I still have a  mimeographed
sheet suggesting:

     Tactile  drill.  Imagine  Yourself  picking  up and holding: a pingpong
ball, an apple, a sticky date, a new  flannel-fluffed  tennis  ball,  a  hot
potato,  an  ice  cube,  a  kitten,  a  puppy,  a  horseshoe,  a  feather, a
flashlight.
     Knead with your fingers the following  imaginary  things:  a  piece  of
brad,  india  rubber,  a  friend's aching temple, a sample of velvet, a rose
petal.
     You are a blind girl. Palpate the face of: a Greek youth, Cyrano, Santa
Claus, a baby, a laughing faun, a sleeping stranger, your father.

     But she had been so pretty in the weaving of those delicate spells,  in
the   dreamy   performance  of  her  enchantments  and  duties!  On  certain
adventurous evenings, in Beardsley, I also had her dance  for  me  with  the
promise  of  some treat or gift, and although these routine leg-parted leaps
of hers were more like  those  of  a  football  cheerleader  than  like  the
languorous  and jerky motions of a Parisian petit rat, the rhythms of
her not quite nubile limbs had given me pleasure. But all that was  nothing,
absolutely  nothing,  to  the  indescribable itch of rapture that her tennis
game produced in me--the teasing delirious feeling of teetering on the  very
brink of unearthly order and splendor.
     Despite her advanced age, she was more of a nymphet than ever, with her
apricot-colored  limbs,  in  her  sub-teen tennis togs! Winged gentlemen! No
hereafter is acceptable if it does not produce her as she was then, in  that
Colorado  resort  between  Snow  and Elphinstone, with everything right: the
white wide little-boy shorts, the slender waist, the  apricot  midriff,  the
white  breast-kerchief  whose  ribbons went up and encircled her neck to end
behind in a dangling knot leaving bare  her  gaspingly  young  and  adorable
apricot  shoulder blades with that pubescence and those lovely gentle bones,
and the smooth, downward-tapering back. Her cap had a white peak. Her racket
had cost me a small fortune. Idiot, triple idiot! I could have filmed her! I
would have had her now with me, before my eyes, in the projection room of my
pain and despair!
     She would wait and relax for a bar or two of  white-lined  time  before
going  into the act of serving, and often bounced the ball once or twice, or
pawed the ground a little, always at ease, always  rather  vague  about  the
score,  always  cheerful  as  she  so seldom was in the dark life she led at
home. Her tennis was the highest point  to  which  I  can  imagine  a  young
creature  bringing  the art of make-believe, although I daresay, for her it
was the very geometry of basic reality.
     The exquisite clarity of all her movements had its auditory counterpart
in the pure ringing sound of her every stroke. The ball when it entered  her
aura  of  control  became somehow whiter, its resilience somehow richer, and
the instrument of precision she used upon it seemed inordinately  prehensile
and  deliberate  at the moment of clinging contact. Her form was, indeed, an
absolutely perfect imitation of  absolutely  top-notch  tennis--without  any
utilitarian  results.  As  Edusa's  sister,  Electra Gold, a marvelous young
coach, said to me once while I  sat  on  a  pulsating  hard  bench  watching
Dolores  Haze toying with Linda Hall (and being beaten by her): "Dolly has a
magnet in the center of her racket guts, but why the heck is she so polite?"
Ah, Electra, what did it matter, with such grace! I  remember  at  the  very
first  game  I  watched  being drenched with an almost painful convulsion of
beauty assimilation. My Lolita had a way of raising her bent  left  knee  at
the  ample  and  springy start of the service cycle when there would develop
and hang in the sun for a second a vital web of balance between  toed  foot,
pristine  armpit,  burnished arm and far back-flung racket, as she smiled up
with gleaming teeth at the small globe suspended so high in  the  zenith  of
the  powerful and graceful cosmos she had created for the express purpose of
falling upon it with a clean resounding crack of her golden whip.
     It had, that serve of hers,  beauty,  directness,  youth,  a  classical
purity  of  trajectory,  and  was, despite its spanking pace, fairly easy to
return, having as it did no twist or sting to its long elegant hop.
     That  I  could  have  had  all  her  strokes,  all  her   enchantments,
immortalized in segments of celluloid, makes me moan today with frustration.
They  would have been so much more than the snapshots I burned! Her overhead
volley was related to her service as the envoy is to the  ballade;  for  she
had  been  trained,  my  pet, to patter up at once to the net on her nimble,
vivid, white-shod feet. There was nothing to choose between her forehand and
backhand drives: they were mirror images of one another--my very loins still
tingle with those pistol reports repeated  by  crisp  echoes  and  Electra's
cries.  One  of  the pearls of Dolly's game was a short half-volley that Ned
Litam had taught her in California.
     She preferred acting to swimming, and swimming to tennis; yet I  insist
that  had not something within her been broken by me--not that I realized it
then!--she would have had on the top of her perfect form the  will  to  win,
and  would have become a real girl champion. Dolores, with two rackets under
her arm, in  Wimbledon.  Dolores  endorsing  a  Dromedary.  Dolores  turning
professional.  Dolores  acting  a  girl champion in a movie. Dolores and her
gray, humble, hushed husband-coach, old Humbert.
     There was nothing wrong or deceitful in the spirit of her  game--unless
one  considered her cheerful indifference toward its outcome as the feint of
a nymphet. She who was so cruel and crafty in  everyday  life,  revealed  an
innocence,  a  frankness,  a  kindness  of  ball-placing,  that  permitted a
second-rate but determined player, no matter how uncouth and incompetent, to
poke and cut his way to victory. Despite her small stature, she covered  the
one  thousand  and  fifty-three  square  feet  of her half of the court with
wonderful ease, once she had entered into the rhythm of a rally and as  long
as  she could direct that rhythm; but any abrupt attack, or sudden change of
tactics on her adversary's part, left her  helpless.  At  match  point,  her
second  serve,  which--rather  typically--was even stronger and more stylish
than her first (for she had none of the inhibitions  that  cautious  winners
have),  would strike vibrantly the hard-cord of the net--and ricochet out of
court. The polished gem of her dropshot was snapped up and put  away  by  an
opponent  who  seemed four-legged and wielded a crooked paddle. Her dramatic
drives and lovely volleys would candidly fall at his  feet.  Over  and  over
again  she  would land an easy one into the net--and merrily mimic dismay by
drooping in a ballet attitude, with her forelocks hanging. So  sterile  were
her  grace  and  whipper  that she could not even win from panting me and my
old-fashioned lifting drive.
     I suppose I am especially susceptible to the  magic  of  games.  In  my
chess  sessions with Gaston I saw the board as a square pool of limpid water
with rare shells and stratagems rosily visible upon the  smooth  tessellated
bottom,  which  to  my  confused  adversary  was  all  ooze and squid-cloud.
Similarly, the initial tennis coaching I had inflicted on  Lolita--prior  to
the   revelations   that   came  to  her  through  the  great  Californian's
lessons--remained in my mind as  oppressive  and  distressful  memories--not
only  because she had been so hopelessly and irritatingly irritated by every
suggestion of mine--but because the precious symmetry of the  court  instead
of  reflecting  the  harmonies  latent  in  her  was  utterly jumbled by the
clumsiness and lassitude of the resentful child I mistaught. Now things were
different, and on  that  particular  day,  in  the  pure  air  of  Champion,
Colorado,  on  that admirable court at the foot of seep stone stairs leading
up to Champion Hotel where we had spent the night, I felt I could rest  from
the nightmare of unknown betrayals within the innocence of her style, of her
soul, of her essential grace.
     She was hitting hard and flat, with her usual effortless sweep, feeding
me deep  skimming  balls--all  so  rhythmically  coordinated and overt as to
reduce my footwork to, practically, a swinging  stroll--crack  players  will
understand  what  I mean. My rather heavily cut serve that I had been taught
by my father who had learned it from Decugis or Borman, old friends  of  his
and great champions, would have seriously troubled my Lo, had I really tried
to  trouble  her.  But who would upset such a lucid dear? Did I ever mention
that her bare arm bore the 8 of vaccination? That I  loved  her  hopelessly?
That she was only fourteen?
     An inquisitive butterfly passed, dipping, between us.
     Two people in tennis shorts, a red-haired fellow only about eight years
my junior, and an indolent dark girl with a moody mouth and hard eyes, about
two years  Lolita's senior, appeared from nowhere. As is common with dutiful
tyros, their rackets were sheathed and framed, and they carried them not  as
if  they  were the natural and comfortable extensions of certain specialized
muscles, but hammers or  blunderbusses  or  whimbles,  or  my  own  dreadful
cumbersome  sins. Rather unceremoniously seating themselves near my precious
coat, on a bench adjacent to the court, they fell to admiring very vocally a
rally of some fifty exchanges that Lo innocently helped  me  to  foster  and
uphold--until  there occurred a syncope in the series causing her to gasp as
her overhead smash went out of court,  whereupon  she  melted  into  winsome
merriment, my golden pet.
     I  felt thirsty by then, and walked to the drinking fountain; there Red
approached me and in all humility suggested  a  mixed  double.  "I  am  Bill
Mead,"  he  said.  "And  that's  Fay  Page, actress. Maffy On Say"--he added
(pointing with his ridiculously  hooded  racket  at  polished  Fay  who  was
already  talking  to Dolly). I was about to reply "Sorry, but--" (for I hate
to have my filly involved in the chops and jabs of cheap bunglers),  when  a
remarkably  melodious cry diverted my attention: a bellboy was tripping down
the steps from the hotel to our court and making me signs. I was wanted,  if
you please, on an urgent long distance call--so urgent in fact that the line
was  being  held  for me. Certainly. I got into my coat (inside pocket heavy
with pistol) and told Lo I would be back in a minute. She was picking  up  a
ball--in  the  continental  foot-racket  way  which  was one of the few nice
things I had taught her,--and smiled--she smiled at me!
     An awful calm kept my heart afloat as I followed  the  boy  up  to  the
hotel.  This,  to  use  an  American  term, in which discovery, retribution,
torture, death, eternity appear in  the  shape  of  a  singularly  repulsive
nutshell,  was  it.  I  had left her in mediocre hands, but it hardly
mattered now. I would fight, of course. Oh, I would  fight.  Better  destroy
everything than surrender her. Yes, quite a climb.
     At  the  desk,  dignified,  Roman-nosed  man,  with,  I suggest, a very
obscure past that might reward investigation, handed me a message in his own
hand. The line had not been held after all. The note said:
     "Mr. Humbert.  The  head  of  Birdsley  (sic!)  School  called.  Summer
residence--Birdsley 2-8282. Please call back immediately. Highly important."
     I folded myself into a booth, took a little pill, and four about twenty
minutes  tussled  with  space-spooks.  A  quartet  of propositions gradually
became audible: soprano, there was no such number in Beardsley;  alto,  Miss
Pratt was on her way to England; tenor, Beardsley School had not telephoned;
bass,  they could not have done so, since nobody knew I was, that particular
day, in Champion, Colo. Upon my stinging him, the Roman took the trouble  to
find out if there had been a long distance call. There had been none. A fake
call from some local dial was not excluded. I thanked him. He said: You bet.
After  a  visit  to  the  purling men's room and a stiff drink at the bar, I
started on my return march. From the very first terrace I saw, far below, on
the tennis court which seemed the size of a school child's ill-wiped  slate,
golden  Lolita  playing in a double. She moved like a fair angel among three
horrible Boschian cripples. One of these, her partner, while changing sides,
jocosely slapped her on her behind with his  racket.  He  had  a  remarkably
round  head  and  wore  incongruous  brown  trousers.  There was a momentary
flurry--he saw me, and  throwing  away  his  racket--mine--scuttled  up  the
slope.  He  waved  his  wrists and elbows in a would-be comical imitation of
rudimentary wings, as he climbed, blow-legged, to the street, where his gray
car awaited him. Next moment he and the grayness  were  gone.  When  I  came
down, the remaining trio were collecting and sorting out the balls.
     "Mr. Mead, who was that person?"
     Bill and Fay, both looking very solemn, shook their heads.
     That  absurd  intruder  had  butted  in to make up a double, hadn't he,
Dolly?
     Dolly. The handle of my racket  was  still  disgustingly  warm.  Before
returning  to the hotel, I ushered her into a little alley half-smothered in
fragrant shrubs, with flowers like smoke, and was about to burst  into  ripe
sobs  and  plead  with  her  imperturbed dream in the most abject manner for
clarification, no matter how meretricious, of the slow awfulness  enveloping
me,  when  we  found  ourselves  behind the convulsed Mead twosome--assorted
people, you know, meeting among idyllic settings in old comedies.  Bill  and
Fay  were  both  weak with laughter--we had come at the end of their private
joke. It did not really matter.
     Speaking  as  if  it  really  did  not  really  matter,  and  assuming,
apparently,  that  life  was  automatically  rolling on with all its routine
pleasures, Lolita said she would like to change into her bathing things, and
spend the rest of the afternoon at the swimming pool. It was a gorgeous day.
Lolita!

        21

     "Lo! Lola! Lolita!" I hear myself crying from a doorway into  the  sun,
with  the  acoustics of time, domed time, endowing my call and its tell-tale
hoarseness with such a wealth of anxiety, passion and pain  that  really  it
would  have  been  instrumental  in  wrenching  open the zipper of her nylon
shroud had she been dead. Lolita! In the middle of a trim turfed  terrace  I
found  her at last--she had run out before I was ready. Oh Lolita! There she
was playing with a damned dog, not me. The animal, a terrier of  sorts,  was
losing and snapping up again and adjusting between his jaws a wet little red
ball;  he  took  rapid chords with his front paws on the resilient turf, and
then would bounce away. I had only wanted to see where she was, I could  not
swim  with  my  heart  in  that state, but who cared--and there she was, and
there was I, in my robe--and so I stopped calling; but suddenly something in
the pattern of her motions, as she dashed this way and that in her Aztec Red
bathing briefs and bra, struck me . . . there  was  an  ecstasy,  a  madness
about  her  frolics  that  was too much of a glad thing. Even the dog seemed
puzzled by the extravagance of her reactions. I put  a  gentle  hand  to  my
chest  as  I  surveyed  the situation. The turquoise blue swimming pool some
distance behind the lawn was no longer  behind  that  lawn,  but  within  my
thorax,  and  my  organs swam in it like excrements in the blue sea water in
Nice. One of the bathers had  left  the  pool  and,  half-concealed  by  the
peacocked  shade  of trees, stood quite still, holding the ends of the towel
around his neck and following Lolita with his amber eyes. There he stood, in
the camouflage of sun and shade, disfigured by them and masked  by  his  own
nakedness,  his  damp  black hair or what was left of it, glued to his round
head, his little mustache a humid smear, the wool on his chest spread like a
symmetrical trophy, his naval pulsating, his hirsute  thighs  dripping  with
bright  droplets,  his  tight  wet black bathing trunks bloated and bursting
with vigor where his great fat bullybag was pulled up and back like a padded
shield over his reversed beasthood. And as I looked at  his  oval  nut-brown
face, it dawned upon me that what I had recognized him by was the reflection
of  my  daughter's  countenance--the  same  beatitude  and  grimace but made
hideous by his maleness. And I also knew that the child, my child,  knew  he
was  looking,  enjoyed  the lechery of his look and was putting on a show of
gambol and glee, the vile and beloved slut. As she made  for  the  ball  and
missed  it, she fell on her back, with her obscene young legs madly pedaling
in the air; I could sense the musk of her excitement from where I stood, and
then I saw (petrified with a kind of sacred disgust) the man close his  eyes
and  bare  his  small, horribly small and even, teeth as he leaned against a
tree in which a multitude of dappled Priaps shivered. Immediately afterwards
a marvelous transformation took place. He was no longer the satyr but a very
good-natured and foolish Swiss cousin, the Gustave Trapp  I  have  mentioned
more  than  once,  who  used  to counteract his "sprees" (he drank beer with
milk, the good swine) by feats of weight-lifting--tottering and grunting  on
a lake beach with his otherwise very complete bathing suit jauntily stripped
from  one  shoulder.  This Trapp noticed me from afar and working the
towel on his name walked back with false insouciance to the pool. And as  if
the  sun  had  gone out of the game, Lo slackened and slowly got up ignoring
the ball that the terrier placed before her. Who can  say  what  heartbreaks
are caused in a dog by our discontinuing a romp? I started to say something,
and  then  sat down on the grass with a quite monstrous pain in my chest and
vomited a torrent of browns and greens that I had never remembered eating.
     I saw Lolita's eyes, and  they  seemed  to  be  more  calculating  than
frightened.  I  heard her saying to a kind lady that her father was having a
fit. Then for a long time I lay in a lounge chair swallowing pony upon  pony
of  gin.  And  next morning I felt strong enough to drive on (which in later
years no doctor believed).

