Lolita, by Vladimir Nabukov




This  book  is about Lolita; and now that I have reached the part which
(had I not been forestalled by another internal combustion martyr) might  be
called  "Dolorхs  Disparue," there would be little sense in analyzing
the three empty years that followed. While a few pertinent points have to be
marked, the general impression I desire to convey is of a side door crashing
open in life's full flight, and a rush of roaring black time  drowning  with
its whipping wind the cry of lone disaster.
     Singularly  enough,  I seldom if ever dreamed of Lolita as I remembered
her--as I saw her constantly and obsessively in my conscious mind during  my
daymares  and  insomnias.  More  precisely:  she  did haunt my sleep but she
appeared there in strange and ludicrous disguises as Valeria  or  Charlotte,
or a cross between them. That complex ghost would come to me, shedding shift
after  shift,  in  an  atmosphere of great melancholy and disgust, and would
recline in dull invitation on some narrow board or hard settee,  with  flesh
ajar  like the rubber valve of a soccer ball's bladder. I would bind myself,
dentures  fractured  or  hopelessly   mislaid,   in   horrible   chambres
garnies where I would be entertained at tedious vivisecting parties that
generally  ended  with  Charlotte or Valeria weeping in my bleeding arms and
being  tenderly  kissed  by  my  brotherly  lips  in  a  dream  disorder  of
auctioneered  Viennese  bric-ю-brac,  pity,  impotence and the brown wigs of
tragic old women who had just been gassed.
     One day I removed  from  the  car  and  destroyed  an  accumulation  of
teen-magazines.  You  know  the  sort. Stone age at heart; up to date, or at
least Mycenaean, as to hygiene. A handsome,  very  ripe  actress  with  huge
lashes  and  a  pulpy red underlip, endorsing a shampoo. Ads and fads. Young
scholars dote on plenty of pleats--que c'иtait loin, tout cela! It is
your hostess' duty to provide robes. Unattached details take all the sparkle
out of your conversation. All of us have known "pickers"--one who picks  her
cuticle  at the office party. Unless he is very elderly or very important, a
man should remove his gloves before  shaking  hands  with  a  woman.  Invite
Romance  by wearing the Exciting New Tummy Flattener. Trims tums, nips hips.
Tristram in Movielove. Yessir! The Joe-Roe marital  enigma  is  making  yaps
flap.  Glamorize  yourself  quickly and inexpensively. Comics. Bad girl dark
hair fat father cigar; good girl red hair handsome daddums clipped mustache.
Or that repulsive strip with the big gagoon and his wife, a kiddoid gnomide.
Et moi qui t'offrais mon genie . . . I recalled the  rather  charming
nonsense  verse  I  used  to write her when she was a child: "nonsense," she
used to say mockingly, "is correct."

     The Squirl and his Squirrel, the Rabs and their Rabbits
     Have certain obscure and peculiar habits.
     Male hummingbirds make the most exquisite rockets.
     The snake when he walks holds his hands in his pockets. . .

     Other things of hers were harder to relinquish. Up to the end of  1949,
I  cherished and adored, and stained with my kisses and merman tears, a pair
of old sneakers, a boy's shirt she had worn, some ancient blue jeans I found
in the trunk compartment, a crumpled school cap, suchlike wanton  treasures.
Then,  when  I  understood  my  mind  was cracking, I collected those sundry
belongings, added to them what had been stored in Beardsley--a box of books,
her bicycle, old coats,  galoshes--and  on  her  fifteenth  birthday  mailed
everything  as  an  anonymous  gift  to a home for orphaned girls on a windy
lake, on the Canadian border.
     It is just possible that had I gone to a strong hypnotist he might have
extracted from me and arrayed in a logical pattern certain  chance  memories
that I have threaded through my book with considerably more ostentation than
they present themselves with to my mind even now when I know what to seek in
the  past.  At the time I felt I was merely losing contact with reality; and
after spending the rest of the winter and most of the following spring in  a
Quebec sanatorium where I had stayed before, I resolved first to settle some
affairs of mine in New York and then to proceed to California for a thorough
search there.
     Here is something I composed in my retreat:

     Wanted, wanted: Dolores Haze.
     Hair: brown. Lips: scarlet.
     Age: five thousand three hundred days.
     Profession: none, or "starlet."

