Chapter 6 Summary

Humbert wonders what happens to nymphets when they grow up. In particular, he wonders whether his observations affect them in any way. The girls do not know what he has imagined doing to them, but he worries that his mere thoughts have somehow “tampered” with their futures.

Just once, Humbert gets a chance to see for himself what a nymphet is like after she grows up. Walking down the street, he passes a pretty young prostitute who is too old to be a nymphet but young enough to hold a “nymphic echo” in her looks. He asks how much she charges, and she demands one hundred francs—a high price. When he tries to bargain, she walks on, and he sees in her walk an image of a girl, just slightly younger, coming home from school. He changes his mind and agrees to pay.

The girl, Monique, takes Humbert up to a dingy room. There is no romance in their encounter, but he does not expect any. He pays her upfront and watches, impressed, as she quickly and efficiently strips naked. She claims to be eighteen, but he thinks she must be a couple of years younger. Sex with her gives him “a pang of genuine pleasure” that he has never felt with the “eighty or so” hags he has slept with in the past. Monique meets him a second time later that day, and this encounter is better than the first. However, their third meeting on the following day does not please him so much. She seems to have become “more of a woman overnight.” He decides not to see her again, reasoning that she will only mature further from here.

Humbert’s encounter with Monique gives him an idea, and not long afterward, he goes to see the madam of a whorehouse, to whom he confesses his “criminal craving.” She considers for a moment and then asks how much he is willing to pay. He names an amount, and she says she will put him in contact with someone. The next day, he goes to a grimy apartment, where a repulsive woman with too much makeup and garlicky breath assures him that she is selling very high-quality “merchandise.” She throws back a curtain to show him

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.

Humbert refuses to have sex with this girl, who simply goes to the kitchen, hands the doll to a toddler, and sits down to finish her dinner. The woman demands that Humbert pay his agreed fee anyway. When he hesitates, she brings in two men—one of whom supposedly used to be a police officer. Feeling sorry for the girl, Humbert gives her some money. She hands it to the former policeman, and Humbert leaves.