        22

     The two-room cabin we had ordered at Silver  Spur  Court,  Elphinstone,
turned  out to belong to the glossily browned pine-log kind that Lolita used
to be so fond of in  the  days  of  our  carefree  first  journey;  oh,  how
different  things  were  now!  I  am not referring to Trapp or Trapps. After
all--well, really . . . After all, gentlemen,  it  was  becoming  abundantly
clear  that  all  those  identical detectives in prismatically changing cars
were figments of my persecution mania, recurrent images based on coincidence
and chance resemblance. Soyons logiques, crowed the cocky Gallic part
of my brain--and proceeded to rout the notion of a Lolita-maddened  salesman
or  comedy  gangster,  with  stooges,  persecuting  me,  and hoaxing me, and
otherwise taking riotous advantage of my strange relations with the  law.  I
remember  humming  my panic away. I remember evolving even an explanation of
the "Birdsley" telephone call . . . But if I could dismiss Trapp, as  I  had
dismissed  my  convulsions  on the lawn at Champion, I could do nothing with
the  anguish  of  knowing  Lolita  to  be  so  tantalizingly,  so  miserably
unattainable  and  beloved  on  the very even of a new era, when my alembics
told me she should stop being a nymphet, stop torturing me.
     An additional, abominable, and perfectly gratuitous worry was  lovingly
prepared  for me in Elphinstone. Lo had been dull and silent during the last
lap--two hundred mountainous miles uncontaminated by smoke-gray  sleuths  or
zigzagging   zanies.  She  hardly  glanced  at  the  famous,  oddly  shaped,
splendidly flushed rock which jutted above the mountains and  had  been  the
take-off  for nirvana on the part of a temperamental show girl. The town was
newly built, or rebuilt, on the flat  floor  of  a  seven-thousand-foot-high
valley;  it would soon bore Lo, I hoped, and we would spin on to California,
to the Mexican border, to mythical  bays,  saguaro  desserts,  fatamorganas.
Josи  Lizzarrabengoa,  as  you  remember,  planned to take his Carmen to the
Etats Unis. I conjured up a Central American  tennis  competition  in
which  Dolores  Haze  and  various  Californian  schoolgirl  champions would
dazzlingly participate. Good-will tours on that smiling level eliminate  the
distinction  between  passport  and  sport. Why did I hope we would be happy
abroad? A change of environment is the traditional fallacy upon which doomed
loves, and lungs, rely.
     Mrs. Hays, the brisk, briskly rouged, blue-eyed widow who ran the motor
court, asked me if I were Swiss perchance, because her sister had married  a
Swiss  ski instructor. I was, whereas my daughter happened to be half Irish.
I registered, Hays gave  me  the  key  and  a  tinkling  smile,  and,  still
twinkling,  showed  me  where to park the car; Lo crawled out and shivered a
little: the luminous evening air was  decidedly  crisp.  Upon  entering  the
cabin, she sat down on a chair at a card table, buried her face in the crook
of her arm and said she felt awful. Shamming, I thought, shamming, no doubt,
to  evade  my caresses; I was passionately parched; but she began to whimper
in an unusually dreary way when I  attempted  to  fondle  her.  Lolita  ill.
Lolita  dying.  Her  skin  was scalding hot! I took her temperature, orally,
then looked up a scribbled formula I fortunately had in a jotter  and  after
laboriously  reducing  the,  meaningless  to  me,  degrees Fahrenheit to the
intimate centigrade of my childhood, found she had 40.4, which at least made
sense. Hysterical  little  nymphs  might,  I  knew,  run  up  all  kinds  of
temperature--even  exceeding a fatal count. And I would have given her a sip
of hot spiced wine, and two aspirins, and kissed the fever away, if, upon an
examination of her lovely uvula, one of the gems of her body, I had not seen
that it was a burning red. I undressed her. Her breath was bittersweet.  Her
brown rose tasted of blood. She was shaking from head to toe. She complained
of   a   painful   stiffness  in  the  upper  vertebrae--and  I  thought  of
poliomyelitis  as  any  American  parent  would.  Giving  up  all  hope   of
intercourse,  I  wrapped her in a laprobe and carried her into the car. Kind
Mrs. Hays in the meantime had alerted the local doctor. "You  are  lucky  it
happened  here,"  she  said;  for  not  only  was  Blue  the best man in the
district, but the Elphinstone hospital was as modern  as  modern  could  be,
despite  its  limited  capacity.  With  a  heterosexual Erlkжnig in pursuit,
thither I drove, half-blinded by a royal sunset  on  the  lowland  side  and
guided  by  a little old woman, a portable witch, perhaps his daughter, whom
Mrs. Haus had lent me, and whom I was never to see again.  Dr.  Blue,  whose
learning, no doubt, was infinitely inferior to his reputation, assured me it
was  a  virus infection, and when I alluded to her comparatively recent flu,
curtly said this was another bug, he had forty such cases on his hands;  all
of  which  sounded  like  the "ague" of the ancients. I wondered if I should
mention, with a casual chuckle, that my fifteen-year-old daughter had had  a
minor  accident  while  climbing  an  awkward fence with her boy friend, but
knowing I was drunk, I decided to withhold the  information  till  later  if
necessary.  To  an unsmiling blond bitch of a secretary I gave my daughter's
age as "practically sixteen." While I was not looking, my  child  was  taken
away  from  me!  In  vain  I  insisted  I be allowed to spend the night on a
"welcome"  mat  in  a  corner  of  their   damned   hospital.   I   ran   up
constructivistic  flights  of  stairs,  I tried to trace my darling so as to
tell her she had better not babble, especially if she felt as lightheaded as
we all did. At one point, I was rather dreadfully rude to a very  young  and
very  cheeky  nurse  with  overdeveloped  gluteal  parts  and  blazing black
eyes--of Basque descent, as I learned. Her father was an imported  shepherd,
a  trainer  of sheep dogs. Finally, I returned to the car and remained in it
for I do not know how many hours, hunched up in the dark, stunned by my  new
solitude,  looking  out open-mouthed now at the dimly illumined, very square
and low hospital building squatting in the middle of its lawny block, now up
at the wash of stars  and  the  jagged  silvery  ramparts  of  the  haute
montagne  where  at  the  moment  Mary's  father, lonely Joseph Lore was
dreaming of Oloron, Lagore, Rolas--que sais-je!--or seducing  a  ewe.
Such-like  fragrant  vagabond  thoughts  have  been always a solace to me in
times of unusual stress, and only when, despite liberal  libations,  I  felt
fairly  numbed  by  the  endless  night,  did I think of driving back to the
motel. The old woman had disappeared, and I was not quite sure  of  my  way.
Wide  gravel  roads criss-crossed drowsy rectangular shadows. I made out what
looked like the  silhouette  of  gallows  on  what  was  probably  a  school
playground;  and  in another wastelike black there rose in domed silence the
pale temple of some local sect. I found the highway at last,  and  then  the
motel,  where  millions  of  so-called  "millers,"  a  kind  of insect, were
swarming around the neon contours of "No Vacancy"; and,  when,  at  3  a.m.,
after one of those untimely hot showers which like some mordant only help to
fix  a  man's  despair  and  weariness,  I  lay  on  her bed that smelled of
chestnuts and roses, and peppermint, and the  very  delicate,  very  special
French  perfume  I  latterly  allowed  her  to use, I found myself unable to
assimilate the simple fact that for the  first  time  in  two  years  I  was
separated from my Lolita. All at once it occurred to me that her illness was
somehow  the  development of a theme--that it had the same taste and tone as
the series of linked impressions which had puzzled and tormented  me  during
our journey; I imagined that secret agent, or secret lover, or prankster, or
hallucination,  or whatever he was, prowling around the hospital--and Aurora
had hardly "warmed her hands," as the pickers of lavender way in the country
of my birth, when I found myself trying to  get  into  that  dungeon  again,
knocking upon its green doors, breakfastless, stool-less, in despair.
     This  was  Tuesday, and Wednesday or Thursday, splendidly reacting like
the darling she was to some "serum" (sparrow's sperm or dugong's dung),  she
was  much  better, and the doctor said that in a couple of days she would be
"skipping" again.
     Of the eight times I visited her, the last one  alone  remains  sharply
engraved  on  my  mind.  It  had  been  a  great feat to come for I felt all
hollowed out by the infection that by then was at work on me too. None  will
know the strain it was to carry that bouquet, that load of love, those books
that  I  had  traveled sixty miles to buy: Browning's Dramatic Works, The
history of Dancing, Clowns and Columbines, The Russian  Ballet,  Flowers  of
the Rockies, the Theatre Guild Anthology, Tennis by Helen Wills, who had
won  the  National  Junior  Girl  Singles  at  the  age of fifteen. As I was
staggering up to the door of my  daughter's  thirteen-dollar-a  day  private
room,  Mary  Lore,  the  beastly  young  part-time  nurse  who  had taken an
unconcealed dislike to me, emerged with a finished breakfast tray, placed it
with a quick crash on a chair in the corridor, and, fundament jigging,  shot
back  into  the  room--probably  to  warn  her  poor little Dolores that the
tyrannical old father was  creeping  up  on  crepe  soles,  with  books  and
bouquet:  the  latter  I  had  composed of wild flowers and beautiful leaves
gathered with my own gloved hands on a mountain pass at  sunrise  (I  hardly
slept at all that fateful week).
     Feeding  my  Carmencita  well?  Idly  I  glanced  at  the  tray.  On  a
yolk-stained  plate  there  was  a  crumpled  envelope.  It  had   contained
something,  since one edge was torn, but there was no address on it--nothing
at all, save a  phony  armorial  design  with  "Ponderosa  Lodge"  in  green
letters;  thereupon I performed a chassи-croisи with Mary, who was in
the act of bustling out again--wonderful how fast they move and  how  little
they  do,  those  rumpy young nurses. She glowered at the envelope I had put
back, uncrumpled.
     "You better not touch," she said, nodding  directionally.  "Could  burn
your fingers."
     Below my dignity to rejoin. All I said was:
     "Je  croyais  que  c'иtait  un  bill--not a billet doux."
Then, entering the sunny room, to Lolita: "Bonjour, mon petit."
     "Dolores," said Mary Lore, entering with me, past me,  though  me,  the
plump whore, and blinking, and starting to fold very rapidly a white flannel
blanket  as she blinked: "Dolores, your pappy thinks you are getting letters
from my boy friend. It's me (smugly tapping herself on the small gilt  cross
she wore) gets them. And my pappy can parlay-voo as well as yours."
     She  left  the room. Dolores, so rosy and russet, lips freshly painted,
hair brilliantly brushed, bare arms straightened out on neat coverleat,  lay
innocently  beaming  at  me  or  nothing.  On the bed table, next to a paper
napkin and a pencil, her topaz ring burned in the sun.
     "what gruesome funeral flowers," she said. "Thanks all the same. But do
you mind very much cutting out the French? It annoys everybody."
     Back at the usual rush came the ripe young hussy, reeking of urine  and
garlic,  with  the  Desert  News,  which  her  fair  patient  eagerly
accepted, ignoring the sumptuously illustrated volumes I had brought.
     "My sister Ann," said Marry (topping  information  with  afterthought),
"works at the Ponderosa place."
     Poor  Bluebeard.  Those  brutal  brothers.  Est-ce que tu ne m'aimes
plus, ma Carmen? She never had. At the moment I  knew  my  love  was  as
hopeless  as ever--and I also knew the two girls were conspirators, plotting
in Basque, or Zemfirian, against my hopeless love. I shall  go  further  and
say that Lo was playing a double game since she was also fooling sentimental
Mary  whom  she  had  told,  I  suppose,  that  she wanted to dwell with her
fun-loving young uncle and not with cruel melancholy me. And  another  nurse
whom  I  never identified, and the village idiot who carted cots and coffins
into the elevator, and the idiotic green love birds in a cage in the waiting
room--all were in the plot, the sordid plot. I suppose Mary  thought  comedy
father  Professor  Humbertoldi  was  interfering  with  the  romance between
Dolores and her father-substitute,  roly-poly  Romeo  (for  you  were
rather lardy, you know, Rom, despite all that "snow" and "joy juice").
     My  throat  hurt.  I stood, swallowing, at the window and stared at the
mountains, at the romantic rock high up in the smiling plotting sky.
     "My Carmen," I said (I used to call  her  that  sometimes),  "we  shall
leave this raw sore town as soon as you get out of bed."
     "Incidentally,  I  want all my clothes," said the gitanilla, humping up
her knees and turning to another page.
     ". . . Because, really," I continued, "there is  no  point  in  staying
here."
     "There is no point in staying anywhere," said Lolita.
     I  lowered  myself  into  a  cretonne chair and, opening the attractive
botanical work, attempted,  in  the  fever-humming  hush  of  the  room,  to
identify my flowers. This proved impossible. Presently a musical bell softly
sounded somewhere in the passage.
     I  do not think they had more than a dozen patients (three or four were
lunatics, as Lo had cheerfully informed me earlier) in that show place of  a
hospital,  and the staff had too much leisure. However--likewise for reasons
of show--regulations were rigid. It is also true that I kept coming  at  the
wrong  hours.  Not  without a secret flow of dreamy malice, visionary
Mary (next time it will be une belle  dame  toute  en  bleu  floating
through  Roaring Gulch) plucked me by the sleeve to lead me out. I looked at
her hand; it dropped. As I was leaving, leaving  voluntarily,  Dolores  Haze
reminded  me  to bring her next morning . . . She did not remember where the
various things she wanted were . . . "Bring me," she  cried  (out  of  sight
already,  door  on  the  move,  closing, closed), "the new gray suitcase and
Mother's trunk"; but by next morning I was shivering, and boozing, and dying
nit he motel bed she had used for just a few minutes, and the best  I  could
do  under  the  circular and dilating circumstances was to send the two bags
over with the widow's beau, a robust  and  kindly  trucker.  I  imagined  Lo
displaying  her  treasures  to  Mary  .  .  .  No  doubt,  I  was  a  little
delirious--and on the following day I was still a vibration  rather  than  a
solid, for when I looked out the bathroom window at the adjacent lawn, I saw
Dolly's  beautiful  young  bicycle  propped  up  there  on  its support, the
graceful front wheel looking away from me, as it always did, and  a  sparrow
perched on the saddle--but it was the landlady's bike, and smiling a little,
and  shaking  my  poor head over my fond fancies, I tottered back to my bed,
and lay as quiet as a saint--

     Saint, forsooth! While brown Dolores,
     On a patch of sunny green
     With Sanchicha reading stories
     In a movie magazine--

     --which was represented by numerous specimens wherever Dolores  landed,
and  there  was  some  great  national  celebration  in  town judging by the
firecrackers, veritable bombs, that exploded  all  the  time,  and  at  five
minutes  to  two  p.m.  I  heard  the  sound  of  whistling lips nearing the
half-opened door of my cabin, and then a thump upon it.
     It was big Frank. He remained framed in the opened door,  one  hand  on
its jamb, leaning forward a little.
     Howdy. Nurse Lore was on the telephone. She wanted to know was I better
and would I come today?
     At  twenty  paces  Frank used to look a mountain of health; at five, as
now, he was a ruddy mosaic of scars--had been blown through a wall overseas;
but despite nameless injuries he was able to man a tremendous  truck,  fish,
hunt,  drink,  and  buoyantly  dally  with roadside ladies. That day, either
because it was such a great holiday, or simply because he wanted to divert a
sick man, he had taken off the glove he usually wore on his left  hand  (the
one  pressing  against  the side of the door) and revealed to the fascinated
sufferer not only an entire lack of fourth and fifth  fingers,  but  also  a
naked  girl,  with cinnabar nipples and indigo delta, charmingly tattooed on
the back of his crippled hand, its index and middle digit  making  her  legs
while  his wrist bore her flower-crowned head. Oh, delicious . . . reclining
against the woodwork, like some sly fairy.
     I asked him to tell Mary Lore I would stay in bed all day and would get
into touch with my daughter sometime tomorrow if I felt probably Polynesian.
     He noticed the direction of my gaze  and  made  her  right  hip  twitch
amorously.
     "Okey-dokey,"  big  Frank  sang  out,  slapped the jamb, and whistling,
carried my message away, and I went on drinking, and by  morning  the  fever
was gone, and although I was as limp as a toad, I put on the purple dressing
gown  over my maize yellow pajamas, and walked over to the office telephone.
Everything was fine. A bright voice informed me  that  yes,  everything  was
fine, my daughter had checked out the day before, around two, her uncle, Mr.
Gustave,  had  called  for  her  with  a  cocker spaniel pup and a smile for
everyone, and a black Caddy Lack, and had paid Dolly's  bill  in  cash,  and
told  them  to  tell  me  I  should  not  worry, and keep warm, they were at
Grandpa's ranch as agreed.
     Elphinstone was, and I hope still is, a very cute little town.  It  was
spread  like  a  maquette,  you  know,  with  its  neat  greenwool trees and
red-roofed houses over the valley floor and I think I have  alluded  earlier
to  its  model  school  and  temple and spacious rectangular blocks, some of
which were, curiously enough, just unconventional pastures with a mule or  a
unicorn  grazing  in  the  young  July  morning  mist.  Very amusing: at one
gravel--groaning sharp turn I sideswiped a parked car  but  said  to  myself
telestically--and,   telepathically   (I   hoped),   to   its  gesticulating
owner--that I would return later, address Bird School, Bird, New  Bird,  the
gin  kept  my  heart  alive  but bemazed my brain, and after some lapses and
losses common to dream sequences, I found  myself  in  the  reception  room,
trying  to  beat  up  the  doctor,  and  roaring at people under chairs, and
clamoring for Mary who luckily for her was not there; rough hands plucked at
my dressing gown, ripping off a pocket, and somehow  I  seem  to  have  been
sitting  on  a  bald brown-headed patient, whom I had mistaken for Dr. Blue,
and who eventually stood up, remarking with a preposterous accent: "Now, who
is nevrotic, I ask?"--and then a gaunt unsmiling  nurse  presented  me  with
seven  beautiful,  beautiful  books and the exquisitely folded tartan
lap robe, and demanded a receipt; and in the sudden silence I  became  aware
of  a  policeman  in the hallway, to whom my fellow motorist was pointing me
out, and meekly I signed the very symbolic  receipt,  thus  surrendering  my
Lolita  to  all  those  apes. But what else could I do? One simple and stark
thought stood out and this was: "Freedom for the moment is everything."  One
false  move--and  I  might  have  been made to explain a life of crime. So I
simulated a coming out of a daze. To my  fellow  motorist  I  paid  what  he
thought  was fair. To Dr. Blue, who by then was stroking my hand, I spoke in
tears of the liquor I bolstered too freely  a  tricky  but  not  necessarily
diseased heart with. To the hospital in general I apologized with a flourish
that  almost  bowled  me over, adding however that I was not on particularly
good terms with the rest of the Humbert clan. To myself I whispered  that  I
still had my gun, and was still a free man--free to trace the fugitive, free
to destroy my brother.