     Where are you hiding, Dolores Haze?
     Why are you hiding, darling?
     (I talk in a daze, I walk in a maze,
     I cannot get out, said the starling).

     Where are you riding, Dolores Haze?
     What make is the magic carpet?
     Is a Cream Cougar the present craze?
     And where are you parked, my car pet?

     Who is your hero, Dolores Haze?
     Still one of those blue-caped star-men?
     Oh the balmy days and the palmy bays,
     And the cars, and the bars, my Carmen!

     Oh Dolores, that juke-box hurts!
     Are you still dancin', darlin'?
     (Both in worn levis, both in torn T-shirts,
     And I, in my corner, snarlin').

     Happy, happy is gnarled McFate
     Touring the States with a child wife,
     Plowing his Molly in every State
     Among the protected wild life.

     My Dolly, my folly! Her eyes were vair,
     And never closed when I kissed her.
     Know an old perfume called Soleil Vert?
     Are you from Paris, mister?

     L'autre soir un air froid d'opиra m'alita:
     Son fиlи--bien fol est qui s'y fie!
     Il neige, le dиcor s'иcroule, Lolita!
     Lolita, qu'ai-je fait de ta vie?

     Dying, dying, Lolita Haze,
     Of hate and remorse, I'm dying.
     And again my hairy fist I raise,
     And again I hear you crying.

     Officer, officer, there they go--
     In the rain, where that lighted store is!
     And her socks are white, and I love her so,
     And her name is Haze, Dolores.

     Officer, officer, there they are--
     Dolores Haze and her lover!
     Whip out your gun and follow that car.
     Now tumble out, and take cover.

     Wanted, wanted: Dolores Haze.
     Her dream-gray gaze never flinches.
     Ninety pounds is all she weighs
     With a height of sixty inches.

     My car is limping, Dolores Haze,
     And the last long lap is the hardest,
     And I shall be dumped where the weed decays,
     And the rest is rust and stardust.

     By  psychoanalyzing  this  poem,  I  notice  it  is  really  a maniac's
masterpiece. The stark, stiff,  lurid  rhymes  correspond  very  exactly  to
certain  perspectiveless  and terrible landscapes and figures, and magnified
parts of landscapes and figures, as drawn by psychopaths in tests devised by
their astute trainers. I wrote many more poems. I  immersed  myself  in  the
poetry of others. But not for a second did I forget the load of revenge.
     I  would  be a knave to say, and the reader a fool to believe, that the
shock of losing Lolita cured me of pederosis. My accursed nature  could  not
change,  no  matter  how my love for her did. On playgrounds and beaches, my
sullen and stealthy eye, against my will, still sought out the  flash  of  a
nymphet's limbs, the sly tokens of Lolita's handmaids and rosegirls. But one
essential  vision in me had withered: never did I dwell now on possibilities
of bliss with a little maiden, specific or synthetic, in some out-of-the-way
place; never did my fancy sink its fangs  into  Lolita's  sisters,  far  far
away, in the coves of evoked islands. That was all over, for the time
being  at  least. On the other hand, alas, two years of monstrous indulgence
had left me with certain habits of lust: I feared lest the void I  lived  in
might drive me to plunge into the freedom of sudden insanity when confronted
with  a  chance  temptation in some lane between school and supper. Solitude
was corrupting me. I needed company and care.  My  heart  was  a  hysterical
unreliable organ. This is how Rita enters the picture.


