Chapters 48-49 Summary
Preparations for the second trip take a bit of time. Humbert has Charlotte’s old car repaired, so it is in good shape when he and Lolita leave. To put off questions about the sudden departure, he spreads a rumor that he has a job opportunity in Hollywood. Lolita plans the journey, showing far more interest in maps and guidebooks than she did a year ago. Musing on this, Humbert guesses that his “little concubine” is more interested in the real world now that she has developed an interest in the theater. Humbert has also changed. He is more courageous than he used to be, and he may even be brave enough to take Lolita to Mexico.
As Humbert drives Lolita out of Beardsley, she sees something and laughs, but she does not explain what it is. Moments later, a car pulls up alongside them, and Humbert talks briefly with the driver, Lolita’s drama teacher. The teacher tells him that he should not take Lolita away from the play. “You should have heard the author raving about her after that rehearsal—” the teacher says, and Lolita hurriedly tells Humbert to drive on. Suddenly curious, Humbert asks who wrote the play. Lolita says mildly that it was “some old woman. Clare something.”
Once again, Humbert and Lolita make their way across country, sleeping in cheap motels. Humbert mocks the signs he reads in these places, which simultaneously welcome him and warn him not to steal the bedsheets or clog the toilets. Humbert shudders over the unclean rooms and worries constantly about the way his sexual noises carry.
Humbert takes a while to notice it, but Lolita begins to develop suspicious behaviors. At gas stations, for example, she sometimes slips out of sight near the bathrooms. He has rules against such behavior, but he is “inclined to be lenient” and does not always make a fuss when she breaks them.
On one notable occasion, Humbert leaves Lolita, who is feeling lazy and out of sorts, in a hotel bed while he walks to town to get a haircut and buy her some fruit. He enjoys the walk, and he minutely observes all of the people he sees on the way. On his way back, a young man smiles at him mischievously. When Humbert returns to the room, Lolita is there—but she is dressed, and he can see that she has gone out. She claims that she was just looking for him, but he does not believe her. His mind jumps immediately to the young man who smiled on the street. He strips Lolita naked and sniffs her, trying to discern the scent of sex, but the odor is “so slight as to be practically indistinguishable from a madman’s fancy.”