        23

     A  thousand-mile  stretch of silk-smooth road separated Kasbeam, where,
to the best of my belief, the red fiend had been scheduled to appear for the
first time, and fateful Elphinstone which we had reached about a week before
Independence Day. The journey had taken up most of June for  we  had  seldom
made  more  than  a  hundred and fifty miles per traveling day, spending the
rest of the time, up to five days in one case, at various  stopping  places,
all  of  them  also  prearranged, no doubt. It was that stretch, then, along
which the fiend's spoor should be sought; and  to  this  I  devoted  myself,
after  several  unmentionable  days  of dashing up and down the relentlessly
radiating roads in the vicinity of Elphinstone.
     Imagine me, reader , with my shyness, my distaste for any  ostentation,
my inherent sense of the comme il faut, imagine me masking the frenzy
of  my  grief with a trembling ingratiating smile while devising some casual
pretext to flip through the hotel register: "Oh," I would say, "I am  almost
positive   that  I  stayed  here  once--let  me  look  up  the  entries  for
mid-June--no, I see I'm wrong after all--what a very quaint name for a  home
town,  Kawtagain.  Thanks  very much." Or: "I had a customer staying here--I
mislaid his address--may I . . .?" And every once in a while, especially  if
the  operator  of  the  place  happened to be a certain type of gloomy male,
personal inspection of the books was denied me.
     I have a memo here: between July 5 and November 18, when I returned  to
Beardsley  for  a  few  days,  I  registered, if not actually stayed, at 342
hotels, motels and tourist homes. This figure includes a  few  registrations
between  Chestnut  and Beardsley, one of which yielded a shadow of the fiend
("N. Petit, Larousse, Ill."); I had to space and time my inquiries carefully
so as not to attract undue attention; and there  must  have  been  at  least
fifty  places  where  I  merely  inquired at the desk--but that was a futile
quest, and I preferred building up a foundation of verisimilitude  and  good
will  by first paying for an unneeded room. My survey showed that of the 300
or so books inspected, at least 20 provided me with a  clue:  the  loitering
fiend  had stopped even more often than we, or else--he was quite capable of
that--he had thrown in additional registrations in order  to  keep  me  well
furnished  with  derisive  hints. Only in one case had he actually stayed at
the same motor court as we, a  few  paces  from  Lolita's  pillow.  In  some
instances  he  had  taken up quarters in the same or in a neighboring block;
not infrequently he had lain in wait at an  intermediate  spot  between  two
bespoken  points.  How  vividly I recalled Lolita, just before our departure
from Beardsley, prone on the parlor rug, studying tour books and  maps,  and
marking laps and stops with her lipstick!
     I  discovered  at  once  that he had foreseen my investigations and had
planted insulting pseudonyms for my special benefit. At the very first motel
office I visited, Ponderosa Lodge, his entry, among a dozen obviously  human
ones,  read:  Dr.  Gratiano  Forbeson,  Mirandola,  NY.  Its  Italian Comedy
connotations could not fail to strike me, of course. The landlady deigned to
inform me that the gentleman had been laid up for five days with a bad cold,
that he had left his car for repairs in some garage or other and that he had
checked out on the 4th of July. Yes, a  girl  called  Ann  Lore  had  worked
formerly  at  the  Lodge, but was now married to a grocer in Cedar City. One
moonlit night I waylaid white-shoed Mary on a solitary street; an automaton,
she was about to shriek, but I managed to humanize her by the simple act  of
falling  on my knees and with pious yelps imploring her to help. She did not
know a thing, she swore. Who was  this  Gratiano  Forbeson?  She  seemed  to
waver.  I  whipped  out a hundred-dollar bill. She lifted it to the light of
the moon. "He is your brother," she whispered at last. I  plucked  the  bill
out  of  her  moon-cold hand, and spitting out a French curse turned and ran
away. This taught me to rely on myself alone. No  detective  could  discover
the  clues  Trapp  had  tuned  to  my  mind and manner. I could not hope, of
course, he would ever leave his correct name and address; but I did hope  he
might  slip on the glaze of his own subtlety, by daring, say, to introduce a
richer and more personal shot  of  color  than  strictly  necessary,  or  by
revealing  too  much  through  a qualitative sum of quantitative parts which
revealed too little. In one thing he succeeded: he succeeded  in  thoroughly
enmeshing  me and my thrashing anguish in his demoniacal game. With infinite
skill, he swayed and staggered, and regained an impossible  balance,  always
leaving  me  with the sportive hope--if I may use such a term in speaking of
betrayal, fury, desolation, horror and hate--that he might give himself away
next time. He never did--though coming damn close to it. We all  admire  the
spangled acrobat with classical grace meticulously walking his tight rope in
the talcum light; but how much rarer art there is in the sagging rope expert
wearing  scarecrow  clothes  and  impersonating  a grotesque drunk! I
should know.
     The clues he left did not establish his identity but they reflected his
personality, or at least a certain homogenous and striking personality;  his
genre,  his  type  of humor--at its best at leat--the tone of his brain, had
affinities with  my  own.  He  mimed  and  mocked  me.  His  allusions  were
definitely  highbrow.  He  was  well-read.  He knew French. he was versed in
logodaedaly and logomancy. He was an amateur of sex lore. He had a  feminine
handwriting.  He  would change his name but he could not disguise, no matter
how he slanted them, his very peculiar t's, w's and l's. Quelquepart  Island
was  one  of  his  favorite  residences. He did not use a fountain pen which
fact, as any psychoanalyst will tell you,  meant  that  the  patient  was  a
repressed undinist. One mercifully hopes there are water nymphs in the Styx.
     His  main  trait  was  his  passion for tantalization. Goodness, what a
tease the poor fellow was! He challenged my scholarship. I  am  sufficiently
proud  of  my knowing something to be modest about my not knowing all; and I
daresay I missed some elements in that cryprogrammic  paper  chase.  What  a
shiver  of  triumph  and loathing shook my frail frame when, among the plain
innocent names in the hotel recorder, his fiendish conundrum would ejaculate
in my face! I noticed that whenever he felt his enigmas  were  becoming  too
recondite,  even  for such a solver as I, he would lure me back with an easy
one. "Arsхne Lupin" was obvious to a Frenchman who remembered the  detective
stories  of  his youth; and one hardly had to be a Coleridgian to appreciate
the trite poke of "A. Person,  Porlock,  England."  In  horrible  taste  but
basically  suggestive of a cultured man--not a policeman, not a common good,
not a lewd salesman--were such assumed names  as  "Arthur  Rainbow"--plainly
the  travestied  author of Le Bateau Bleu--let me laugh a little too,
gentlemen--and  "Morris  Schmetterling,"  of   L'Oiseau   Ivre   fame
(touchи,  reader!).  The  silly but funny "D. Orgon, Elmira, NY," was
from Moliхre, of course, and because I had quite recently tried to  interest
Lolita  in  a  famous  18th-century play, I welcomed as an old friend "Harry
Bumper, Sheridan,  Wyo."  An  ordinary  encyclopedia  informed  me  who  the
peculiar  looking  "Phineas Quimby, Lebanon, NH" was; and any good Freudian,
with a German name and  some  interest  in  religious  prostitution,  should
recognize  at  a glance the implication of "Dr. Kitzler, Eryx, Miss." So far
so good. That sort of fun was shoddy but on the whole  impersonal  and  thus
innocuous.  Among  entries  that  arrested my attention as undoubtable clues
per se but baffled me in respect to their finer points I do not  care
to  mention many since I feel I am groping in a border-land mist with verbal
phantoms  turning,  perhaps,  into  living  vacationists.  Who  was  "Johnny
Randall, Ramble, Ohio"? Or was he a real person who just happened to write a
hand  similar  to  "N.S.  Aristoff,  Catagela,  NY"?  What  was the sting in
"Catagela"?  And  what  about  "James  Mavor  Morell,   Hoaxton,   England"?
"Aristophanes," "hoax"--fine, but what was I missing?
     There was one strain running through all that pseudonymity which caused
me especially painful palpitations when I came across it. Such things as "G.
Trapp,  Geneva,  NY."  was  the  sign of treachery on Lolita's part. "Aubrey
Beardsley, Quelquepart Island"  suggested  more  lucidly  than  the  garbled
telephone message had that the starting point of the affair should be looked
for  in  the  East. "Lucas Picador, Merrymay, Pa." insinuated that my Carmen
had betrayed my  pathetic  endearments  to  the  impostor.  Horribly  cruel,
forsooth,  was  "Will  Brown,  Dolores,  Colo."  The  gruesome "Harold Haze,
Tombstone, Arizona" (which at another time would have appealed to  my  sense
of  humor)  implied  a  familiarity  with  the girl's past that in nightmare
fashion suggested for a moment that my quarry  was  an  old  friend  of  the
family,  maybe  an  old  flame  of  Charlotte's, maybe a redresser of wrongs
("Donald Quix, Sierra, Nev."). But  the  most  penetrating  bodkin  was  the
anagramtailed  entry  in  the  register of Chestnut Lodge "Ted Hunter, Cane,
NH."
     The garbled license numbers left by all these Persons  and  Orgons  and
Morells  and Trapps only told me that motel keepers omit to check if guests'
cars  are  accurately   listed.   References--incompletely   or   incorrectly
indicated--to  the  cars the fiend had hired for short laps between Wace and
Elphinstone were of course useless; the license of the initial Aztec  was  a
shimmer  of  shifting  numerals, some transposed, others altered or omitted,
but somehow forming interrelated combinations (such as  "WS  1564"  and  "SH
1616,"  and "Q32888" or "CU88322") which however were so cunningly contrived
as to never reveal a common denominator.
     It occurred to me that after he had turned  that  convertible  over  to
accomplices  at  Wace  and  switched  to  the  stage-motor  car  system, his
successors might have been less careful and might  have  inscribed  at  some
hotel  office the archtype of those interrelated figures. But if looking for
the fiend along a road I knew he had taken was such a complicated vague  and
unprofitable business, what could I expect from any attempt to trace unknown
motorists traveling along unknown routes?

        24

     By  the  time  I  reached  Beardsley,  in  the  course of the harrowing
recapitulation I have now discussed at sufficient length, a  complete  image
had formed in my mind; and through the--always risky--process of elimination
I had reduced this image to the only concrete source that morbid cerebration
and torpid memory could give it.
     Except  for the Rev. Rigor Mortis (as the girls called him), and an old
gentleman who taught non-obligatory German and Latin, there were no  regular
male  teachers t Beardsley School. But on two occasions an art instructor on
the Beardsley College faculty had come over to show  the  schoolgirls  magic
lantern  pictures  of French castles and nineteenth-century paintings. I had
wanted to attend those projections and talks, but Dolly, as  was  her  wont,
had  asked  me not to, period. I also remembered that Gaston had referred to
that particular lecturer as a brilliant garгon;  but  that  was  all;
memory refused to supply me with the name of the chateau-lover.
     On  the  day  fixed for the execution, I walked though the sleet across
the campus to the information desk in Maker Hall, Beardsley College. There I
learned that the fellow's name was Riggs (rather like that of the minister),
that he was a bachelor, and that in ten minutes  he  would  issue  from  the
"Museum"  where  he  was  having  a  class.  In  the  passage leading to the
auditorium I sat on a marble bench of sorts  donated  by  Cecilia  Dalrymple
Ramble.   As   I   waited   there,   in  the  prostatic  discomfort,  drunk,
sleep-starved, with my gun in my fist in my  raincoat  pocket,  it  suddenly
occurred  to  me  that  I was demented and was about to do something stupid.
There was not one chance in a million that Albert  Riggs,  Ass.  Prof.,  was
hiding  my  Lolita at his Beardsley home, 24 Pritchard Road. He could not be
the villain. It was absolutely preposterous. I was losing  my  time  and  my
wits. He and she were in California and not here at all.
     Presently,  I  noticed  a  vague commotion behind some white statues; a
door-not the one I had been staring at--opened briskly, and amid a  bevy  of
women students a baldish head and two bright brown eyes bobbed, advanced.
     He  was  a total stranger to me but insisted we had met at a lawn party
at Beardsley School. How was my delightful tennis-playing daughter?  He  had
another class. He would be seeing me.
     Another  attempt  at identification was less speedily resolved: through
an advertisement in one of Lo's magazines I dared to get  in  touch  with  a
private  detective,  an ex-pugilist, and merely to give him some idea of the
method adopted by the fiend, I acquainted him with the kind of  names
and  addresses  I  had  collected. He demanded a goodish deposit and for two
years--two years, reader!--that imbecile busied himself with checking  those
nonsense  data.  I  had long severed all monetary relations with him when he
turned up one day with the triumphant information  that  an  eighty-year-old
Indian by the name of Bill Brown lived near Dolores, Colo.

        25

     This  book  is about Lolita; and now that I have reached the part which
(had I not been forestalled by another internal combustion martyr) might  be
called  "Dolorхs  Disparue," there would be little sense in analyzing
the three empty years that followed. While a few pertinent points have to be
marked, the general impression I desire to convey is of a side door crashing
open in life's full flight, and a rush of roaring black time  drowning  with
its whipping wind the cry of lone disaster.
     Singularly  enough,  I seldom if ever dreamed of Lolita as I remembered
her--as I saw her constantly and obsessively in my conscious mind during  my
daymares  and  insomnias.  More  precisely:  she  did haunt my sleep but she
appeared there in strange and ludicrous disguises as Valeria  or  Charlotte,
or a cross between them. That complex ghost would come to me, shedding shift
after  shift,  in  an  atmosphere of great melancholy and disgust, and would
recline in dull invitation on some narrow board or hard settee,  with  flesh
ajar  like the rubber valve of a soccer ball's bladder. I would bind myself,
dentures  fractured  or  hopelessly   mislaid,   in   horrible   chambres
garnies where I would be entertained at tedious vivisecting parties that
generally  ended  with  Charlotte or Valeria weeping in my bleeding arms and
being  tenderly  kissed  by  my  brotherly  lips  in  a  dream  disorder  of
auctioneered  Viennese  bric-ю-brac,  pity,  impotence and the brown wigs of
tragic old women who had just been gassed.
     One day I removed  from  the  car  and  destroyed  an  accumulation  of
teen-magazines.  You  know  the  sort. Stone age at heart; up to date, or at
least Mycenaean, as to hygiene. A handsome,  very  ripe  actress  with  huge
lashes  and  a  pulpy red underlip, endorsing a shampoo. Ads and fads. Young
scholars dote on plenty of pleats--que c'иtait loin, tout cela! It is
your hostess' duty to provide robes. Unattached details take all the sparkle
out of your conversation. All of us have known "pickers"--one who picks  her
cuticle  at the office party. Unless he is very elderly or very important, a
man should remove his gloves before  shaking  hands  with  a  woman.  Invite
Romance  by wearing the Exciting New Tummy Flattener. Trims tums, nips hips.
Tristram in Movielove. Yessir! The Joe-Roe marital  enigma  is  making  yaps
flap.  Glamorize  yourself  quickly and inexpensively. Comics. Bad girl dark
hair fat father cigar; good girl red hair handsome daddums clipped mustache.
Or that repulsive strip with the big gagoon and his wife, a kiddoid gnomide.
Et moi qui t'offrais mon genie . . . I recalled the  rather  charming
nonsense  verse  I  used  to write her when she was a child: "nonsense," she
used to say mockingly, "is correct."

     The Squirl and his Squirrel, the Rabs and their Rabbits
     Have certain obscure and peculiar habits.
     Male hummingbirds make the most exquisite rockets.
     The snake when he walks holds his hands in his pockets. . .

     Other things of hers were harder to relinquish. Up to the end of  1949,
I  cherished and adored, and stained with my kisses and merman tears, a pair
of old sneakers, a boy's shirt she had worn, some ancient blue jeans I found
in the trunk compartment, a crumpled school cap, suchlike wanton  treasures.
Then,  when  I  understood  my  mind  was cracking, I collected those sundry
belongings, added to them what had been stored in Beardsley--a box of books,
her bicycle, old coats,  galoshes--and  on  her  fifteenth  birthday  mailed
everything  as  an  anonymous  gift  to a home for orphaned girls on a windy
lake, on the Canadian border.
     It is just possible that had I gone to a strong hypnotist he might have
extracted from me and arrayed in a logical pattern certain  chance  memories
that I have threaded through my book with considerably more ostentation than
they present themselves with to my mind even now when I know what to seek in
the  past.  At the time I felt I was merely losing contact with reality; and
after spending the rest of the winter and most of the following spring in  a
Quebec sanatorium where I had stayed before, I resolved first to settle some
affairs of mine in New York and then to proceed to California for a thorough
search there.
     Here is something I composed in my retreat:

     Wanted, wanted: Dolores Haze.
     Hair: brown. Lips: scarlet.
     Age: five thousand three hundred days.
     Profession: none, or "starlet."

     Where are you hiding, Dolores Haze?
     Why are you hiding, darling?
     (I talk in a daze, I walk in a maze,
     I cannot get out, said the starling).

     Where are you riding, Dolores Haze?
     What make is the magic carpet?
     Is a Cream Cougar the present craze?
     And where are you parked, my car pet?

     Who is your hero, Dolores Haze?
     Still one of those blue-caped star-men?
     Oh the balmy days and the palmy bays,
     And the cars, and the bars, my Carmen!

     Oh Dolores, that juke-box hurts!
     Are you still dancin', darlin'?
     (Both in worn levis, both in torn T-shirts,
     And I, in my corner, snarlin').

     Happy, happy is gnarled McFate
     Touring the States with a child wife,
     Plowing his Molly in every State
     Among the protected wild life.

     My Dolly, my folly! Her eyes were vair,
     And never closed when I kissed her.
     Know an old perfume called Soleil Vert?
     Are you from Paris, mister?

     L'autre soir un air froid d'opиra m'alita:
     Son fиlи--bien fol est qui s'y fie!
     Il neige, le dиcor s'иcroule, Lolita!
     Lolita, qu'ai-je fait de ta vie?

     Dying, dying, Lolita Haze,
     Of hate and remorse, I'm dying.
     And again my hairy fist I raise,
     And again I hear you crying.

     Officer, officer, there they go--
     In the rain, where that lighted store is!
     And her socks are white, and I love her so,
     And her name is Haze, Dolores.

     Officer, officer, there they are--
     Dolores Haze and her lover!
     Whip out your gun and follow that car.
     Now tumble out, and take cover.

     Wanted, wanted: Dolores Haze.
     Her dream-gray gaze never flinches.
     Ninety pounds is all she weighs
     With a height of sixty inches.

     My car is limping, Dolores Haze,
     And the last long lap is the hardest,
     And I shall be dumped where the weed decays,
     And the rest is rust and stardust.

     By  psychoanalyzing  this  poem,  I  notice  it  is  really  a maniac's
masterpiece. The stark, stiff,  lurid  rhymes  correspond  very  exactly  to
certain  perspectiveless  and terrible landscapes and figures, and magnified
parts of landscapes and figures, as drawn by psychopaths in tests devised by
their astute trainers. I wrote many more poems. I  immersed  myself  in  the
poetry of others. But not for a second did I forget the load of revenge.
     I  would  be a knave to say, and the reader a fool to believe, that the
shock of losing Lolita cured me of pederosis. My accursed nature  could  not
change,  no  matter  how my love for her did. On playgrounds and beaches, my
sullen and stealthy eye, against my will, still sought out the  flash  of  a
nymphet's limbs, the sly tokens of Lolita's handmaids and rosegirls. But one
essential  vision in me had withered: never did I dwell now on possibilities
of bliss with a little maiden, specific or synthetic, in some out-of-the-way
place; never did my fancy sink its fangs  into  Lolita's  sisters,  far  far
away, in the coves of evoked islands. That was all over, for the time
being  at  least. On the other hand, alas, two years of monstrous indulgence
had left me with certain habits of lust: I feared lest the void I  lived  in
might drive me to plunge into the freedom of sudden insanity when confronted
with  a  chance  temptation in some lane between school and supper. Solitude
was corrupting me. I needed company and care.  My  heart  was  a  hysterical
unreliable organ. This is how Rita enters the picture.