She  was  twice Lolita's age and three quarters of mine: a very slight,
dark-haired, pale-skinned adult, weighing a hundred and  five  pounds,  with
charmingly  asymmetrical  eyes, and angular, rapidly sketched profile, and a
most appealing ensellure to her supple back--I  think  she  had  some
Spanish  or  Babylonian  blood.  I  picked  her  up one depraved May evening
somewhere  between  Montreal  and  New  York,  or  more  narrowly,   between
Toylestown  and  Blake,  at  a  darkishly  burning bar under the sign of the
Tigermoth, where she was amiably drunk: she insisted we had gone  to  school
together,  and she placed her trembling little hand on my ape paw. My senses
were very slightly stirred but I decided to  give  her  a  try;  I  did--and
adopted  her as a constant companion. She was so kind, was Rita, such a good
sport, that I daresay she would have given herself to any pathetic  creature
or  fallacy,  an  old  broken  tree  or  a  bereaved porcupine, out of sheer
chumminess and compassion.
     When  I  first  met  her  she  had  but  recently  divorced  her  third
husband--and  a  little  more  recently  had  been  abandoned by her seventh
cavalier servant--the others, the mutables,  were  too  numerous  and
mobile  to  tabulate.  Her  brother was--and no doubt still is--a prominent,
pasty-faced,  suspenders-and-painted-tie-wearing   politician,   mayor   and
booster  of  his  ball-playing, Bible-reading, grain-handling home town. For
the last eight years he had been paying  his  great  little  sister  several
hundred dollars per month under the stringent condition that she would never
never  enter great little Grainball City. She told me, with wails of wonder,
that for some God-damn reason every new boy friend of hers  would  first  of
all  take her Grainball-ward: it was a fatal attraction; and before she knew
what was what, she would find herself sucked into the  lunar  orbit  of  the
town,  and  would be following the flood-lit drive that encircled it--"going
round and round," as she phrased it, "like a God-damn mulberry moth."
     She had a natty little coupи; and in it we traveled to California so as
to give my venerable vehicle a rest. her  natural  speed  was  ninety.  Dear
Rita!  We  cruised  together  for  two dim years, from summer 1950 to summer
1952, and she was the sweetest, simplest, gentles, dumbest Rita  imaginable.
In  comparison to her, Valechka was a Schlegel, and Charlotte a Hegel. There
is no earthly reason why I should dally with  her  in  the  margin  of  this
sinister  memoir,  but  let  me  say  (hi,  Rita--wherever you are, drunk or
hangoverish,  Rita,  hi!)  that  she  was  the  most  soothing,   the   most
comprehending  companion  that  I  ever had, and certainly saved me from the
madhouse. I told her I was trying to trace  a  girl  and  plug  that  girl's
bully.  Rita  solemnly  approved  of  the  plan--and  in  the course of some
investigation she undertook on her own (without  really  knowing  a  thing),
around  San  Humbertino,  got entangled with a pretty awful crook herself; I
had the devil of a time retrieving her--used and bruised  but  still  cocky.
Then one day she proposed playing Russian roulette with my sacred automatic;
I  said  you couldn't, it was not a revolver, and we struggled for it, until
at last it went off, touching off a very thin and very comical spurt of  hot
water  from  the  hole it made in the wall of the cabin room; I remember her
shrieks of laughter.
     The oddly prepubescent curve of her back,  her  ricey  skin,  her  slow
languorous  columbine  kisses  kept me from mischief. It is not the artistic
aptitudes that are secondary sexual characters as  some  shams  and  shamans
have  said;  it  is the other way around: sex is but the ancilla of art. One
rather mysterious spree that had interesting repercussions I must notice.  I
had abandoned the search: the fiend was either in Tartary or burning away in
my  cerebellum  (the  flames fanned by my fancy and grief) but certainly not
