Chapter 56 Summary

Humbert drives up and down all the roads that lead away from Elphinstone, but he finds no sign of Lolita. He drives back and forth along the thousand-mile journey from Beardsley, retracing his steps many times, looking for clues about Lolita’s kidnapper. During his search, Humbert checks in at hundreds of hotels, and he always finds excuses to flip through the guest registries for June. Several times he finds evidence of his enemy, but he uncovers little information that is of any use.

Early in his search, Humbert drives back to Elphinstone and approaches Mary, the nurse who cared for Lolita during her hospital stay. Humbert sinks to his knees at Mary's feet and demands to know who took Lolita. Mary looks unsure what to say, and Humbert waves a hundred dollar bill at her. She takes it and tells Humbert that the man was his brother. Disgusted, Humbert takes the money back and runs away.

In spite of the fact that he does not find clues to the whereabouts of Lolita’s so-called uncle, Humbert does deduce a great deal about the man's personality. The kidnapper clearly anticipated Humbert’s detective work. He never registered at hotels under his real name, and his pseudonyms were obviously designed to tease. The names he chose contain references to great literature, to the French language, and—to Humbert’s dismay—to the comments Humbert made to Lolita along the journey. The man who took her is clearly a literate, well-educated fellow with a good sense of humor, capable of charming Lolita and convincing her to conspire with him. He knows a great deal about Lolita’s history, and he even checked into one hotel under her real father’s name, Harold Haze. By the time the trail runs cold, Humbert has the impression that he and the mysterious kidnapper are similar people: smart, witty, cruel, and willing to go to great lengths to get their hands on Lolita.

Along with the names on the hotel registries, Humbert studies the license plate numbers the kidnapper recorded at various hotels. Unfortunately, the numbers from the rental cars are useless, and the numbers for the red convertible are always carefully muddled. Humbert studies the many combinations, but he cannot discern any clue from them. He considers hunting down the car itself, but he knows the kidnapper got rid of it. Humbert sees little point in finding a car that probably no longer belongs to his enemy.