        26

     She  was  twice Lolita's age and three quarters of mine: a very slight,
dark-haired, pale-skinned adult, weighing a hundred and  five  pounds,  with
charmingly  asymmetrical  eyes, and angular, rapidly sketched profile, and a
most appealing ensellure to her supple back--I  think  she  had  some
Spanish  or  Babylonian  blood.  I  picked  her  up one depraved May evening
somewhere  between  Montreal  and  New  York,  or  more  narrowly,   between
Toylestown  and  Blake,  at  a  darkishly  burning bar under the sign of the
Tigermoth, where she was amiably drunk: she insisted we had gone  to  school
together,  and she placed her trembling little hand on my ape paw. My senses
were very slightly stirred but I decided to  give  her  a  try;  I  did--and
adopted  her as a constant companion. She was so kind, was Rita, such a good
sport, that I daresay she would have given herself to any pathetic  creature
or  fallacy,  an  old  broken  tree  or  a  bereaved porcupine, out of sheer
chumminess and compassion.
     When  I  first  met  her  she  had  but  recently  divorced  her  third
husband--and  a  little  more  recently  had  been  abandoned by her seventh
cavalier servant--the others, the mutables,  were  too  numerous  and
mobile  to  tabulate.  Her  brother was--and no doubt still is--a prominent,
pasty-faced,  suspenders-and-painted-tie-wearing   politician,   mayor   and
booster  of  his  ball-playing, Bible-reading, grain-handling home town. For
the last eight years he had been paying  his  great  little  sister  several
hundred dollars per month under the stringent condition that she would never
never  enter great little Grainball City. She told me, with wails of wonder,
that for some God-damn reason every new boy friend of hers  would  first  of
all  take her Grainball-ward: it was a fatal attraction; and before she knew
what was what, she would find herself sucked into the  lunar  orbit  of  the
town,  and  would be following the flood-lit drive that encircled it--"going
round and round," as she phrased it, "like a God-damn mulberry moth."
     She had a natty little coupи; and in it we traveled to California so as
to give my venerable vehicle a rest. her  natural  speed  was  ninety.  Dear
Rita!  We  cruised  together  for  two dim years, from summer 1950 to summer
1952, and she was the sweetest, simplest, gentles, dumbest Rita  imaginable.
In  comparison to her, Valechka was a Schlegel, and Charlotte a Hegel. There
is no earthly reason why I should dally with  her  in  the  margin  of  this
sinister  memoir,  but  let  me  say  (hi,  Rita--wherever you are, drunk or
hangoverish,  Rita,  hi!)  that  she  was  the  most  soothing,   the   most
comprehending  companion  that  I  ever had, and certainly saved me from the
madhouse. I told her I was trying to trace  a  girl  and  plug  that  girl's
bully.  Rita  solemnly  approved  of  the  plan--and  in  the course of some
investigation she undertook on her own (without  really  knowing  a  thing),
around  San  Humbertino,  got entangled with a pretty awful crook herself; I
had the devil of a time retrieving her--used and bruised  but  still  cocky.
Then one day she proposed playing Russian roulette with my sacred automatic;
I  said  you couldn't, it was not a revolver, and we struggled for it, until
at last it went off, touching off a very thin and very comical spurt of  hot
water  from  the  hole it made in the wall of the cabin room; I remember her
shrieks of laughter.
     The oddly prepubescent curve of her back,  her  ricey  skin,  her  slow
languorous  columbine  kisses  kept me from mischief. It is not the artistic
aptitudes that are secondary sexual characters as  some  shams  and  shamans
have  said;  it  is the other way around: sex is but the ancilla of art. One
rather mysterious spree that had interesting repercussions I must notice.  I
had abandoned the search: the fiend was either in Tartary or burning away in
my  cerebellum  (the  flames fanned by my fancy and grief) but certainly not
having  Dolores  Haze  play  champion  tennis  on  the  Pacific  Coast.  One
afternoon,  on  our  way  back East, in a hideous hotel, the kind where they
hold conventions and where labeled, fat, pink men stagger around, all  first
names  and  business and booze--dear Rita and I awoke to find a third in our
room, a blond, almost albino, young fellow with white  eyelashes  and  large
transparent  ears,  whom neither Rita nor I recalled having ever seen in our
sad lives. Sweating in thick dirty underwear, and with old army boots on, he
lay snoring on the double bed beyond my chaste Rita. One of his front  teeth
was  gone,  amber  pustules  grew  on  his  forehead. Ritochka enveloped her
sinuous nudity in my raincoat--the first thing at hand; I slipped on a  pair
of  candy-striped  drawers; and we took stock of the situation. Five glasses
had been used, which in the way of clues, was an  embarrassment  of  riches.
The  door  was  not  properly  closed. A sweater and a pair of shapeless tan
pants lay on the floor. We shook their owner into  miserable  consciousness.
He  was  completely  amnesic.  In  an  accent  that  Rita recognized as pure
Brooklynese, he peevishly insinuated  that  somehow  we  had  purloined  his
(worthless)  identity.  We  rushed  him into his clothes and left him at the
nearest hospital, realizing on the way that somehow or other after forgotten
gyrations, we ewer in Grainball. Half a year later Rita wrote the doctor for
news. Jack Humbertson as he had been tastelessly dubbed was  still  isolated
from  his  personal  past.  Oh  Mnemosyne,  sweetest and most mischievous of
muses!
     I would not have mentioned this incident had it not started a chain  of
ideas  that  resulted in my publishing in the Cantrip Review an essay
on "Mimir and Memory," in which I suggested among other things  that  seemed
original  and  important  to  that  splendid  review's benevolent readers, a
theory of perceptual  time  based  on  the  circulation  of  the  blood  and
conceptually  depending  (to  fill  up  this  nutshell)  on the mind's being
conscious not only of matter but also  of  its  own  self,  thus  crating  a
continuous spanning of two points (the storable future and the stored past).
In  result  of this venture--and in culmination of the impression made by my
previous travaux--I was called from New York, where Rita and  I  were
living in a little flat with a view of gleaming children taking shower baths
far  below  in a fountainous arbor of Central Park, to Cantrip College, four
hundred miles away, for one year. I lodged there, in special apartments  for
poets  and philosophers, from September 1951 to June 1952, while Rita whom I
preferred not to display vegetated--somewhat indecorously, I am afraid--in a
roadside inn where I visited her  twice  a  week.  Then  she  vanished--more
humanly  than  her  predecessor  had  done: a month later I found her in the
local jail. She was trхs digne, had had  her  appendix  removed,  and
managed  to  convince me that the beautiful bluish furs she had been accused
of stealing from a Mrs. Roland MacCrum had really  been  a  spontaneous,  if
somewhat alcoholic, gift from Roland himself. I succeeded in getting her out
without  appealing  to her touchy brother, and soon afterwards we drove back
to Central Park West, by way of Briceland, where we had stopped  for  a  few
hours the year before.
     A  curious urge to relive my stay there with Lolita had got hold of me.
I was entering a phase of existence where I had given up all hope of tracing
her kidnapper and her. I now attempted to fall back on old settings in order
to save what still could be saved in the way of souvenir, souvenir que me
veux-tu? Autumn was ringing in the air. To a post card  requesting  twin
beds Professor Hamburg got a prompt expression of regret in reply. They were
full  up.  They  had  one  bathless  basement room with four beds which they
thought I would not want. Their note paper was headed:

     The Enchanted Hunters
     Near Churches No Dogs
     All legal beverages

     I wondered if the last statement was  true.  All?  Did  they  have  for
instance  sidewalk  grenadine?  I  also  wondered  if a hunter, enchanted or
otherwise, would not need a pointer more than a pew, and  with  a  spasm  of
pain  I  recalled  a  scene  worthy  of  a  great  artist:  petite nymphe
accroupie; but that silky cocker spaniel had  perhaps  been  a  baptized
one.  No--I  felt  I  could  not endure the throes of revisiting that lobby.
There was a much better possibility of retrievable time elsewhere  in  soft,
rich-colored, autumnal Briceland. Leaving Rita in a bar, I made for the town
library.  A  twittering  spinster  was  only  too  glad  to help me disinter
mid-August 1947 from the bound Briceland Gazette, and presently, in a
secluded nook under a naked light, I was turning the  enormous  and  fragile
pages of a coffin-black volume almost as big as Lolita.
     Reader!  Bruder!  What a foolish Hamburg that Hamburg was! Since
his supersensitive system was loath to face the actual scene, he thought  he
could  at least enjoy a secret part of it--which reminds one of the tenth or
twentieth soldier in the raping queue who throws the girl's black shawl over
her white face so as not to see  those  impossible  eyes  while  taking  his
military  pleasure  in  the sad, sacked village. What I lusted to get
was the printed picture that had chanced  to  absorb  my  trespassing  image
while  the  Gazette's  photographer was concentrating on Dr. Braddock
and his group. Passionately I hoped to find preserved the  portrait  of  the
artist  as a younger brute. An innocent camera catching me on my dark way to
Lolita's bed--what a magnet for Mnemosyne! I cannot well  explain  the  true
nature  of  that  urge  of  mine. It was allied, I suppose, to that swooning
curiosity which impels one to examine with a magnifying glass  bleak  little
figures--still  life  practically,  and  everybody  about to throw up--at an
early morning execution, and the patient's expression impossible to make out
in the print. Anyway, I was literally gasping for breath, and one corner  of
the book of doom kept stabbing me in the stomach while I scanned and skimmed
.  .  .  Brute  Force and Possessed were coming on Sunday, the
24th, to both theatres. Mr. Purdom,  independent  tobacco  auctioneer,  said
that  ever since 1925 he had been an Omen Faustum smoker. Husky Hank and his
petite bride were to be the guests of Mr. and  Mrs.  Reginald  G.  Gore,  58
Inchkeith  Ave.  The  size  of  certain  parasites is one sixth of the host.
Dunkerque was fortified in the tenth century. Misses' socks,  39  c.  Saddle
Oxfords  3.98.  Wine,  wine, wine, quipped the author of Dark Age who
refused to be photographed, may suit a Persian bubble bird, but I  say  give
me  rain,  rain,  rain  on  the shingle roof for roses and inspiration every
time. Dimples are caused by the adherence of the skin to the deeper tissues.
Greeks repulse a heavy guerrilla assault--and, ah, at last, a little  figure
in  white,  and  Dr.  Braddock  in black, but whatever spectral shoulder was
brushing against his ample form--nothing of myself could I make out.
     I went to find Rita who introduced me with her vin triste  smile
to  a  pocket-sized  wizened truculently tight old man saying this was--what
was the name again, son?--a former schoolmate of hers. He  tried  to  retain
her,  and  in  the  slight scuffle that followed I hurt my thumb against his
hard head. In the silent painted part where I walked her  and  aired  her  a
little,  she  sobbed and said I would soon, soon leave her as everybody had,
and I sang her a wistful French ballad, and strung  together  some  fugitive
rhymes to amuse her:

     The place was called Enchanted Hunters. Query:
     What Indian dyes, Diana, did thy dell
     endorses to make of Picture Lake a very
     blood bath of trees before the blue hotel?

     She  said: "Why blue when it is white, why blue for heaven's sake?" and
started to cry again, and I marched her to the car, and we drove on  to  New
York,  and  soon  she  was reasonably happy again high up in the haze on the
little terrace of our flat. I notice I have somehow mixed up two events,  my
visit with Rita to Briceland on our way to Carntrip, and our passing through
Briceland again on our way back to New York, but such suffusions of swimming
colors are not to be disdained by the artist in recollection.

        27

     My  letterbox in the entrance hall belonged to the type that allows one
to glimpse something of its contents through a glassed slit.  Several  times
already,  a  trick  of  harlequin  light that fell through the glass upon an
alien handwriting had twisted it into a semblance of Lolita's script causing
me almost to collapse as I leant against an adjacent  urn,  almost  my  own.
Whenever  that  happened--whenever  her lovely, childish scrawl was horribly
transformed into the dull hand of one of my few  correspondents--I  used  to
recollect,  with anguished amusement, the times in my trustful, pre-dolorian
past when I would be misled by a jewel-bright  window  opposite  wherein  my
lurking  eye,  the  ever alert periscope of my shameful vice, would make out
from  afar  a  half-naked  nymphet  stilled  in  the  act  of  combing   her
Alice-in-Wonderland hair. There was in the fiery phantasm a perfection which
made my wild delight also perfect, just because the vision was out of reach,
with  no  possibility  of  attainment  to  spoil  it  by the awareness of an
appended taboo; indeed, it may well be that the very  attraction  immaturity
has  for  me lies not so much in the limpidity of pure young forbidden fairy
child beauty as in the security of a situation  where  infinite  perfections
fill  the  gap  between  the  little given and the great promised--the great
rosegray never-to-be-had. Mes fenйtres! Hanging above blotched sunset
and welling night, grinding my teeth, I would crowd all  the  demons  of  my
desire against the railing of a throbbing balcony: it would be ready to take
off  in  the  apricot  and  black humid evening; did take off--whereupon the
lighted image would move and Even would revert to a rib, and there would  be
nothing in the window but an obese partly clad man reading the paper.
     Since  I  sometimes won the race between my fancy and nature's reality,
the deception was bearable. Unbearable pain began when  chance  entered  the
fray  and deprived me of the smile meant for me. "Savez-vous qu'ю dix ans
ma petite иtait folle de vous?" said a woman I talked to at  a  tea  in
Paris,  and  the petite had just married, miles away, and I could not
even remember if I had ever noticed her in that garden, next to those tennis
courts, a dozen years before. And now likewise, the radiant foreglimpse, the
promise of reality, a promise not only to be simulated seductively but  also
to be nobly held--all this, chance denied me--chance and a change to smaller
characters   on   the   pale  beloved  writer's  part.  My  fancy  was  both
Proustianized and Procrusteanized; for  that  particular  morning,  late  in
September  1952,  as  I  had  come down to grope for my mail, the dapper and
bilious janitor with whom I was on execrable terms started to complain  that
a  man  who  had  seen  Rita home recently had been "sick like a dog" on the
front steps. In the process of listening to him and tipping  him,  and  then
listening  to  a  revised  and  politer  version  of the incident, I had the
impression that one of the two letters which that blessed mail  brought  was
from  Rita's  mother, a crazy little woman, whom we had once visited on Cape
Cod and who kept writing me to my various addresses, saying how  wonderfully
well  matched  her  daughter and I were, and how wonderful it would be if we
married; the other letter which I opened and scanned rapidly in the elevator
was from John Farlow.
     I have often noticed that we are inclined to endow our friends with the
stability of type that literary characters acquire in the reader's mind.  No
matter  how  many  times we reopen "King Lear," never shall we find the good
king banging his tankard in high revelry, all woes  forgotten,  at  a  jolly
reunion  with  all three daughters and their lapdogs. Never will Emma rally,
revived by  the  sympathetic  salts  in  Flaubert's  father's  timely  tear.
Whatever  evolution  this or that popular character has gone through between
the book covers, his fate is fixed in our minds, and, similarly,  we  expect
our  friends to follow this or that logical and conventional pattern we have
fixed for them. Thus X will never compose  the  immortal  music  that  would
clash  with the second-rate symphonies he has accustomed us to. Y will never
commit murder. Under no circumstances can Z ever betray us. We have  it  all
arranged  in  our  minds,  and the less often we see a particular person the
more satisfying it is to check how obediently he conforms to our  notion  of
him  every  time we hear of him. Any deviation in the fates we have ordained
would strike us as not only anomalous but unethical. We would prefer not  to
have  known  at  all our neighbor, the retired hot-dog stand operator, if it
turns out he has just produced the greatest book of poetry his age has seen.
     I am saying all this in order  to  explain  how  bewildered  I  was  by
Farlow's  hysterical  letter.  I  knew  his  wife  had  died but I certainly
expected him to remain, throughout a devout widowhood, the dull, sedate  and
reliable person he had always been. Now he wrote that after a brief visit to
the  U.S.  he  had  returned  to South America and had decided that whatever
affairs he had controlled at Ramsdale he would hand over to Jack  Windmuller
of that town, a lawyer whom we both knew. He seemed particularly relieved to
get  rid  of the Haze "complications." He had married a Spanish girl. He had
stopped smoking and had gained thirty pounds. She was very young and  a  ski
champion.  They  were  going  to  India for their honeymonsoon. Since he was
"building a family" as he put it, he would have no time  henceforth  for  my
affairs  which  he termed "very strange and very aggravating." Busybodies--a
whole committee of them, it appeared--had informed him that the  whereabouts
of  little  Dolly  Haze were unknown, and that I was living with a notorious
divorcee in California. His  father-in-law  was  a  count,  and  exceedingly
wealthy.  The  people who had been renting the Haze house for some years now
wished to buy it. He suggested that I better produce  Dolly  quick.  he  had
broken  his  leg.  He enclosed a snapshot of himself and a brunette in white
wool beaming at each other among the snows of Chile.
     I remember letting myself into my flat and starting to  say:  Well,  at
least  we  shall now track them down--when the other letter began talking to
me in a small matter-of-fact voice:

     Dear Dad:
     How's everything? I'm married. I'm going to have a baby. I  guess  he's
going  to  be  a  big one. I guess he'll come right for Christmas. This is a
hard letter to write. I'm going nuts because we don't have enough to pay our
debts and get out of here. Dick is promised a big job in Alaska in his  very
specialized  corner  of the mechanical field, that's all I know about it but
it's really grand. Pardon me for withholding our home address  but  you  may
still  be  mad  at  me,  and Dick must not know. This town is something. You
can't see the morons for the smog. Please do send us a check, Dad. We  could
manage  with  three  or  four hundred or even less, anything is welcome, you
might sell my old things, because once we go there the dough will just start
rolling in. Writ, please. I have gone through much sadness and hardship.
     Yours expecting,
     Dolly (Mrs. Richard F. Schiller)

        28

     I was again on the road, again at the wheel  of  the  old  blue  sedan,
again  alone.  Rita had still been dead to the world when I read that letter
and fought the mountains of agony it raised within me. I had glanced at  her
as  she  smiled  in  her sleep and had kissed her on her moist brow, and had
left her forever, with  a  note  of  tender  adieu  which  I  taped  to  her
navel--otherwise she might not have found it.
     "Alone"  did  I say? Pas tout ю fait. I had my little black chum
with me, and as soon as I reached a secluded spot, I rehearsed  Mr.  Richard
F.  Schiller's  violent  death.  I  had found a very old and very dirty gray
sweater of mine in the back of the car, and this I hung up on a branch, in a
speechless glade, which I had reached by a wood road  from  the  now  remote
highway. The carrying out of the sentence was a little marred by what seemed
to  me  a  certain stiffness in the play of the trigger, and I wondered if I
should get some oil for the mysterious thing but decided I had  no  time  to
spare.  Back  into  the  car  went the old dead sweater, now with additional
perforations, and having reloaded warm Chum, I continued my journey.
     The letter was dated September 18, 1952 (this was  September  22),  and
the address she gave was "General Delivery, Coalmont" (not "Va.," not "Pa.,"
not  "Tenn."--and  not  Coalmont,  anyway--I have camouflaged everything, my
love). Inquiries showed this to be a small industrial community  some  eight
hundred  miles  from  New York City. At first I planned to drive all day and
all night, but then thought better of it and rested for a  couple  of  hours
around  dawn  in a motor court room, a few miles before reaching the town. I
had made up my mind that the fiend, this Schiller, had been a  car  salesman
who had perhaps got to know my Lolita by giving her a ride in Beardsley--the
day  her  bike  blew  a tire on the way to Miss Emperor--and that he had got
into some trouble since then. The corpse of the executed sweater, no  matter
how  I  changed its contours as it lay on the back seat of the car, had kept
revealing various outlines pertaining to Trapp-Schiller--the  grossness  and
obscene  bonhomie  of  his  body,  and  to  counteract  this taste of coarse
corruption I resolved to make myself especially  handsome  and  smart  as  I
pressed home the nipple of my alarm clock before it exploded at the set hour
of  six  a.m. Then, with the stern and romantic care of a gentleman about to
fight a duel, I checked the arrangement of my papers, bathed and perfumed my
delicate body, shaved my face and chest, selected a  silk  shirt  and  clean
drawers,  pulled  on  transparent  taupe socks, and congratulated myself for
having with me in my trunk some very  exquisite  clothes--a  waistcoat  with
nacreous buttons, for instance, a pale cashmere tie and so on.
     I  was  not  able,  alas,  to  hold  my  breakfast,  but dismissed that
physicality as a  trivial  contretemps,  wiped  my  mouth  with  a  gossamer
handkerchief  produced  from  my  sleeve,  and, with a blue block of ice for
heart, a pill on my tongue and solid death  in  my  hip  pocket,  I  stepped
neatly  into  a telephone booth in Coalmont (Ah-ah-ah, said its little door)
and rang up the only Schiller--Paul, Furniture--to be found in the  battered
book. Hoarse Paul told me he did know a Richard, the son of a cousin of his,
and  his  address was, let me see, 10 Killer Street (I am not going very far
for my pseudonyms). Ah-ah-ah, said the little door.
     At 10 Killer Street, a  tenement  house,  I  interviewed  a  number  of
dejected  old  people and two long-haired strawberry-blond incredibly grubby
nymphets (rather abstractly, just for the heck of it, the ancient  beast  in
me was casting about for some lightly clad child I might hold against me for
a  minute,  after  the  killing  was over and nothing mattered any more, and
everything was allowed). Yes, Dick Skiller had lived there,  but  had  moved
when  he  married.  Nobody knew his address. "They might know at the store,"
said a bass voice from an open manhole near which I happened to be  standing
with the two thin-armed, barefoot little girls and their dim grandmothers. I
entered  the  wrong  store and a wary old Negro shook his head even before I
could ask anything. I crossed over to a bleak grocery and there, summoned by
a customer at my request, a woman's voice from  some  wooden  abyss  in  the
floor, the manhole's counterpart, cried out: Hunter Road, last house.
     Hunter  Road  was miles away, in an even more dismal district, all dump
and ditch, and wormy vegetable garden, and shack, and gray drizzle, and  red
mud,  and  several  smoking  stacks  in  the distance. I stopped at the last
"house"--a clapboard shack, with two or three similar ones farther away from
the road and a waste of withered weeds all around. Sounds of hammering  came
from  behind  the house, and for several minutes I sat quite still in my old
car, old and frail, at the end of my journey, at my gray goal, finis,
my friends, finis, my friends. The time was around two. My pulse  was
40  one  minute and 100 the next. The drizzle crepitated against the hood of
the car. My gun had migrated to my right trouser pocket. A  nondescript  cur
came   out   from  behind  the  house,  stopped  in  surprise,  and  started
good-naturedly woof-woofing at me, his  eyes  slit,  his  shaggy  belly  all
muddy, and then walked about a little and woofed once more.