having  Dolores  Haze  play  champion  tennis  on  the  Pacific  Coast.  One
afternoon,  on  our  way  back East, in a hideous hotel, the kind where they
hold conventions and where labeled, fat, pink men stagger around, all  first
names  and  business and booze--dear Rita and I awoke to find a third in our
room, a blond, almost albino, young fellow with white  eyelashes  and  large
transparent  ears,  whom neither Rita nor I recalled having ever seen in our
sad lives. Sweating in thick dirty underwear, and with old army boots on, he
lay snoring on the double bed beyond my chaste Rita. One of his front  teeth
was  gone,  amber  pustules  grew  on  his  forehead. Ritochka enveloped her
sinuous nudity in my raincoat--the first thing at hand; I slipped on a  pair
of  candy-striped  drawers; and we took stock of the situation. Five glasses
had been used, which in the way of clues, was an  embarrassment  of  riches.
The  door  was  not  properly  closed. A sweater and a pair of shapeless tan
pants lay on the floor. We shook their owner into  miserable  consciousness.
He  was  completely  amnesic.  In  an  accent  that  Rita recognized as pure
Brooklynese, he peevishly insinuated  that  somehow  we  had  purloined  his
(worthless)  identity.  We  rushed  him into his clothes and left him at the
nearest hospital, realizing on the way that somehow or other after forgotten
gyrations, we ewer in Grainball. Half a year later Rita wrote the doctor for
news. Jack Humbertson as he had been tastelessly dubbed was  still  isolated
from  his  personal  past.  Oh  Mnemosyne,  sweetest and most mischievous of
     I would not have mentioned this incident had it not started a chain  of
ideas  that  resulted in my publishing in the Cantrip Review an essay
on "Mimir and Memory," in which I suggested among other things  that  seemed
original  and  important  to  that  splendid  review's benevolent readers, a
theory of perceptual  time  based  on  the  circulation  of  the  blood  and
conceptually  depending  (to  fill  up  this  nutshell)  on the mind's being
conscious not only of matter but also  of  its  own  self,  thus  crating  a
continuous spanning of two points (the storable future and the stored past).
In  result  of this venture--and in culmination of the impression made by my
previous travaux--I was called from New York, where Rita and  I  were
living in a little flat with a view of gleaming children taking shower baths
far  below  in a fountainous arbor of Central Park, to Cantrip College, four
hundred miles away, for one year. I lodged there, in special apartments  for
poets  and philosophers, from September 1951 to June 1952, while Rita whom I
preferred not to display vegetated--somewhat indecorously, I am afraid--in a
roadside inn where I visited her  twice  a  week.  Then  she  vanished--more
humanly  than  her  predecessor  had  done: a month later I found her in the
local jail. She was trхs digne, had had  her  appendix  removed,  and
managed  to  convince me that the beautiful bluish furs she had been accused
of stealing from a Mrs. Roland MacCrum had really  been  a  spontaneous,  if
somewhat alcoholic, gift from Roland himself. I succeeded in getting her out
without  appealing  to her touchy brother, and soon afterwards we drove back
to Central Park West, by way of Briceland, where we had stopped  for  a  few
hours the year before.
     A  curious urge to relive my stay there with Lolita had got hold of me.
I was entering a phase of existence where I had given up all hope of tracing
her kidnapper and her. I now attempted to fall back on old settings in order
to save what still could be saved in the way of souvenir, souvenir que me
veux-tu? Autumn was ringing in the air. To a post card  requesting  twin
beds Professor Hamburg got a prompt expression of regret in reply. They were
full  up.  They  had  one  bathless  basement room with four beds which they
thought I would not want. Their note paper was headed:

