Chapter 10 Summary
After Humbert finally checks out of the hospital, he looks around for a “sleepy small town” where he can spend the summer working on his French textbook. On the recommendation of an acquaintance, he makes arrangements to rent the upper story of the home of Mr. and Mrs. McCoo, parents of a twelve-year-old girl, in a town called Ramsdale. He has wild fantasies about this girl all the way to Ramsdale.
When Humbert arrives in town, he finds out that the McCoos’ home has just burned down. Mr. McCoo has arranged for Humbert to stay with a woman named Mrs. Haze. Humbert is annoyed, but he goes to see the Haze house, which is “a white-framed horror” full of drab, tacky furnishings. He decides immediately that he cannot live in such a place. Nevertheless, he feels obligated to be polite to Mrs. Haze, a chain smoker with a moderately pretty face who insists on giving him a full tour. He has the impression that she is the sort of person who always follows social conventions but does not really care about anything. He senses that if he rents a room from her, she will want to have an affair.
When Mrs. Haze first mentions “Lo,” Humbert takes no notice. He assumes that she means the maid, whom he briefly met, but the maid turns out to be called Louise. He endures the tour, thinking that he will return to the train station immediately afterward and travel off to some warm place with a beach. But he changes his mind when Mrs. Haze takes him outside. She wants him to look at the garden, but all he sees is a little nymphet sunbathing. She looks just like Annabel:
the same frail, honey-hued shoulders, the same silky supple bare back, the same chestnut head of hair.
A handkerchief is tied around her chest, hiding her budding breasts, but Humbert imagines what they must be like. Staring at her, he relives the stolen moments he spent exploring Annabel’s body.
Humbert pauses here in his story to state that in this moment, his reaction to Lolita was based totally on his memories of Annabel. He insists that Annabel was the “prototype,” and that he may never have fallen for Lolita, or any nymphet, if Annabel had never existed. Now, looking back, it seems to him that these two girls have been his whole life. The twenty-five years he lived between them were “but a series of gropings and blunderings.”