        29

     I  got  out  of  the  car and slammed its door. How matter-of-fact, how
square that slam sounded in  the  void  of  the  sunless  day!  Woof,
commented  the  dog  perfunctorily.  I  pressed the bell button, it vibrated
through my whole system. Personne. Je resonne. Repersonne. From  what
depth  this  re-nonsense?  Woof,  said  the  dog.  A rush and a shuffle, and
woosh-woof went the door.
     Couple of inches taller. Pink-rimmed glasses.  New,  heaped-up  hairdo,
new  ears.  How  simple!  The  moment, the death I had kept conjuring up for
three years was as simple as a bit of dry wood. She was frankly  and  hugely
pregnant.  Her  head looked smaller (only two seconds had passed really, but
let me give them as much  wooden  duration  as  life  can  stand),  and  her
pale-freckled cheeks were hollowed, and her bare shins and arms had lost all
their  tan,  so  that  the little hairs showed. She wore a brown, sleeveless
cotton dress and sloppy felt slippers.
     "We--e--ell!" she exhaled after a pause with all the emphasis of wonder
and welcome.
     "Husband at home?" I croaked, fist in pocket.
     I could not kill her, of course, as some have thought. You  see,
I  loved  her.  It  was love at first sight, at last sight, at ever and ever
sight.
     "Come in,"  she  said  with  a  vehement  cheerful  note.  Against  the
splintery deadwood of the door, Dolly Schiller flattened herself as best she
could (even rising on tiptoe a little) to let me pass, and was crucified for
a  moment,  looking down, smiling down at the threshold, hollow-cheeked with
round pommettes, her watered-milk-white arms outspread on the wood. I
passed without touching her bulging babe. Dolly-smell, with  a  faint  fried
addition.  My  teeth  chattered  like an idiot's. "No, you stay out" (to the
dog). She closed the door and followed me and her belly into  the  dollhouse
parlor.
     "Dick's down there," she said pointing with an invisible tennis racket,
inviting  my  gaze  to  travel  from the drab parlor-bedroom where we stood,
right across the kitchen, and through the back doorway where,  in  a  rather
primitive  vista,  a dark-haired young stranger in overalls, instantaneously
reprieved, was perched with his back to me on a ladder fixing something near
or upon the shack of his neighbor, a plumper fellow with only one  arm,  who
stood looking up.
     This  pattern  she  explained  from  afar, apologetically ("Men will be
men"); should she call him in?
     No.
     Standing in the middle of the slanting room  and  emitting  questioning
"hm's,"  she  made  familiar  Javanese  gestures  with her wrists and hands,
offering me, in a brief display of humorous courtesy, to  choose  between  a
rocker  and  the  divan (their bed after ten p.m.). I say "familiar" because
one day she had welcomed me with the  same  wrist  dance  to  her  party  in
Beardsley.  We  both  sat  down on the divan. Curious: although actually her
looks had faded, I definitely realized, so hopelessly late in the  day,  how
much she looked--had always looked--like Botticelli's russet Venus--the same
soft  nose,  the  same blurred beauty. In my pocket my fingers gently let go
and repacked a little at the tip, within the handkerchief it was nested  in,
my unused weapon.
     "that's not the fellow I want," I said.
     The  diffuse look of welcome left her eyes. Her forehead puckered as in
the old bitter days:
     "Not who?"
     "Where is he? Quick!"
     "Look," she said, inclining her head to one side and shaking it in that
position. "Look, you are not going to bring that up."
     "I certainly am," I said, and for a moment--strangely enough  the  only
merciful,  endurable  one  in the whole interview--we were bristling at each
other as if she were still mine.
     A wise girl, she controlled herself.
     Dick did not know a thing of the whole  mess.  He  thought  I  was  her
father.  He  thought  she had run away from an upper-class home just to wash
dishes in a diner. He believed anything. Why should I want  to  make  things
harder than they were by raking up all that muck?
     But,  I  said,  she must be sensible, she must be a sensible girl (with
her bare drum under that thin brown stuff), she must understand that if  she
expected  the  help  I  had  come  to  give,  I  must  have at least a clear
comprehension of the situation.
     "Come, his name!"
     She thought I had guessed long ago. It  was  (with  a  mischievous  and
melancholy  smile)  such  a  sensational name. I would never believe it. She
could hardly believe it herself.
     His name, my fall nymph.
     It was so unimportant, she said. She suggested I skip it. Would I  like
a cigarette?
     No. His name.
     She  shook  her head with great resolution. She guessed it was too late
to raise hell and I would never believe the unbelievably unbelievable--
     I said I had better go, regards, nice to have seen her.
     She said really it was useless, she would never tell, but on the  other
hand, after all--"Do you really want to know who it was? Well, it was--"
     And softly, confidentially, arching her thin eyebrows and puckering her
parched  lips,  she  emitted, a little mockingly, somewhat fastidiously, not
untenderly, in a kind of muted whistle, the name that the astute reader  has
guessed long ago.
     Waterproof. Why did a flash from Hourglass Lake cross my consciousness?
I, too,  had known it, without knowing it, all along. There was no shock, no
surprise. Quietly the fusion took place, and  everything  fell  into  order,
into  the  pattern of branches that I have woven throughout this memoir with
the express purpose of having the ripe fruit fall at the right moment;  yes,
with  the  express  and perverse purpose of rendering--she was talking but I
sat melting in my golden peace--of rendering that golden and monstrous peace
through the satisfaction of logical  recognition,  which  my  most  inimical
reader should experience now.
     She  was,  as I say, talking. It now came in a relaxed flow. He was the
only man she had ever been crazy about. What about  Dick?  Oh,  Dick  was  a
lamb, they were quite happy together, but she meant something different. And
I had never counted, of course?
     She  considered  me  as  if  grasping  all  at once the incredible--and
somehow tedious, confusing and unnecessary--fact that the distant,  elegant,
slender, forty-year-old valetudinarian in velvet coat sitting beside her had
known  and  adored  every  pore  and  follicle of her pubescent body. In her
washed-out gray eyes, strangely spectacled,  our  poor  romance  was  for  a
moment  reflected,  pondered  upon,  and dismissed like a dull party, like a
rainy picnic to which only the  dullest  bores  had  come,  like  a  humdrum
exercise, like a bit of dry mud caking her childhood.
     I  just  managed to jerk my knee out of the range of a sketchy tap--one
of her acquired gestures.
     She asked me not to be dense. The past was the past. I had been a  good
father, she guessed--granting me that. Proceed, Dolly Schiller.
     Well,  did I know that he had known her mother? That he was practically
an old friend? That he had visited with his uncle  in  Ramsdale?--oh,  years
ago--and  spoken  at Mother's club, and had tugged and pulled her, Dolly, by
her bare arm onto his lap in front of everybody, and kissed  her  face,  she
was  ten  and furious with him? Did I know he had seen me and her at the inn
where he was writing the very play she was to  rehearse  in  Beardsley,  two
years  later?  Did  I  know--It  had been horrid of her to sidetrack me into
believing that Clare was an old  female,  maybe  a  relative  of  his  or  a
sometime  lifemate--and  oh,  what  a  close shave it had been when the Wace
Journal carried his picture.
     The Briceland Gazette had not. Yes, very amusing.
     Yes, she said, this world was just one gag after another,  if  somebody
wrote up her life nobody would ever believe it.
     At  this  point,  there  came  brisk homey sounds from the kitchen into
which Dick and Bill had lumbered in quest of beer. Through the doorway  they
noticed the visitor, and Dick entered the parlor.
     "Dick,  this is my Dad!" cried Dolly in a resounding violent voice that
struck me as a totally strange, and new, and cheerful,  and  old,  and  sad,
because the young fellow, veteran of a remote war, was hard of hearing.
     Arctic  blue  eyes,  black  hair, ruddy cheeks, unshaven chin. We shook
hands. Discreet Bill, who evidently took pride in working wonders  with  one
hand,  brought  in  the  beer  cans  he  had opened. Wanted to withdraw. The
exquisite courtesy of simple folks. Was made to stay. A beer ad. In point of
fact, I preferred it that way, and so did the Schillers. I switched  to  the
jittery rocker. Avidly munching, Dilly plied me with marshmallows and potato
chips. The men looked at her fragile, frileux, diminutive, old-world,
youngish but sickly, father in velvet coat and beige vest, maybe a viscount.
     They  were  under  the  impression  I had come to stay, and Dick with a
great wrinkling of brows that denoted difficult thought, suggested Dolly and
he might sleep in the kitchen on a spare mattress. I waved a light hand  and
told Dolly who transmitted it by means of a special shout to Dick that I had
merely  dropped  in  on my way to Readsburg where I was to be entertained by
some friends and admirers. It was then noticed that one of  the  few  thumbs
remaining  to  Bill  was  bleeding (not such a wonder-worker after all). How
womanish and somehow never seen that way before  was  the  shadowy  division
between  her  pale  breasts when she bent down over the man's hand! She took
him for repairs to the kitchen. For a few  minutes,  three  or  four  little
eternities  which  positively  welled  with  artificial  warmth,  Dick and I
remained alone. He sat on a hard chair rubbing his forelimbs and frowning. I
had an idle urge  to  squeeze  out  the  blackheads  on  the  wings  of  his
perspiring  nose  with  my  long  agate  claws.  He  had  nice sad eyes with
beautiful lashes, and very white teeth.  His  Adam's  apple  was  large  and
hairy.  Why  don't  they  shave better, those young brawny chaps? He and his
Dolly had had unrestrained intercourse on  that  couch  there,  at  least  a
hundred  and eighty times, probably much more; and before that--how long had
she known him? No grudge. Funny--no grudge at all, nothing except grief  and
nausea.  He  was now rubbing his nose. I was sure that when finally he would
open his mouth, he would say (slightly shaking his head): "Aw, she's a swell
kid, Mr. Haze. She sure is. And she's going to  make  a  swell  mother."  He
opened  his mouth--and took a sip of beer. This gave him countenance--and he
went on sipping till he frothed at the mouth. He was a lamb. He  had  cupped
her  Florentine  breasts.  His  fingernails  were  black and broken, but the
phalanges, the whole carpus, the strong shapely wrist were  far,  far  finer
than  mine:  I have hurt too much too many bodies with my twisted poor hands
to be proud of them. French epithets, a Dorset yokel's knuckles, an Austrian
tailor's flat finger tips--that's Humbert Humbert.
     Good. If he was silent I could be silent too. Indeed, I could very well
do with a little rest in this subdued,  frightened-to-death  rocking  chair,
before  I  drove  to  wherever  the  beast's  lair  was--and then pulled the
pistol's foreskin back, and then enjoyed the orgasm of the crushed  trigger:
I  was  always  a  good  little  follower  of the Viennese medicine man. But
presently I became sorry for poor Dick whom, in some hypnotoid  way,  I  was
horribly  preventing from making the only remark he could think up ("She's a
swell kid. . .").
     "And so," I said, "you are going to Canada?"
     In the kitchen, Dolly was laughing at something Bill had said or done.
     "And  so,"  I  shouted,  "you  are  going  to  Canada?  Not  Canada"--I
re-shouted--"I mean Alaska, of course."
     He nursed his glass and, nodding sagely, replied: "Well, he cut it on a
jagger, I guess. Lost his right arm in Italy."
     Lovely  mauve  almond  trees  in  bloom.  A  blown-off surrealistic arm
hanging up there in the pointillistic mauve.  A  flowergirl  tattoo  on  the
hand.  Dolly  and  band-aided  Bill  reappeared.  It occurred to me that her
ambiguous, brown and pale beauty excited the cripple. Dick, with a  grin  of
relief  stood  up.  He  guessed Bill and he would be going back to fix those
wires. He guessed Mr. Haze and Dolly had loads of  things  to  say  to  each
other.  He  guessed he would be seeing me before I left. Why do those people
guess so much and shave so little, and are so disdainful of hearing aids?
     "Sit down," she said, audibly striking her flanks  with  her  palms.  I
relapsed into the black rocker.
     "So you betrayed me? Where did you go? Where is he now?"
     She  took  from the mantelpiece a concave glossy snapshot. Old woman in
white,  stout,  beaming,  bowlegged,  very  short  dress;  old  man  in  his
shirtsleeves,  drooping  mustache,  watch  chain.  Her  in-laws. Living with
Dick's brother's family in Juneau.
     "Sure you don't want to smoke?"
     She was smoking herself. First time  I  saw  her  doing  it.  Streng
verboten  under  Humbert  the  Terrible.  Gracefully,  in  a  blue mist,
Charlotte Haze rose from her grave. I would find him through Uncle Ivory  if
she refused.
     "Betrayed  you?  No."  She  directed  the  dart of her cigarette, index
rapidly tapping upon it, toward the hearth exactly as her mother used to do,
and then, like her mother, oh my God,  with  her  fingernail  scratched  and
removed  a  fragment  of  cigarette paper from her underlip. No. She had not
betrayed me. I was among friends. Edusa had warned her that Cue liked little
girls, had been almost jailed once, in fact (nice fact),  and  he  knew  she
knew.  Yes . . . Elbow in palm, puff, smile, exhaled smoke, darting gesture.
Waxing  reminiscent.  He  saw--smiling--through  everything  and  everybody,
because  he  was not like me and her but a genius. A great guy. Full of fun.
Had rocked with laughter when she confessed about me and her,  and  said  he
had  thought so. It was quite safe, under the circumstances, to tell him . .
.
     Well, Cue--they all called him Cue--
     Her camp five years ago. Curious coincidence--. . . took her to a  dude
ranch about a day's drive from Elephant (Elphinstone). Named? Oh, some silly
name--Duk Duk Ranch--you know just plain silly--but it did not matter
now,  anyway,  because the place had vanished and disintegrated. Really, she
meant, I could not imagine how utterly lush that ranch was, she meant it had
everything but everything, even an indoor  waterfall.  Did  I  remember  the
red-haired  guy  we ("we" was good) had once had some tennis with? Well, the
place really belonged to Red's brother, but he had turned it over to Cue for
the summer. When Cue and she came, the others had them actually go through a
coronation ceremony and then--a terrific ducking,  as  when  you  cross  the
Equator. You know.
     Her eyes rolled in synthetic resignation.
     "Go on, please."
     Well.  The  idea  was  he  would take her in September to Hollywood and
arrange a tryout for her, a bit part in the tennis-match scene  of  a  movie
picture  based  on  a play of his--Golden Guts--and perhaps even have
her double one of its sensational starlets on the Klieg-struck tennis court.
Alas, it never came to that.
     "Where is the hog now?"
     He was not a hog. He was a great guy in many respects. But it  was  all
drink and drugs. And, of course, he was a complete freak in sex matters, and
his friends were his slaves. I just could not imagine (I, Humbert, could not
imagine!)  what  they  all  did  at  Duk Duk Ranch. She refused to take part
because she loved him, and he threw her out.
     "What things?"
     "Oh, weird, filthy, fancy things. I mean, he  had  two  girls  and  tow
boys, and three or four men, and the idea was for all of us to tangle in the
nude  while an old woman took movie pictures." (Sade's Justine was twelve at
the start.)
     "What things exactly?"
     "Oh, things . . . Oh, I--really I"--she uttered the "I"  as  a  subdued
cry  while  she  listened  to  the source of the ache, and for lack of words
spread the five fingers of her angularly up-and-down-moving  hand.  No,  she
gave it up, she refused to go into particulars with that baby inside her.
     That made sense.
     "It is of no importance now," she said pounding a gray cushion with her
fist and  then  lying  back,  belly  up, on the divan. "Crazy things, filthy
things. I said no, I'm just not going  to  [she  used,  in  all  insouciance
really,  a  disgusting  slang  term  which, in a literal French translation,
would be souffler] your beastly boys, because I want only you.  Well,
he kicked me out."
     There  was  not  much  else  to tell. That winter 1949, Fay and she had
found jobs. For almost two years she had--oh, just drifted, oh,  doing  some
restaurant  work in small places, and then she had met Dick. No, she did not
know where the other was. In New York, she guessed. Of  course,  he  was  so
famous  she would have found him at once if she had wanted. Fay had tried to
get back to the Ranch--and it just was not there any more--it had burned  to
the  ground, nothing remained, just a charred heap of rubbish. It was
so strange, so strange--
     She closed her eyes and opened her mouth, leaning back on the  cushion,
one  felted foot on the floor. The wooden floor slanted, a little steel ball
would have rolled into the kitchen. I knew all I wanted to know.  I  had  no
intention  of  torturing  my  darling.  Somewhere  beyond  Bill's  shack  an
afterwork radio had begun singing of folly and fate, and there she was  with
her ruined looks and her adult, rope-veined narrow hands and her goose-flesh
white arms, and her shallow ears, and her unkempt armpits, there she was (my
Lolita!),  hopelessly worn at seventeen, with that baby, dreaming already in
her of becoming a big shot and retiring around 2020 A.D.--and I  looked  and
looked  at  her, and knew as clearly as I know I am to die, that I loved her
more than anything I had ever seen  or  imagined  on  earth,  or  hoped  for
anywhere else. She was only the faint violet whiff and dead leaf echo of the
nymphet I had rolled myself upon with such cries in the past; an echo on the
brink  of  a  russet  ravine,  with  a far wood under a white sky, and brown
leaves choking the brook, and one last cricket in the crisp weeds . . .  but
thank  God  it  was  not  that  echo alone that I worshipped. What I used to
pamper among the tangled vines of my heart, mon grand  pиchи radieux,
had  dwindled  to  its  essence: sterile and selfish vice, all that I
canceled and cursed. You may jeer at me, and threaten to  clear  the  court,
but  until  I  am  gagged  and half-throttled, I will shout my poor truth. I
insist the world know how much I loved my Lolita, this  Lolita,  pale
and  polluted,  and  big  with  another's  child, but still gray-eyed, still
sooty-lashed,  still  auburn  and  almond,  still  Carmencita,  still  mine;
Changeons  de vie, ma Carmen, allons vivre quelque part oы nous ne serons
jamais sиparиs; Ohio? The wilds of Massachusetts?  No  matter,  even  if
those  eyes  of  hers  would  fade to myopic fish, and her nipples swell and
crack, and her lovely young velvety delicate delta be tainted and torn--even
then I would go mad with tenderness at the mere sight of your dear wan face,
at the mere sound of your raucous young voice, my Lolita.
     "Lolita," I said, "this may be neither here nor there but I have to say
it. Life is very short. From here to that old car you know so well there is a
stretch of twenty, twenty-five paces. It is a very short  walk.  Make  those
twenty-five  steps.  Now. Right now. Come just as you are. And we shall live
happily ever after."
     Carmen, voulez-vous venir avec moi?
     "You mean," she said opening her eyes and raising herself slightly, the
snake that may strike, "you mean you will give us [us] that money only if  I
go with you to a motel. Is that what you mean?"
     "No,"  I  said,  "you  got  it  all  wrong.  I  want  you to leave your
incidental Dick, and this awful hole, and come to live with me, and die with
me, and everything with me" (words to that effect).
     "You're crazy," she said, her features working.
     "Think  it  over,  Lolita.  There  are  no  strings  attached.  Except,
perhaps--well,  no  matter."  (A  reprieve,  I  wanted  to say but did not.)
"Anyway, if you refuse you will still get your . . . trousseau."
     "No kidding?" asked Dolly.
     I handed her an envelope with four hundred dollars in cash and a  check
for three thousand six hundred more.
     Gingerly,  uncertainly,  she received mon petit cadeau; and then
her forehead became a beautiful pink. "You mean," she  said,  with  agonized
emphasis,  "you are giving us four thousand bucks?" I covered my face
with my hand and broke into the hottest tears I had ever shed. I  felt  them
winding through my fingers and down my chin, and burning me, and my nose got
clogged, and I could not stop, and then she touched my wrist.
     "I'll  die  if  you touch me," I said. "You are sure you are not coming
with me? Is there no hope of your coming? Tell me only this."
     "No," she said. "No, honey, no."
     She had never called me honey before.
     "No," she said, "it is quite out of the question.  I  would  sooner  go
back to Cue. I mean--"
     She  groped  for  words.  I supplied them mentally ("He broke my
heart. You merely broke my life").
     "I think," she went on--"oops"--the envelope skidded to the  floor--she
picked  it  up--"I  think it's oh utterly grand of you to give us all
that dough. It settles everything, we can  start  next  week.  Stop  crying,
please. You should understand. Let me get you some more beer. Oh, don't cry,
I'm so sorry I cheated so much, but that's the way things are."
     I  wiped  my  face and my fingers. She smiled at the cadeau. She
exulted. She wanted to call Dick. I said I would have to leave in a  moment,
did not want to see him at all, at all. We tried to think of some subject of
conversation. For some reason, I kept seeing--it trembled and silkily glowed
on  my  damn  retina--a  radiant  child  of  twelve, sitting on a threshold,
"pinging" pebbles at an empty can. I almost said--trying to find some casual
remark--"I wonder sometimes what has become of the little  McCoo  girl,  did
she  ever  get  better?"--but  stopped  in  time  lest she rejoin: "I wonder
sometimes what has become of the little Haze girl . . ." Finally, I reverted
to money matters. That sum, I said, represented more or less  the  net  rent
from  her  mother's house; she said: "Had it not been sold years ago?" No (I
admit I had told her this in order to sever all connections with R.);
a lawyer would send a full account of the financial situation later; it  was
rosy;  some of the small securities her mother had owned had gone up and up.
Yes, I was quite sure I had to go. I had to go, and find  him,  and  destroy
him.
     Since  I  would  not  have  survived  the  touch  of  her  lips, I kept
retreating in a mincing dance, at every step she and her belly  made  toward
me.
     She  and the dog saw me off. I was surprised (this a rhetorical figure,
I was not) that the sight of the old car in which she had ridden as a  child
and  a  nymphet,  left  her so very indifferent. All she remarked was it was
getting sort of purplish about the gills. I said it was hers, I could go  by
bus. She said don't be silly, they would fly to Jupiter and buy a car there.
I said I would buy this one from her for five hundred dollars.
     "At  this  rate  we'll be millionnaires next," she said to the ecstatic
dog.
     Carmencita, lui demandais-je . . . "One last word," I said in my
horrible careful  English,  "are  you  quite,  quite  sure  that--well,  not
tomorrow,  of  course, and not after tomorrow, but--well--some day, any day,
you will not come to live with me? I will create a brand new God  and  thank
him  with  piercing  cries,  if  you give me that microscopic hope" (to that
effect).
     "No," she said smiling, "no."
     "It would have made all the difference," said Humbert Humbert.
     Then I pulled out my automatic--I mean, this is the kind of fool  thing
a reader might suppose I did. It never even occurred to me to do it.
     "Good  by-aye!"  she changed, my American sweet immortal dead love; for
she is dead and immortal if you are reading this. I mean, such is the formal
agreement with the so-called authorities.
     Then, as I drove away, I heard her shout in  a  vibrant  voice  to  her
Dick;  and  the dog started to lope alongside my car like a fat dolphin, but
he was too heavy and old, and very soon gave up.
     And presently I was driving through the drizzle of the dying day,  with
the windshield wipers in full action but unable to cope with my tears.