     The Enchanted Hunters
     Near Churches No Dogs
     All legal beverages

     I wondered if the last statement was  true.  All?  Did  they  have  for
instance  sidewalk  grenadine?  I  also  wondered  if a hunter, enchanted or
otherwise, would not need a pointer more than a pew, and  with  a  spasm  of
pain  I  recalled  a  scene  worthy  of  a  great  artist:  petite nymphe
accroupie; but that silky cocker spaniel had  perhaps  been  a  baptized
one.  No--I  felt  I  could  not endure the throes of revisiting that lobby.
There was a much better possibility of retrievable time elsewhere  in  soft,
rich-colored, autumnal Briceland. Leaving Rita in a bar, I made for the town
library.  A  twittering  spinster  was  only  too  glad  to help me disinter
mid-August 1947 from the bound Briceland Gazette, and presently, in a
secluded nook under a naked light, I was turning the  enormous  and  fragile
pages of a coffin-black volume almost as big as Lolita.
     Reader!  Bruder!  What a foolish Hamburg that Hamburg was! Since
his supersensitive system was loath to face the actual scene, he thought  he
could  at least enjoy a secret part of it--which reminds one of the tenth or
twentieth soldier in the raping queue who throws the girl's black shawl over
her white face so as not to see  those  impossible  eyes  while  taking  his
military  pleasure  in  the sad, sacked village. What I lusted to get
was the printed picture that had chanced  to  absorb  my  trespassing  image
while  the  Gazette's  photographer was concentrating on Dr. Braddock
and his group. Passionately I hoped to find preserved the  portrait  of  the
artist  as a younger brute. An innocent camera catching me on my dark way to
Lolita's bed--what a magnet for Mnemosyne! I cannot well  explain  the  true
nature  of  that  urge  of  mine. It was allied, I suppose, to that swooning
curiosity which impels one to examine with a magnifying glass  bleak  little
figures--still  life  practically,  and  everybody  about to throw up--at an
early morning execution, and the patient's expression impossible to make out
in the print. Anyway, I was literally gasping for breath, and one corner  of
the book of doom kept stabbing me in the stomach while I scanned and skimmed
.  .  .  Brute  Force and Possessed were coming on Sunday, the
24th, to both theatres. Mr. Purdom,  independent  tobacco  auctioneer,  said
that  ever since 1925 he had been an Omen Faustum smoker. Husky Hank and his
petite bride were to be the guests of Mr. and  Mrs.  Reginald  G.  Gore,  58
Inchkeith  Ave.  The  size  of  certain  parasites is one sixth of the host.
Dunkerque was fortified in the tenth century. Misses' socks,  39  c.  Saddle
Oxfords  3.98.  Wine,  wine, wine, quipped the author of Dark Age who
refused to be photographed, may suit a Persian bubble bird, but I  say  give
me  rain,  rain,  rain  on  the shingle roof for roses and inspiration every
time. Dimples are caused by the adherence of the skin to the deeper tissues.
Greeks repulse a heavy guerrilla assault--and, ah, at last, a little  figure
in  white,  and  Dr.  Braddock  in black, but whatever spectral shoulder was
brushing against his ample form--nothing of myself could I make out.
     I went to find Rita who introduced me with her vin triste  smile
to  a  pocket-sized  wizened truculently tight old man saying this was--what
was the name again, son?--a former schoolmate of hers. He  tried  to  retain
her,  and  in  the  slight scuffle that followed I hurt my thumb against his
hard head. In the silent painted part where I walked her  and  aired  her  a
little,  she  sobbed and said I would soon, soon leave her as everybody had,
and I sang her a wistful French ballad, and strung  together  some  fugitive
rhymes to amuse her:

     The place was called Enchanted Hunters. Query:
     What Indian dyes, Diana, did thy dell
     endorses to make of Picture Lake a very
     blood bath of trees before the blue hotel?

     She  said: "Why blue when it is white, why blue for heaven's sake?" and
started to cry again, and I marched her to the car, and we drove on  to  New
York,  and  soon  she  was reasonably happy again high up in the haze on the
little terrace of our flat. I notice I have somehow mixed up two events,  my
visit with Rita to Briceland on our way to Carntrip, and our passing through
Briceland again on our way back to New York, but such suffusions of swimming
colors are not to be disdained by the artist in recollection.


