Chapter 4 Summary
Humbert is somewhat obsessed with the memory of his summer with Annabel. He wonders, in hindsight, if his experiences with her caused him to become a pedophile, or if they were just the first sign that he was different from other people. He writes, “I am convinced…that in a certain magic and fateful way Lolita began with Annabel.”
Humbert believes that his feelings about Annabel, as well as her sudden, shocking death after their summer together, combined to prevent him from successfully engaging in romantic affairs for many years. His connection to Annabel, both spiritually and physically, was far stronger than anything most people ever experience. He and Annabel dreamed the same dreams, even before they met. Her thoughts continued to run though his mind even after she died. Now he only wishes that Lolita could have loved him so deeply.
To help the reader understand the importance of the affair with Annabel, Humbert provides a detailed description of their first interlude alone together—a midnight meeting in her garden. She sneaks out of her hotel, and he meets her in a mimosa grove. They climb onto a stone wall and kiss. She trembles all over, and he feels that he can see her face in the beauty of the stars overhead. He puts a hand between her legs, and her face takes on “a dreamy and eerie expression, half-pleasure, half-pain.” As he touches her, she pants and writhes, and every now and then she presses her mouth up to kiss him. He feels “ready to offer her everything, my heart, my throat, my entrails.”
Humbert relives every detail of this encounter, even describing the smell of the stolen perfume Annabel is wearing and the way its scent combines with “her own biscuity odor.” Just when they feel totally full of each other, they hear noises in the bushes, and they have to pull apart. Annabel’s mother’s voice cuts into their secluded spot as she frantically calls her daughter's name. Moments later, Humbert’s aunt's boyfriend, Dr. Cooper, comes outside to put an end to the interlude.
Annabel is soon gone forever, but Humbert never forgets her. The “ache” of their unfinished encounter stays with him, as does his memory of the little girl who wanted him so badly and never got a chance to act on her desire. The memory hangs over him for twenty-four years—until finally he breaks “her spell” by focusing his love on another little girl.