        30

     Leaving  as  I did Coalmont around four in the afternoon (by Route X--I
do not remember the number(, I might have made Ramsdale by dawn  had  not  a
short-cut  tempted  me.  I  had  to  get onto Highway Y. My map showed quite
blandly that just beyond Woodbine, which I reached  at  nightfall,  I  could
leave paved X and reached paved Y by means of a transverse dirt road. It was
only  some  forty  miles long according to my map. Otherwise I would have to
follow X for another hundred miles and then use leisurely looping Z  to  get
to  Y  and  my destination. However, the short-cut in question got worse and
worse, bumpier and bumpier, muddier and muddier, and  when  I  attempted  to
turn  back  after  some  ten  miles  of purblind, tortuous and tortoise-slow
progress, my old and weak Melmoth got stuck in deep clay. All was  dark  and
muggy,  and  hopeless.  My headlights hung over a broad ditch full of water.
The surrounding country, if  any,  was  a  black  wilderness.  I  sought  to
extricate  myself  but  my  rear  wheels  only  whined in slosh and anguish.
Cursing my plight, I took off my fancy clothes, changed into slacks,  pulled
on the bullet-riddled sweater, and waded four miles back to a roadside farm.
It  started  to  rain on the way but I had not the strength to go back for a
mackintosh. Such incidents have convinced me  that  my  heart  is  basically
sound  despite  recent  diagnoses. Around midnight, a wrecker dragged my car
out. I navigated back to Highway X and traveled on. Utter weariness overtook
me and hour later, in an anonymous little town. I pulled up at the curb  and
in darkness drank deep from a friendly flask.
     The  rain  had  been  canceled miles before. It was a black warm night,
somewhere in Appalachia. Now  and  then  cars  passed  me,  red  tail-lights
receding, white headlights advancing, but the town was dead. Nobody strolled
and  laughed  on  the sidewalks as relaxing burghers would in sweet, mellow,
rotting Europe. I was alone to enjoy the  innocent  night  and  my  terrible
thoughts. A wire receptacle on the curb was very particular about acceptable
contents: Sweepings. Paper. No Garbage. Sherry-red letters of light marked a
Camera  Shop.  A large thermometer with the name of a laxative quietly dwelt
on the front of a drugstore. Rubinov's Jewelry  company  had  a  display  of
artificial diamonds reflected in a red mirror. A lighted green clock swam in
the linenish depths of Jiffy Jeff Laundry. On the other side of the street a
garage  said  in  its sleep--genuflection lubricity; and corrected itself to
Gulflex Lubrication. An airplane, also gemmed by Rubinov,  passed,  droning,
in  the  velvet heavens. How many small dead-of-night towns I had seen! This
was not yet the last.
     Let me dally a little, he is as good as  destroyed.  Some  way  further
across  the  street,  neon  lights flickered twice slower than my heart: the
outline of a restaurant sign, a large coffee-pot, kept bursting, every  full
second  or  so,  into emerald life, and every time it went out, pink letters
saying Fine Foods relayed it, but the pot could  still  be  made  out  as  a
latent  shadow teasing the eye before its next emerald resurrection. We made
shadow-graphs. This furtive burg was not far from The Enchanted  Hunters.  I
was weeping again, drunk on the impossible past.

        31

     At  this  solitary  stop for refreshments between Coalmont and Ramsdale
(between innocent Dolly Schiller and jovial Uncle Ivor), I reviewed my case.
With the utmost simplicity and  clarity  I  now  saw  myself  and  my  love.
Previous  attempts  seemed  out  of  focus  in comparison. A couple of years
before, under the guidance of an intelligent French-speaking  confessor,  to
whom,   in  a  moment  of  metaphysical  curiosity,  I  had  turned  over  a
Protestant's drab atheism for an old-fashioned popish cure, I had  hoped  to
deduce  from  my  sense  of  sin  the existence of a Supreme Being. On those
frosty mornings in rime-laced Quebec, the good priest worked on me with  the
finest  tenderness and understanding. I am infinitely obliged to him and the
great Institution he represented. Alas, I was unable to transcend the simple
human fact that whatever spiritual solace I might find, whatever lithophanic
eternities might be provided for me, nothing could make my Lolita forget the
foul lust I had inflicted upon her. Unless it can be proven to me--to me  as
I  am  now,  today, with my heart and by beard, and my putrefaction--that in
the infinite run it does not matter a jot that a North  American  girl-child
named  Dolores  Haze  had been deprived of her childhood by a maniac, unless
this can be proven (and if it can, then life is a joke), I see  nothing  for
the  treatment  of my misery but the melancholy and very local palliative of
articulate art. To quote an old poet:

     The moral sense in mortals is the duty
     We have to pay on mortal sense of beauty.

        32

     There  was  the  day,  during  our  first  trip--our  first  circle  of
paradise--when  in  order to enjoy my phantasms in peace I firmly decided to
ignore what I could not help perceiving, the fact that I was to  her  not  a
boy friend, not a glamour man, not a pal, not even a person at all, but just
two  eyes and a foot of engorged brawn--to mention only mentionable matters.
There was the day when having withdrawn the functional promise  I  had  made
her  on  the  eve  (whatever she had set her funny little heart on--a roller
rink with some special plastic floor or a movie matinee to which she  wanted
to  go  alone),  I  happened  to glimpse from the bathroom, through a chance
combination of mirror aslant and door ajar, a look on her face .  .  .  that
look  I  cannot  exactly  describe  .  .  . an expression of helplessness so
perfect that it seemed to grade into one of rather comfortable inanity  just
because  this  was  the  very  limit of injustice and frustration--and every
limit presupposes something beyond it--hence the neutral  illumination.  And
when you bear in mind that these were the raised eyebrows and parted lips of
a child, you may better appreciate what depths of calculated carnality, what
reflected  despair,  restrained  me  from  falling  at  her  dear  feet  and
dissolving in human tears, and sacrificing my jealousy to whatever  pleasure
Lolita might hope to derive from mixing with dirty and dangerous children in
an outside world that was real to her.
     And  I  have  still  other smothered memories, now unfolding themselves
into  limbless  monsters  of  pain.  Once,  in  a  sunset-ending  street  of
Beardsley,  she  turned to little Eva Rosen (I was taking both nymphets to a
concert and walking behind them so close as almost to  touch  them  with  my
person), she turned to Eva, and so very serenely and seriously, in answer to
something  the other had said about its being better to die than hear Milton
Pinski, some local schoolboy she knew, talk about music, my Lolita remarked:
     "You know, what's so dreadful about dying is that you are completely on
your own"; and it struck me, as my automaton knees went up and down, that  I
simply did not know a thing about my darling's mind and that quite possibly,
behind the awful juvenile clichиs, there was in her a garden and a twilight,
and a palace gate--dim and adorable regions which happened to be lucidly and
absolutely  forbidden  to me, in my polluted rags and miserable convulsions;
for I often noticed that living as we did, she and I, in a  world  of  total
evil,  we  would  become  strangely  embarrassed whenever I tried to discuss
something she and an older friend, she and a parent, she and a real  healthy
sweetheart, I and Annabel, Lolita and a sublime, purified, analyzed, deified
Harold  Haze,  might  have discussed--an abstract idea, a painting, stippled
Hopkins or shorn Baudelaire, God or Shakespeare, anything of  genuine  kind.
Good  will! She would mail her vulnerability in trite brashness and boredom,
whereas I, using for my desperately detached comments an artificial tone  of
voice  that  set  my  own  last  teeth on edge, provoked my audience to such
outbursts of rudeness as made any further  conversation  impossible,  oh  my
poor, bruised child.
     I  loved  you.  I  was  a  pentapod  monster,  but  I  loved you. I was
despicable and brutal, and turpid, and everything, mais je  t'aimais,  je
t'aimais! And there were times when I knew how you felt, and it was hell
to know it, my little one. Lolita girl, brave Dolly Schiller.
     I  recall  certain moments, let us call them icebergs in paradise, when
after having had my fill of her--after fabulous, insane exertions that  left
me  limp  and  azure-barred--I  would gather her in my arms with, at last, a
mute moan of human tenderness (her skin glistening in the neon light  coming
from  the  paved court through the slits in the blind, her soot-black lashes
matted, her grave gray eyes more vacant  than  ever--for  all  the  world  a
little   patient   still   in   the  confusion  of  a  drug  after  a  major
operation)--and the tenderness would deepen to  shame  and  despair,  and  I
would  lull and rock my lone light Lolita in my marble arms, and moan in her
warm hair, and caress her at random and mutely ask her blessing, and at  the
peak  of  this  human  agonized  selfless  tenderness (with my soul actually
hanging around her naked body and ready to repent), all at once, ironically,
horribly, lust would swell again--and "oh, no," Lolita would say with
a sigh to heaven, and the next moment  the  tenderness  and  the  azure--all
would be shattered.
     Mid-twentieth  century  ideas concerning child-parent relationship have
been considerably tainted  by  the  scholastic  rigmarole  and  standardized
symbols  of  the psychoanalytic racket, but I hope I am addressing myself to
unbiased readers. Once when Avis's father had honked outside to signal  papa
had come to take his pet home, I felt obliged to invite him into the parlor,
and  he  sat  down  for  a  minute,  and  while we conversed, Avis, a heavy,
unattractive, affectionate child, drew up  to  him  and  eventually  perched
plumply  on his knee. Now, I do not remember if I have mentioned that Lolita
always had an absolutely enchanting smile  for  strangers,  a  tender  furry
slitting  of the eyes, a dreamy sweet radiance of all her features which did
not mean a thing of course, but was so  beautiful,  so  endearing  that  one
found  it  hard  to  reduce such sweetness to but a magic gene automatically
lighting  up  her  face  in  atavistic  token  of  some  ancient   rite   of
welcome--hospitable prostitution, the coarse reader may say. Well, there she
stood  while  Mr. Byrd twirled his hat and talked, and--yes, look how stupid
of me, I have left out the main characteristic of the famous  Lolita  smile,
namely:  while the tender, nectared, dimpled brightness played, it was never
directed at the stranger in the room but hung in  its  own  remote  flowered
void, so to speak, or wandered with myopic softness over chance objects--and
this is what was happening now: while fat Avis sidled up to her papa, Lolita
gently  beamed  at a fruit knife that she fingered on the edge of the table,
whereon she leaned, many miles away from me. Suddenly, as Avis clung to  her
father's  neck and ear while, with a casual arm, the man enveloped his lumpy
and large offspring, I saw Lolita's smile lose all its light  and  become  a
frozen  little  shadow  of itself, and the fruit knife slipped off the table
and struck her with its silver handle a freak blow on the ankle  which  made
her  gasp,  and  crouch head forward, and then, jumping on one leg, her face
awful with the preparatory grimace which children hold till the tears  gush,
she was gone--to be followed at once and consoled in the kitchen by Avis who
had  such  a  wonderful  fat  pink  dad  and  a  small chubby brother, and a
brand-new baby sister, and a home, and two grinning  dogs,  and  Lolita  had
nothing. And I have a neat pendant to that little scene--also in a Beardsley
setting.  Lolita, who had been reading near the fire, stretched herself, and
then inquired, her elbow up, with a grunt: "Where  is  she  buried  anyway?"
"Who?"  "Oh,  you  know,  my murdered mummy." "And you know where her
grave is," I said controlling myself, whereupon I named  the  cemetery--just
outside  Ramsdale, between the railway tracks and Lakeview Hill. "Moreover,"
I added, "the tragedy of such an  accident  is  somewhat  cheapened  by  the
epithet  you  saw  fit to apply to it. If you really wish to triumph in your
mind over the idea of death--" "Ray," said Lo for hurrah, and languidly left
the room, and for a long while I stared with smarting eyes  into  the  fire.
Then  I  picked up her book. It was some trash for young people. There was a
gloomy girl Marion, and there was her  stepmother  who  turned  out  to  be,
against  all expectations, a young, gay, understanding redhead who explained
to Marion that Marion's dead mother had really been a heroic woman since she
had deliberately dissimulated her great love  for  Marion  because  she  was
dying, and did not want her child to miss her. I did not rush up to her room
with  cries.  I always preferred the mental hygiene of noninterference. Now,
squirming and pleading with my own memory, I recall that on this and similar
occasions, it was always my habit and method to ignore  Lolita's  states  of
mind  while  comforting  my  own  base  self. When my mother, in a livid wet
dress, under the tumbling mist (so I vividly imagined her), had run  panting
ecstatically  up  that  ridge  above  Moulinet  to  be  felled  there  by  a
thunderbolt, I was but an infant, and in  retrospect  no  yearnings  of  the
accepted  kind could I ever graft upon any moment of my youth, no matter how
savagely psychotherapists heckled me in my later periods of depression.  But
I  admit  that  a  man  of  my  power  of  imagination cannot plead personal
ignorance of universal emotions. I may also have  relied  too  much  on  the
abnormally chill relations between Charlotte and her daughter. But the awful
point  of  the  whole  argument is this. It had become gradually clear to my
conventional Lolita during our singular and bestial cohabitation  that  even
the  most  miserable  of  family lives was better than the parody of incest,
which, in the long run, was the best I could offer the waif.