My  letterbox in the entrance hall belonged to the type that allows one
to glimpse something of its contents through a glassed slit.  Several  times
already,  a  trick  of  harlequin  light that fell through the glass upon an
alien handwriting had twisted it into a semblance of Lolita's script causing
me almost to collapse as I leant against an adjacent  urn,  almost  my  own.
Whenever  that  happened--whenever  her lovely, childish scrawl was horribly
transformed into the dull hand of one of my few  correspondents--I  used  to
recollect,  with anguished amusement, the times in my trustful, pre-dolorian
past when I would be misled by a jewel-bright  window  opposite  wherein  my
lurking  eye,  the  ever alert periscope of my shameful vice, would make out
from  afar  a  half-naked  nymphet  stilled  in  the  act  of  combing   her
Alice-in-Wonderland hair. There was in the fiery phantasm a perfection which
made my wild delight also perfect, just because the vision was out of reach,
with  no  possibility  of  attainment  to  spoil  it  by the awareness of an
appended taboo; indeed, it may well be that the very  attraction  immaturity
has  for  me lies not so much in the limpidity of pure young forbidden fairy
child beauty as in the security of a situation  where  infinite  perfections
fill  the  gap  between  the  little given and the great promised--the great
rosegray never-to-be-had. Mes fenйtres! Hanging above blotched sunset
and welling night, grinding my teeth, I would crowd all  the  demons  of  my
desire against the railing of a throbbing balcony: it would be ready to take
off  in  the  apricot  and  black humid evening; did take off--whereupon the
lighted image would move and Even would revert to a rib, and there would  be
nothing in the window but an obese partly clad man reading the paper.
     Since  I  sometimes won the race between my fancy and nature's reality,
the deception was bearable. Unbearable pain began when  chance  entered  the
fray  and deprived me of the smile meant for me. "Savez-vous qu'ю dix ans
ma petite иtait folle de vous?" said a woman I talked to at  a  tea  in
Paris,  and  the petite had just married, miles away, and I could not
even remember if I had ever noticed her in that garden, next to those tennis
courts, a dozen years before. And now likewise, the radiant foreglimpse, the
promise of reality, a promise not only to be simulated seductively but  also
to be nobly held--all this, chance denied me--chance and a change to smaller
characters   on   the   pale  beloved  writer's  part.  My  fancy  was  both
Proustianized and Procrusteanized; for  that  particular  morning,  late  in
September  1952,  as  I  had  come down to grope for my mail, the dapper and
bilious janitor with whom I was on execrable terms started to complain  that
a  man  who  had  seen  Rita home recently had been "sick like a dog" on the
front steps. In the process of listening to him and tipping  him,  and  then
listening  to  a  revised  and  politer  version  of the incident, I had the
impression that one of the two letters which that blessed mail  brought  was
from  Rita's  mother, a crazy little woman, whom we had once visited on Cape
Cod and who kept writing me to my various addresses, saying how  wonderfully
well  matched  her  daughter and I were, and how wonderful it would be if we
married; the other letter which I opened and scanned rapidly in the elevator
was from John Farlow.
     I have often noticed that we are inclined to endow our friends with the
stability of type that literary characters acquire in the reader's mind.  No
matter  how  many  times we reopen "King Lear," never shall we find the good
king banging his tankard in high revelry, all woes  forgotten,  at  a  jolly
reunion  with  all three daughters and their lapdogs. Never will Emma rally,
revived by  the  sympathetic  salts  in  Flaubert's  father's  timely  tear.
Whatever  evolution  this or that popular character has gone through between
the book covers, his fate is fixed in our minds, and, similarly,  we  expect
our  friends to follow this or that logical and conventional pattern we have
fixed for them. Thus X will never compose  the  immortal  music  that  would
clash  with the second-rate symphonies he has accustomed us to. Y will never
commit murder. Under no circumstances can Z ever betray us. We have  it  all
arranged  in  our  minds,  and the less often we see a particular person the
more satisfying it is to check how obediently he conforms to our  notion  of
him  every  time we hear of him. Any deviation in the fates we have ordained
would strike us as not only anomalous but unethical. We would prefer not  to
have  known  at  all our neighbor, the retired hot-dog stand operator, if it
turns out he has just produced the greatest book of poetry his age has seen.
     I am saying all this in order  to  explain  how  bewildered  I  was  by
Farlow's  hysterical  letter.  I  knew  his  wife  had  died but I certainly
expected him to remain, throughout a devout widowhood, the dull, sedate  and
reliable person he had always been. Now he wrote that after a brief visit to
the  U.S.  he  had  returned  to South America and had decided that whatever
affairs he had controlled at Ramsdale he would hand over to Jack  Windmuller
of that town, a lawyer whom we both knew. He seemed particularly relieved to
get  rid  of the Haze "complications." He had married a Spanish girl. He had
stopped smoking and had gained thirty pounds. She was very young and  a  ski
champion.  They  were  going  to  India for their honeymonsoon. Since he was
"building a family" as he put it, he would have no time  henceforth  for  my
affairs  which  he termed "very strange and very aggravating." Busybodies--a
whole committee of them, it appeared--had informed him that the  whereabouts
of  little  Dolly  Haze were unknown, and that I was living with a notorious
divorcee in California. His  father-in-law  was  a  count,  and  exceedingly
wealthy.  The  people who had been renting the Haze house for some years now
wished to buy it. He suggested that I better produce  Dolly  quick.  he  had
broken  his  leg.  He enclosed a snapshot of himself and a brunette in white
wool beaming at each other among the snows of Chile.
     I remember letting myself into my flat and starting to  say:  Well,  at
least  we  shall now track them down--when the other letter began talking to
me in a small matter-of-fact voice:

