Chapter 52 Summary
Back in Beardsley, Humbert made arrangements to have mail forwarded to Wace. The morning after the play, he and Lolita visit the Wace post office, where they find a few letters. Among them is a note for Lolita, which Humbert promptly opens. Lolita does not protest, so he assumes that she was expecting this.
The letter is from Mona. It claims that the play went well, but that Lolita’s replacement was only passable. Mona also says that she is going to travel with her family to France, where she may have to stay through the next school year. Humbert reads this letter carefully, searching for hidden messages. When he looks up, Lolita is gone. Immediately he assumes that the worst has happened: she has left him, and she is never coming back.
Humbert bursts outside, where he finds a beautiful afternoon—but no Lolita. He walks up and down Main Street, looking for any sign of her, trying to convince himself that she will soon reappear. Deep down, however, he knows that he has lost her. Then, suddenly, she is standing in front of him.
Humbert orders Lolita to get into the car, which she does. She sits watching him pace back and forth on the sidewalk. Eventually she comes to him and says that she met a girl from Beardsley and went out for a Coke. Humbert demands to know who the girl was. Lolita, clearly unwilling to be caught in a lie, claims that it was nobody he knew. He asks her to take him to the soda fountain where they drank their Cokes, so that he can ask the soda jerk to corroborate the story. Here Lolita changes her story, claiming that she and the girl just walked around looking in shop windows.
Humbert takes Lolita back to the car, where he fishes for the paper on which he wrote the license plate number of the red convertible. When he finds it, he sees that she has changed the letters and numbers. He drives a few miles out of town, then pulls over in a picnic area and slaps her hard with the back of his hand. He is immediately sorry. He cries and begs her forgiveness, but he feels that he has broken his whole perfect life with her.
Over the days that follow, Humbert notices that the driver of the red convertible is still following them—but not in the convertible anymore. The man has switched to a series of ever-changing rental cars. Humbert watches carefully and even tries to confront the stranger once, but the man gets away. As Humbert drives on, he considers taking his pistol out of its locked box and stashing it in his pocket instead.