        33

     Ramsdale revisited. I approached it from the  side  of  the  lake.  The
sunny  noon  was  all  eyes.  As  I  rode  by in my mud-flecked car, I could
distinguish scintillas of diamond water between the far pines. I turned into
the  cemetery  and  walked  among  the  long  and  short  stone   monuments.
Bonzhur,   Charlotte.   On  some  of  the  graves  there  were  pale,
transparent little national flags slumped in  the  windless  air  under  the
evergreens.  Gee,  Ed,  that was bad luck--referring to G. Edward Grammar, a
thirty-five-year-old New York office manager who had just been arrayed on  a
charge of murdering his thirty-three-year-old wife, Dorothy. Bidding for the
perfect  crime,  Ed had bludgeoned his wife and put her into a car. The case
came to light when two county policemen on patrol saw Mrs. Grammar's new big
blue Chrysler, an anniversary present from  her  husband,  speeding  crazily
down  a hill, just inside their jurisdiction (God bless our good cops!). The
car sideswiped a pole, ran up an embankment covered with beard  grass,  wild
strawberry  and  cinquefoil,  and  overturned.  The wheels were still gently
spinning in the mellow sunlight when the officers removed Mrs. G's body.  It
appeared to be routine highway accident at first. Alas, the woman's battered
body  did  not  match  up  with only minor damage suffered by the car. I did
better.
     I rolled on. It was funny to see again the slender white church and the
enormous elms. Forgetting  that  in  an  American  suburban  street  a  lone
pedestrian  is  more conspicuous than a lone motorist, I left the car in the
avenue to  walk  unobtrusively  past  342  Lawn  Street.  Before  the  great
bloodshed, I was entitled to a little relief, to a cathartic spasm of mental
regurgitation.  Closed  were  the  white  shutters  of the Junk mansion, and
somebody had attached a found black velvet hair ribbon to the white FOR SALE
sign which was leaning toward the  sidewalk.  No  dog  barked.  No  gardener
telephoned.  No  Miss  Opposite  sat  on  the vined porch--where to the lone
pedestrian's annoyance two pony-tailed young women in identical polka-dotted
pinafores stopped doing whatever they were doing to stare at  him:  she  was
long dead, no doubt, these might be her twin nieces from Philadelphia.
     Should  I  enter  my  old  house?  As in a Turgenev story, a torrent of
Italian music came from an  open  window--that  of  the  living  room:  what
romantic  soul  was playing the piano where no piano had plunged and plashed
on that bewitched Sunday with the sun on her beloved legs?  All  at  once  I
noticed that from the lawn I had mown a golden-skinned, brown-haired nymphet
of  nine or ten, in white shorts, was looking at me with wild fascination in
her large blue-black eyes. I said something  pleasant  to  her,  meaning  no
harm, an old-world compliment, what nice eyes you have, but she retreated in
haste  and  the  music  stopped  abruptly,  and  a violent-looking dark man,
glistening with sweat, came out and glared at me. I  was  on  the  point  of
identifying  myself when, with a pang of dream-embarrassment, I became aware
of my mud-caked dungarees, my filthy and torn sweater, my bristly  chin,  my
bum's  bloodshot  eyes. Without saying a word, I turned and plodded back the
way I had come. An aster-like anemic flower grew out of a  remembered  chink
in the sidewalk. Quietly resurrected, Miss Opposite was being wheeled out by
her  nieces, onto her porch, as if it were a stage and I the star performer.
Praying she would not call to me, I hurried to my car. What a  steep  little
street.  What  a  profound  avenue.  A  red  ticket showed between wiper and
windshield; I carefully tore it into two, four, eight pieces.
     Feeling I was losing my time, I drove  energetically  to  the  downtown
hotel where I had arrived with a new bag more than five years before. I took
a  room,  made  two  appointments by telephone, shaved, bathed, put on black
clothes and went down for a drink in  the  bar.  Nothing  had  changed.  The
barroom  was suffused with the same dim, impossible garnet-red light that in
Europe years ago went with low haunts, but here meant a bit of atmosphere in
a family hotel. I sat at the same little table where at the very start of my
stay, immediately after becoming Charlotte's lodger, I had  thought  fit  to
celebrate  the  occasion  by  suavely  sharing  with  her  half  a bottle of
champagne, which had fatally conquered her poor brimming heart. As  then,  a
moon-faced  waiter was arranging with stellar care fifty sherries on a round
tray for a wedding party. Murphy-Fantasia, this time. It was  eight  minutes
to three. As I walked though the lobby, I had to skirt a group of ladies who
with  mille  grбces  were taking leave of each other after a luncheon
party. With a harsh cry of recognition, one  pounced  upon  me.  She  was  a
stout, short woman in pearl-gray, with a long, gray, slim plume to her small
hat.  It  was  Mrs.  Chatfield. She attacked me with a fake smile, all aglow
with evil curiosity. (Had I done to Dolly, perhaps, what  Frank  Lasalle,  a
fifty-year-old  mechanic,  had done o eleven-year-old Sally Horner in 1948?)
Very soon I had that avid glee well under  control  She  thought  I  was  in
California.  How  was--?  With  exquisite  pleasure  I  informed her that my
stepdaughter had just married a  brilliant  young  mining  engineer  with  a
hush-hush  job  in  the  Northwest.  She  said she disapproved of such early
marriages, she would never let her Phillys, who was now eighteen--
     "Oh yes, of course," I said quietly. "I remember Phyllis.  Phyllis  and
Camp Q. yes, of course. By the way, did she ever tell you how Charlie Holmes
debauched there his mother's little charges?"
     Mrs. Chatfiled's already broken smile now disintegrated completely.
     "For  shame," she cried, "for shame, Mr. Humbert! The poor boy has just
been killed in Korea."
     I said  didn't  she  think  "vient  de,"  with  the  infinitive,
expressed  recent  events  so much more neatly than the English "just," with
the past? But I had to be trotting off, I said.
     There were only two blocks to Windmuller's office. He greeted me with a
very slow, very enveloping, strong, searching grip.  He  thought  I  was  in
California.  Had I not lived at one time at Beardsley? His daughter had just
entered Beardsley College. And how was--? I have all  necessary  information
about  Mrs.  Schiller.  We  had a pleasant business conference. I walked out
into the hot September sunshine a contented pauper.
     Now that everything had been put out  of  the  way,  I  could  dedicate
myself  freely to the main object of my visit to Ramsdale. In the methodical
manner on which I have always  prided  myself,  I  had  been  keeping  Clare
Quilty's face masked in my dark dungeon, where he was waiting for me to come
with   barber  and  priest:  "Rиveillez-vous, Laqueue, il  est  temps  de
mourir!"  I  have  no  time  right  now  to  discuss  the  mnemonics  of
physiognomization--I  am on my way to his uncle and walking fast--but let me
jot down this: I had preserved in the alcohol of a clouded memory  the  toad
of  a  face.  In  the  course  of  a  few glimpses, I had noticed its slight
resemblance to a cheery and rather repulsive wine dealer, a relative of mine
in Switzerland. With his dumbbells and stinking tricot, and fat hairy  arms,
and  bald  patch,  and  pig-faced  servant-concubine,  he was on the whole a
harmless old rascal. Too harmless, in fact, to be confused with my prey.  In
the state of mind I now found myself, I had lost contact with Trapp's image.
It   had  become  completely  engulfed  by  the  face  of  Clare  Quilty--as
represented, with artistic precision, by an easeled photograph of  him  that
stood on his uncle's desk.
     In  Beardsley,  at  the hands of charming Dr. Molnar, I had undergone a
rather serious dental operation, retaining only a few upper and lower  front
teeth.  The  substitutes  were  dependent  on  a  system  of  plates with an
inconspicuous wire affair running along my upper gums. The whole arrangement
was a masterpiece of  comfort,  and  my  canines  were  in  perfect  health.
However,  to  garnish my secret purpose with a plausible pretext, I told Dr.
Quilty that, in hope of alleviating facial neuralgia, I had decided to  have
all  my  teeth removed. What would a complete set of dentures cost? How long
would the process take, assuming we fixed our  first  appointment  for  some
time  in  November? Where was his famous nephew now? Would it be possible to
have them all out in one dramatic session?
     A white-smocked, gray-haired man, with a crew  cut  and  the  big  flat
cheeks  of  a  politician, Dr. Quilty perched on the corner of his desk, one
foot  dreamily  and  seductively  rocking  as  he  launched  on  a  glorious
long-range plan. He would first provide me with provisional plates until the
gums settled. Then he would make me a permanent set. He would like to have a
look  at  that  mouth  of  mine.  He  wore perforated pied shoes. He had not
visited with the rascal since 1946, but supposed he could be  found  at  his
ancestral  home,  Grimm Road, not far from Parkington. It was a noble dream.
His foot rocked, his gaze was inspired. It would cost me around six hundred.
He suggested he take measurements right away, and make the first set  before
starting  operations.  My mouth was to him a splendid cave full of priceless
treasures, but I denied him entrance.
     "No," I said. "On second thoughts, I shall have  it  all  done  by  Dr.
Molnar.  His price is higher, but he is of course a much better dentist than
you."
     I do not know if any of my readers will ever have a chance to say that.
It is a delicious dream feeling. Clare's uncle remained sitting on the desk,
still looking dreamy, but his foot had stopped push-rocking  the  cradle  of
rosy  anticipation.  On  the  other  hand, his nurse, a skeleton-thin, faded
girl, with the tragic eyes of unsuccessful blondes, rushed after me so as to
be able to slam the door in my wake.
     Push the magazine into the butt. Press home until you hear or feel  the
magazine  catch  engage. Delightfully snug. Capacity: eight cartridges. Full
Blued. Aching to be discharged.

        34

     A gas station attendant in Parkington explained to me very clearly  how
to  get  to  Grimm  Road.  Wishing  to  be  sure  Quilty would be at home, I
attempted to ring him up but learned that his private telephone had recently
been disconnected. Did that mean he was gone? I started to  drive  to  Grimm
Road, twelve miles north of the town. By that time night had eliminated most
of  the  landscape and as I followed the narrow winding highway, a series of
short posts, ghostly white, with  reflectors,  borrowed  my  own  lights  to
indicate  this  or that curve. I could make out a dark valley on one side of
the road and wooded slopes on the other, and in front of me,  like  derelict
snowflakes,  moths drifted out of the blackness into my probing aura. At the
twelfth mile, as foretold, a curiously  hooded  bridge  sheathed  me  for  a
moment  and,  beyond  it, a white-washed rock loomed on the right, and a few
car lengths further, on the same side, I turned off the highway up  gravelly
Grimm  Road. For a couple of minutes all was dank, dark, dense forest. Then,
Pavor Manor, a wooden house with a turret, arose in a circular clearing. Its
windows glowed yellow and red; its drive was cluttered  with  half  a  dozen
cars.  I  stopped  in  the  shelter  of the trees and abolished my lights to
ponder the next move quietly. He would be surrounded  by  his  henchmen  and
whores.  I  could  not help seeing the inside of that festive and ramshackle
castle in terms of "Troubled Teens," a story in one of her magazines,  vague
"orgies,"  a  sinister adult with penele cigar, drugs, bodyguards. At least,
he was there. I would return in the torpid morning.
     Gently I rolled back to town, in that old faithful car  of  mine  which
was serenely, almost cheerfully working for me. My Lolita! There was still a
three-year-old  bobby  pin  of  hers in the depths of the glove compartment.
There was still that stream of pale moths siphoned out of the  night  by  my
headlights.  Dark  barns  still  propped themselves up here and there by the
roadside. People were still going to the movies. While searching  for  night
lodgings,  I  passed  a  drive-in. In a selenian glow, truly mystical in its
contrast with the moonless and massive night, on a gigantic screen  slanting
away  among dark drowsy fields, a thin phantom raised a gun, both he and his
arm reduced to tremulous dishwater by the oblique  angle  of  that  receding
world,--and the next moment a row of trees shut off the gesticulation.

        35

     I  left Insomnia Lodge next morning around eight and spent some time in
Parkington. Visions of bungling the execution kept  obsessing  me.  Thinking
that perhaps the cartridges in the automatic had gone stale during a week of
inactivity,  I  removed them and inserted a fresh batch. Such a thorough oil
bath did I give Chum that now I could not get rid of the stuff.  I  bandaged
him  up  with  a  rag, like a maimed limb, and used another rag to wrap up a
handful of spare bullets.
     A thunderstorm accompanied me most of the way back to Grimm  Road,  but
when  I  reached Pavor Manor, the sun was visible again, burning like a man,
and the birds screamed in the drenched and steaming trees. The elaborate and
decrepit house seemed to stand in a kind of daze, reflecting as it  were  my
own  state,  for  I could not help realizing, as my feet touched the springy
and insecure ground, that I had overdone the alcoholic stimulation business.
     A guardedly ironic silence answered my bell. The garage,  however,  was
loaded with his car, a black convertible for the nonce. I tried the knocker.
Re-nobody. With a petulant snarl, I pushed the front door--and, how nice, it
swung open as in a medieval fairy tale. Having softly closed it behind me, I
made  my  way  across a spacious and very ugly hall; peered into an adjacent
drawing room; noticed a number of used glasses growing out  of  the  carpet;
decided that master was still asleep in the master bedroom.
     So  I  trudged  upstairs.  My  right  hand  clutched muffled Chum in my
pocket, my left patted  the  sticky  banisters.  Of  the  three  bedrooms  I
inspected,  one  had obviously been slept in that night. There was a library
full of flowers. There was a rather bare room with ample  and  deep  mirrors
and a polar bear skin on the slippery floor. There were still other rooms. A
happy  though struck me. If and when master returned from his constitutional
in the woods, or emerged from some secret lair, it  might  be  wise  for  an
unsteady  gunman  with  a  long  job before him to prevent his playmate from
locking himself up in a room. Consequently, for at least five minutes I went
about--lucidly  insane,  crazily  calm,  an   enchanted   and   very   tight
hunter--turning  whatever  keys  in  whatever locks there were and pocketing
more planned privacy than have modern glamour-boxes, where the bathroom, the
only lockable locus, has to  be  used  for  the  furtive  needs  of  planned
parenthood.
     Speaking  of  bathrooms--I  was  about to visit a third one when master
came out of it, leaving a brief  waterfall  behind  him.  The  corner  of  a
passage   did   not  quite  conceal  me.  Gray-faced,  baggy-eyed,  fluffily
disheveled in a scanty balding way, but  still  perfectly  recognizable,  he
swept  by  me  in  a purple bathrobe, very like one I had. He either did not
notice  me,  or  else  dismissed  me  as   some   familiar   and   innocuous
hallucination--and,   showing   me   his   hairy   calves,   he   proceeded,
sleepwalker-wise, downstairs. I pocketed my last key and followed  him  into
the  entrance hall. He had half opened his mouth and the front door, to peer
out through a sunny chink as one who thinks  he  has  heard  a  half-hearted
visitor  ring  and recede. Then, still ignoring the raincoated phantasm that
had stopped in midstairs, master walked into a cozy boudoir across the  hall
from the drawing room, through which--taking it easy, knowing he was safe--I
now  went  away  from  him,  and in a bar-adorned kitchen gingerly unwrapped
dirty Chum, talking care not to leave any oil stains on the chrome--I  think
I  got  the  wrong  product,  it  was  black  and awfully messy. In my usual
meticulous way, I transferred naked Chum to a clean recess about me and made
for the little boudoir. My step, as I say, was springy--too springy  perhaps
for  success. But my heart pounded with tiger joy, and I crunched a cocktail
glass underfoot.
     Master met me in the Oriental parlor.
     "Now who are you?" he asked in a high hoarse voice,  his  hands  thrust
into  his dressing-gown pockets, his eyes fixing a point to the northeast of
my head. "Are you by any chance Brewster?"
     By now it was evident to everybody that he was in a fog and  completely
at my so-called mercy. I could enjoy myself.
     "That's  right," I answered suavely. "Je suis Monsieur Brustхre.
Let us chat for a moment before we start."
     He looked pleased. His smudgy mustache twitched. I removed my raincoat.
I was wearing a black suit, a black shirt, no tie. We sat down in  two  easy
chairs.
     "You know," he said, scratching loudly his fleshy and gritty gray cheek
and showing his small pearly teeth in a crooked grin, "you don't look
like Jack  Brewster.  I  mean, the resemblance is not particularly striking.
Somebody told me he had a brother with the same telephone company."
     To have him trapped, after those years of repentance and rage . . .  To
look  at the black hairs on the back of his pudgy hands . . . To wander with
a hundred eyes over his purple silks and  hirsute  chest  foreglimpsing  the
punctures,   and  mess,  and  music  of  pain  .  .  .  To  know  that  this
semi-animated, subhuman trickster  who  had  sodomized  my  darling--oh,  my
darling, this was intolerable bliss!
     "No, I am afraid I am neither of the Brewsters."
     He cocked his head, looking more pleased than ever.
     "Guess again, Punch."
     "Ah,"  said  Punch,  "so  you  have  not  come to bother me about those
long-distance calls?"
     "You do make them once in a while, don't you?"
     "Excuse me?"
     I said I had said I thought he had said he had never--
     "People," he said, "people in general, I'm not accusing you,  Brewster,
but  you  know  it's  absurd the way people invade this damned house without
even knocking. They use the vaterre, they use the kitchen,  they  use
the  telephone.  Phil  calls  Philadelphia. Pat calls Patagonia. I refuse to
pay. You have a funny accent, Captain."
     "Quilty," I said, "do you recall a little  girl  called  Dolores  Haze,
Dolly Haze? Dolly called Dolores, Colo.?"
     "Sure, she may have made those calls, sure. Any place. Paradise, Wash.,
Hell Canyon. Who cares?"
     "I do, Quilty. You see, I am her father."
     "Nonsense," he said. "You are not. You are some foreign literary agent.
A Frenchman  once  translated  my  Proud  Flesh as La Fiertи de la
Chair. Absurd."
     "She was my child, Quilty."
     In the state he was in he could not really be taken aback by  anything,
but  his  blustering manner was not quite convincing. A sort of wary inkling
kindled his eyes into a semblance of  life.  They  were  immediately  dulled
again.
     "I'm  very fond of children myself," he said, "and fathers are among my
best friends."
     He turned his head away, looking for something. He beat his pockets. He
attempted to rise from his seat.
     "Down!" I said--apparently much louder than I intended.
     "You need not roar at  me,"  he  complained  in  his  strange  feminine
manner. "I just wanted a smoke. I'm dying for a smoke."
     "You're dying anyway."
     "Oh, chucks," he said. "You begin to bore me. What do you want? Are you
French,  mister?  Wooly-woo-boo-are?  Let's go to the barroomette and have a
stiff--"
     He saw the little dark weapon lying in my palm as if I were offering it
to him.
     "Say!" he drawled (now imitating the underworld  numskull  of  movies),
"that's a swell little gun you've got there. What d'you want for her?"
     I slapped down his outstretched hand and he managed to knock over a box
on a low table near him. It ejected a handful of cigarettes.
     "Here  they are," he said cheerfully. "You recall Kipling: une femme
est une femme, mais un Caporal est une cigarette? Now we need matches."
     "Quilty," I said. "I want you to concentrate. You are going to die in a
moment.  The  hereafter  for  all  we  know  may  be  an  eternal  state  of
excruciating   insanity.   You   smoked   your   last  cigarette  yesterday.
Concentrate. Try to understand what is happening to you."
     He kept taking the Drome cigarette apart and munching bits of it.
     "I am willing to try," he said. "You are either Australian, or a German
refugee. Must you talk to me? This is a Gentile's house,  you  know.  Maybe,
you'd  better  run  along.  And  do stop demonstrating that gun. I've an old
Stern-Luger in the music room."
     I pointed Chum at his  slippered  foot  and  crushed  the  trigger.  It
clicked.  He  looked  at  his foot, at the pistol, again at his foot. I made
another awful effort, and, with a ridiculously feeble and juvenile sound, it
went off. The bullet entered the thick pink rug, and I  had  the  paralyzing
impression that it had merely trickled in and might come out again.
     "See  what  I mean?" said Quilty. "You should be a little more careful.
Give me that thing for Christ's sake."
     He reached for it. I pushed him back into the chair. The rich  joy  was
waning.  It was high time I destroyed him, but he must understand why he was
being destroyed. His condition infected me, the weapon felt limp and  clumsy
in my hand.
     "Concentrate,"  I  said,  "on  the  thought  of  Dolly  Haze  whom  you
kidnapped--"
     "I did not!" he cried. "You're all wet. I  saved  her  from  a  beastly
pervert.  Show  me  your badge instead of shooting at my foot, you ape, you.
Where is that badge? I'm not responsible for the rapes  of  others.  Absurd!
That  joy  ride, I grant you, was a silly stunt but you got her back, didn't
you? Come, let's have a drink."
     I asked him whether he wanted to be executed sitting or standing.
     "Ah,  let  me  think,"  he  said.  "It  is  not   an   easy   question.
Incidentally--I  made a mistake. Which I sincerely regret. You see, I had no
fun with your Dolly. I am  practically  impotent,  to  tell  the  melancholy
truth.  And  I gave her a splendid vacation. She met some remarkable people.
Do you happen to know--"
     And with a tremendous lurch he fell all over  me,  sending  the  pistol
hurtling  under  a  chest of drawers. Fortunately he was more impetuous than
vigorous, and I had little difficulty in shoving him back into his chair.
     He puffed a little and folded his arms on his chest.
     "Now you've done it," he said. "Vous voilю dans de beaux draps,  mon
vieux."
     His French was improving.
     I  looked  around. Perhaps, if--Perhaps I could--On my hands and knees?
Risk it?
     "Alors, que fait-on?" he asked watching me closely.
     I stooped. He did not moved. I stooped lower.
     "My dear sir," he said, "stop trifling with life  and  death.  I  am  a
playwright.  I  have  written  tragedies,  comedies,  fantasies. I have made
private  movies  out  of   Justine   and   other   eighteenth-century
sexcapades. I'm the author of fifty-two successful scenarios. I know all the
ropes.  Let  me  handle this. There should be a poker somewhere, why don't I
fetch it, and then we'll fish out your property."
     Fussily, busybodily, cunningly, he had risen again while he  talked.  I
groped under the chest trying at the same time to keep an eye on him. All of
a  sudden  I noticed that he had noticed that I did not seem to have noticed
Chum protruding from beneath the other corner  of  the  chest.  We  fell  to
wrestling  again.  We  rolled all over the floor, in each other's arms, like
two huge helpless children. He was naked and goatish under his robe,  and  I
felt  suffocated as he rolled over me. I rolled over him. We rolled over me.
They rolled over him. We rolled over us.
     In its published form, this book is being read, I assume, in the  first
years  of  2000  A.D.  (1935 plus eighty or ninety, live long, my love); and
elderly readers will surely recall at this point the obligatory scene in the
Westerns of their childhood. Our tussle,  however,  lacked  the  ox-stunning
fisticuffs,  the  flying furniture. He and I were two large dummies, stuffed
with dirty cotton and rags. It was a silent, soft, formless  tussle  on  the
part  of  two literati, one of whom was utterly disorganized by a drug while
the other was handicapped by a heart condition and too  much  gin.  When  at
last  I  had possessed myself of my precious weapon, and the scenario writer
had been reinstalled in his low chair, both of us were panting as the cowman
and the sheepman never do after their battle.
     I  decided  to  inspect  the  pistol--our  sweat  might  have   spoiled
something--and  regain  my  wind  before  proceeding to the main item in the
program. To fill in the pause, I proposed he read his own  sentence--in  the
poetical form I had given it. The term "poetical justice" is one that may be
most happily used in this respect. I handed him a neat typescript.
     "Yes,"  he  said,  "splendid idea. Let me fetch my reading glasses" (he
attempted to rise).
     "No."
     "Just as you say. Shall I read out loud?"
     "Yes."
     "Here goes. I see it's in verse.

     Because you took advantage of a sinner
     because you took advantage
     because you took
     because you took advantage of my disadvantage . . .

     "That's good, you know. That's damned good."

     . . . when I stood Adam-naked
     before a federal law and all its stinging stars

     "Oh, grand stuff!"

     . . . Because you took advantage of a sin
     when I was helpless moulting moist and tender
     hoping for the best
     dreaming of marriage in a mountain state
     aye of a litter of Lolitas . . .

     "Didn't get that."

     Because you took advantage of my inner
     essential innocence
     because you cheated me--

     "A little repetitious, what? Where was I?"

     Because you cheated me of my redemption
     because you took
     her at the age when lads
     play with erector sets

     "Getting smutty, eh?"

     a little downy girl still wearing poppies
     still eating popcorn in the colored gloam
     where tawny Indians took paid croppers
     because you stole her
     from her wax-browed and dignified protector
     spitting into his heavy-lidded eye
     ripping his flavid toga and at dawn
     leaving the hog to roll upon his new discomfort
     the awfulness of love and violets
     remorse despair while you
     took a dull doll to pieces
     and threw its head away
     because of all you did
     because of all I did not
     you have to die

     "Well, sir, this is certainly a fine poem. Your  best  as  far  as  I'm
concerned."
     He folded and handed it back to me.
     I  asked  him  if  he  had  anything  serious  to say before dying. The
automatic was again ready for use on the person. He looked at it and  heaved
a big sigh.
     "Now  look here, Mac," he said. "You are drunk and I am a sick man. Let
us postpone the matter. I need quiet. I have to nurse my impotence.  Friends
are  coming in the afternoon to take me to a game. This pistol-packing farce
is  becoming  a  frightful  nuisance.  We  are  men   of   the   world,   in
everything--sex,  free  verse,  marksmanship.  If you bear me a grudge, I am
ready to make unusual amends. Even an old-fashioned rencontre,  sword
or  pistol, in Rio or elsewhere--is not excluded. My memory and my eloquence
are not at their best today, but really, my dear Mr. Humbert, you  were  not
an ideal stepfather, and I did not force your little protиgиe to join me. It
was she made me remove her to a happier home. This house is not as modern as
that ranch we shared with dear friends. But it is roomy, cool in summer  and
winter, and in a word comfortable, so, since I intend retiring to England or
Florence  forever,  I  suggest  you  move in. It is yours, gratis. Under the
condition you stop pointing at me that [he swore disgustingly] gun.  By  the
way,  I  do not know if you care for the bizarre, but if you do, I can offer
you, also gratis, as house pet, a rather exciting little freak, a young lady
with three breasts, one a dandy, this is a rare  and  delightful  marvel  of
nature.  Now,  soyons  raisonnables. You will only wound me hideously
and then rot in jail while I recuperate in a  tropical  setting.  I  promise
you,  Brewster,  you  will be happy here, with a magnificent cellar, and all
the royalties from my next play--I have not much at the bank right now but I
propose to borrow--you know, as the Bard said, with that cold in  his  head,
to  borrow  and to borrow and to borrow. There are other advantages. We have
here a most  reliable  and  bribable  charwoman,  a  Mrs.  Vibrissa--curious
name--who  comes  from  the  village  twice  a week, alas not today, she has
daughters, granddaughters, a thing or two I know about the chief  of  police
makes  him  my  slave.  I  am  a playwright. I have been called the American
Maeterlinck. Maeterlinck-Schmetterling, says I. Come on! All  this  is  very
humiliating,  and  I  am  not  sure  I  am  doing the right thing. Never use
herculanita with rum. Now drop that pistol like a good fellow. I  knew  your
dear  wife  slightly.  You  may  use my wardrobe. Oh, another thing--you are
going to like this. I  have  an  absolutely  unique  collection  of  erotica
upstairs.  Just  to  mention  one  item:  the  in folio de-luxe Bagration
Island by the explorer and psychoanalyst  Melanie  Weiss,  a  remarkable
lady,  a  remarkable  work--drop that gun--with photographs of eight hundred
and something male organs she examined and measured in 1932 on Bagration, in
the Barda Sea, very illuminating graphs, plotted with  love  under  pleasant
skies--drop  that  gun--and  moreover  I  can  arrange  for  you  to  attend
executions, not everybody knows that the chair is painted yellow--"
     Feu. This time I hit something hard. I hit the back of  a  black
rocking chair, not unlike Dolly Schiller's--my bullet hit the inside surface
of  its  back  whereupon it immediately went into a rocking act, so fast and
with  such  zest  that  any  one  coming  into  the  room  might  have  been
flabbergasted  by  the  double miracle: that chair rocking in a panic all by
itself, and the armchair, where my purple target had just been, now void  of
all life content. Wiggling his fingers in the air, with a rapid heave of his
rump, he flashed into the music room and the next second we were tugging and
gasping  on  both  sides of the door which had a key I had overlooked. I won
again, and with another abrupt movement Clare  the  Impredictable  sat  down
before  the  piano  and  played  several atrociously vigorous, fundamentally
hysterical, plangent chords, his jowls quivering, his spread  hands  tensely
plunging,  and  his  nostrils  emitting the soundtrack snorts which had been
absent from our fight. Still singing those impossible sonorities, he made  a
futile  attempt  to  open  with  his  foot a kind of seaman's chest near the
piano. My next bullet caught him somewhere in the side, and he rose from his
chair higher and higher, like old, gray, mad Nijinski,  like  Old  faithful,
like  some old nightmare of mine, to a phenomenal altitude, or so it seemed,
as he rent the air--still shaking with the  rich  black  music--head  thrown
back  in a howl, hand pressed to his brow, and with his other hand clutching
his armpit as if stung by a hornet, down he came on his heels and,  again  a
normal robed man, scurried out into the hall.
     I  see  myself  following  him through the hall, with a kind of double,
triple, kangaroo jump, remaining  quite  straight  on  straight  legs  while
bouncing  up  twice in his wake, and then bouncing between him and the front
door in a ballet-like stiff bounce, with the purpose  of  heading  him  off,
since the door was not properly closed.
     Suddenly  dignified,  and  somewhat  morose,  he started to walk up the
broad stairs, and, shifting my position, but not actually following  him  up
the  steps, I fired three or four times in quick succession, wounding him at
every blaze; and every time I did it to him, that horrible thing to him, his
face would twitch in an absurd clownish manner, as if he  were  exaggerating
the  pain;  he  slowed  down,  rolled  his eyes half closing them and made a
feminine "ah!" and he shivered every time a bullet hit  him  as  if  I  were
tickling  him,  and  every  time  I  got  him with those slow, clumsy, blind
bullets of mine, he would  say  under  his  breath,  with  a  phony  British
accent--all  the while dreadfully twitching, shivering, smirking, but withal
talking in a curiously detached and even amiable manner:  "Ah,  that  hurts,
sir, enough! Ah, that hurts atrociously, my dear fellow. I pray you, desist.
Ah--very  painful,  very painful, indeed . . . God! Hah! This is abominable,
you should really not--" His voice trailed off as he  reached  the  landing,
but  he  steadily walked on despite all the lead I had lodged in his bloated
body--and in distress, in dismay, I understood that far from killing  him  I
was  injecting  spurts of energy into the poor fellow, as if the bullets had
been capsules wherein a heady elixir danced.
     I reloaded the thing with hands  that  were  black  and  bloody--I  had
touched  something  he had anointed with his thick gore. Then I rejoined him
upstairs, the keys jangling in my pockets like gold.
     He was trudging from room to room,  bleeding  majestically,  trying  to
find  an  open  window, shaking his head, and still trying to talk me out of
murder. I took aim at his head, and he retired to the master bedroom with  a
burst of royal purple where his ear had been.
     "Get  out,  get  out  of here," he said coughing and spitting; and in a
nightmare of wonder, I saw this blood-spattered but still buoyant person get
into his bed and wrap himself up in the chaotic bedclothes.  I  hit  him  at
very  close range through the blankets, and then he lay back, and a big pink
bubble with juvenile connotations formed on his lips, grew to the size of  a
toy balloon, and vanished.
     I  may  have lost contact with reality for a second or two--oh, nothing
of the I-just-blacked-out sort that your  common  criminal  enacts;  on  the
contrary,  I  want  to stress the fact that I was responsible for every shed
drop of his bubbleblood; but a kind of momentary shift occurred as if I were
in the connubial bedroom, and Charlotte were sick in bed. Quilty was a  very
sick man. I held one of his slippers instead of the pistol--I was sitting on
the  pistol.  Then I made myself a little more comfortable in the chair near
the bed, and consulted my wrist watch. The crystal was gone but  it  ticked.
The  whole  sad  business had taken more than an hour. He was quiet at last.
Far from feeling any relief, a burden even weightier  than  the  one  I  had
hoped  to get rid of was with me, upon me, over me. I could not bring myself
to touch him in order to make sure he was  really  dead.  He  looked  it:  a
quarter  of  his  face  gone, and two flies beside themselves with a dawning
sense of unbelievable luck. My hands were hardly in  better  condition  than
his.  I  washed  up  as  best  I could in the adjacent bathroom. Now I could
leave. As I emerged on  the  landing,  I  was  amazed  to  discover  that  a
vivacious  buzz  I had just been dismissing as a mere singing in my ears was
really a medley of voices and radio music coming from the downstairs drawing
room.
     I found there a number of people who apparently had  just  arrived  and
were  cheerfully  drinking  Quilty's  liquor. There was a fat man in an easy
chair; and two dark-haired pale young beauties, sisters no  doubt,  big  one
and  small one (almost a child), demurely sat side by side on a davenport. A
florid-faced fellow with sapphire-blue eyes was in the act of  bringing  two
glasses  out of the bar-like kitchen, where two or three women were chatting
and chinking ice. I stopped in the doorway and said:  "I  have  just  killed
Clare  Quilty."  "Good for you," said the florid fellow as he offered one of
the drinks to the elder girl. "Somebody ought to have  done  it  long  ago,"
remarked  the  fat  man. "What does he say, Tony?" asked a faded blonde from
the bar. "He says," answered the florid fellow, "he has killed Cue." "Well,"
said another unidentified man rising in a corner where he had been crouching
to inspect some records, "I guess we all should do  it  to  him  some  day."
"Anyway,"  said  Tony,  "he'd  better  come down. We can't wait for him much
longer if we want to go to that game." "Give this  man  a  drink  somebody,"
said the fat person. "What a beer?" said a woman in slacks, showing it to me
from afar.
     Only  the  two  girls on the davenport, both wearing black, the younger
fingering a bright something about her white neck, only they  said  nothing,
but  just  smiled  on,  so young, so lewd. As the music paused for a moment,
there was a sudden noise on the stairs. Tony and  I  stepped  out  into  the
hall.  Quilty  of  all people had managed to crawl out onto the landing, and
there we could see him, flapping and heaving, and  then  subsiding,  forever
this time, in a purple heap.
     "Hurry  up,  Cue," said Tony with a laugh. "I believe, he's still--" He
returned to the drawing room, music drowned the rest of the sentence.
     This, I said to myself, was the end of the ingenious play staged for me
by Quilty. With a heavy heart I left the house and walked though the spotted
blaze of the sun to my car. Two other cars were parked on both sides of  it,
and I had some trouble squeezing out.

        36

     The  rest  is a little flattish and faded. Slowly I drove downhill, and
presently found myself going at the same lazy pace in a  direction  opposite
to  Parkington.  I  had  left  my  raincoat  in  the boudoir and Chum in the
bathroom. No, it was not a house I would have liked to live in.  I  wondered
idly  if  some surgeon of genius might not alter his own career, and perhaps
the whole destiny of mankind, by reviving quilted Quilty, Clare Obscure. Not
that I cared; on the whole I wished to forget the whole mess--and when I did
learn he was dead, the only satisfaction it  gave  me,  was  the  relief  of
knowing  I  need  not mentally accompany for months a painful and disgusting
convalescence interrupted by  all  kinds  of  unmentionable  operations  and
relapses,  and  perhaps an actual visit from him, with trouble on my part to
rationalize him as not being a ghost. Thomas had something.  It  is  strange
that  the  tactile  sense,  which is so infinitely less precious to men than
sight, becomes at critical moment our main, if not only, handle to  reality.
I  was  all  covered  with  Quilty--with  the feel of that tumble before the
bleeding.
     The road now stretched across open country, and it occurred to  me--not
by  way  of protest, not as a symbol, or anything like that, but merely as a
novel experience--that since I had disregarded all laws of humanity, I might
as well disregard the rules of traffic. So I crossed to the left side of the
highway and checked the feeling, and the feeling was good. It was a pleasant
diaphragmal melting, with elements of diffused tactility, all this  enhanced
by  the  thought  that  nothing  could be nearer to the elimination of basic
physical laws than deliberately driving on the wrong side of the road. In  a
way,  it  was  a very spiritual itch. Gently, dreamily, not exceeding twenty
miles an hour, I drove on that queer mirror side. Traffic  was  light.  Cars
that  now  and then passed me on the side I had abandoned to them, honked at
me brutally. Cars coming towards me wobbled, swerved, and cried out in fear.
Presently I found myself approaching populated places. Passing through a red
light was like a sip of forbidden Burgundy when I  was  a  child.  Meanwhile
complications were arising. I was being followed and escorted. Then in front
of  me  I  saw two cars placing themselves in such a manner as to completely
block my way. With a graceful movement I turned off the road, and after  two
or  three  big  bounces,  rode  up a grassy slope, among surprised cows, and
there I came to a  gentle  rocking  stop.  A  kind  of  thoughtful  Hegelian
synthesis linking up two dead women.
     I  was  soon to be taken out of the car (Hi, Melmoth, thanks a lot, old
fellow)--and was, indeed, looking forward to surrender myself to many hands,
without doing anything to  cooperate,  while  they  moved  and  carried  me,
relaxed,  comfortable,  surrendering  myself  lazily,  like  a  patient, and
deriving an eerie enjoyment from my limpness  and  the  absolutely  reliable
support  given  me  by  the police and the ambulance people. And while I was
waiting for them to run up to me on the high slope, I evoked a  last  mirage
of wonder and hopelessness. One day, soon after her disappearance, an attack
of  abominable  nausea  forced me to pull up on the ghost of an old mountain
road that now accompanied, now traversed  a  brand  new  highway,  with  its
population of asters bathing in the detached warmth of a pale-blue afternoon
in  late  summer.  After  coughing  myself inside out, I rested a while on a
boulder, and then, thinking the sweet air might do me good, walked a  little
way  toward  a low stone parapet on the precipice side of the highway. Small
grasshoppers spurted out of the withered roadside weeds. A very light  cloud
was  opening  its  arms  and  moving  toward a slightly more substantial one
belonging to another, more sluggish, heavenlogged system.  As  I  approached
the  friendly abyss, I grew aware of a melodious unity of sounds rising like
vapor from a small mining town that lay at my feet, in a fold of the valley.
One could make out the geometry of the streets between  blocks  of  red  and
gray roofs, and green puffs of trees, and a serpentine stream, and the rich,
ore-like  glitter of the city dump, and beyond the town, roads crisscrossing
the crazy quilt of dark and pale fields, and behind it all,  great  timbered
mountains.  But even brighter than those quietly rejoicing colors--for there
are colors and shades that seem to enjoy themselves  in  good  company--both
brighter  and dreamier to the ear than they were to the eye, was that vapory
vibration of accumulated sounds that never ceased for a moment, as  it  rose
to  the  lip  of  granite  where  I  stood  wiping my foul mouth. And soon I
realized that all these sounds were of one nature, that no other sounds  but
these  came from the streets of the transparent town, with the women at home
and the men away. Reader! What I heard was but the  melody  of  children  at
play,  nothing but that, and so limpid was the air that within this vapor of
blended voices, majestic and minute, remote and magically  near,  frank  and
divinely  enigmatic--one  could hear now and then, as if released, an almost
articulate spurt of vivid laughter, or the crack of a bat, or the clatter of
a toy wagon, but it was all really too far for the eye  to  distinguish  any
movement  in  the  lightly etched streets. I stood listening to that musical
vibration from my lofty slope, to those flashes of  separate  cries  with  a
kind  of  demure  murmur for background, and then I knew that the hopelessly
poignant thing was not Lolita's absence from my side, but the absence of her
voice from that concord.
     This then is my story. I have reread it. It has bits of marrow sticking
to it, and blood, and beautiful bright-green flies. At this or that twist of
it I feel my slippery self eluding me, gliding into deeper and darker waters
than I care to probe. I have camouflaged what I could  so  as  not  to  hurt
people.  And  I have toyed with many pseudonyms for myself before I hit on a
particularly apt one. There are in my notes "Otto Otto" and "Mesmer  Mesmer"
and  "Lambert  Lambert," but for some reason I think my choice expresses the
nastiness best.
     When I started, fifty-six days ago, to write  Lolita,  first  in
the  psychopathic ward for observation, and then in this well-heated, albeit
tombal, seclusion, I thought I would use these notes in toto at my trial, to
save not my head, of course, but my soul. In  mind-composition,  however,  I
realized  that  I  could  not parade living Lolita. I still may use parts of
this memoir in hermetic sessions, but publication is to be deferred.
     For reasons that may appear more obvious than they  really  are,  I  am
opposed to capital punishment; this attitude will be, I trust, shared by the
sentencing  judge.  Had  I come before myself, I would have given Humbert at
least thirty-five years for rape, and dismissed the rest of the charges. But
even so, Dolly  Schiller  will  probably  survive  me  by  many  years.  The
following  decision I make with all the legal impact and support of a signed
testament: I wish this memoir to be published only when Lolita is no  longer
alive.
     Thus, neither of us is alive when the reader opens this book. But while
the blood  still  throbs through my writing hand, you are still as much part
of blessed matter as I am, and I can still talk to you from here to  Alaska.
Be  true  to  your  Dick. Do not let other fellows touch you. Do not talk to
strangers. I hope you will love your baby. I hope it will  be  a  boy.  That
husband  of  yours, I hope, will always treat you well, because otherwise my
specter shall come at him, like black smoke, like a demented giant, and pull
him apart nerve by nerve. And do not pity C. Q. One had  to  choose  between
him  and  H.H.,  and  one  wanted  H.H. to exist at least a couple of months
longer, so as to have him make you live in the minds of later generations. I
am thinking of aurochs and angels, the secret of durable pigments, prophetic
sonnets, the refuge of art. And this is the only immortality you and  I  may
share, my Lolita.


Поиск по сайту:  

© gendocs.ru
При копировании укажите ссылку.
обратиться к администрации
Рейтинг@Mail.ru