     Dear Dad:
     How's everything? I'm married. I'm going to have a baby. I  guess  he's
going  to  be  a  big one. I guess he'll come right for Christmas. This is a
hard letter to write. I'm going nuts because we don't have enough to pay our
debts and get out of here. Dick is promised a big job in Alaska in his  very
specialized  corner  of the mechanical field, that's all I know about it but
it's really grand. Pardon me for withholding our home address  but  you  may
still  be  mad  at  me,  and Dick must not know. This town is something. You
can't see the morons for the smog. Please do send us a check, Dad. We  could
manage  with  three  or  four hundred or even less, anything is welcome, you
might sell my old things, because once we go there the dough will just start
rolling in. Writ, please. I have gone through much sadness and hardship.
     Yours expecting,
     Dolly (Mrs. Richard F. Schiller)


I was again on the road, again at the wheel  of  the  old  blue  sedan,
again  alone.  Rita had still been dead to the world when I read that letter
and fought the mountains of agony it raised within me. I had glanced at  her
as  she  smiled  in  her sleep and had kissed her on her moist brow, and had
left her forever, with  a  note  of  tender  adieu  which  I  taped  to  her
navel--otherwise she might not have found it.
     "Alone"  did  I say? Pas tout ю fait. I had my little black chum
with me, and as soon as I reached a secluded spot, I rehearsed  Mr.  Richard
F.  Schiller's  violent  death.  I  had found a very old and very dirty gray
sweater of mine in the back of the car, and this I hung up on a branch, in a
speechless glade, which I had reached by a wood road  from  the  now  remote
highway. The carrying out of the sentence was a little marred by what seemed
to  me  a  certain stiffness in the play of the trigger, and I wondered if I
should get some oil for the mysterious thing but decided I had  no  time  to
spare.  Back  into  the  car  went the old dead sweater, now with additional
perforations, and having reloaded warm Chum, I continued my journey.
     The letter was dated September 18, 1952 (this was  September  22),  and
the address she gave was "General Delivery, Coalmont" (not "Va.," not "Pa.,"
not  "Tenn."--and  not  Coalmont,  anyway--I have camouflaged everything, my
love). Inquiries showed this to be a small industrial community  some  eight
hundred  miles  from  New York City. At first I planned to drive all day and
all night, but then thought better of it and rested for a  couple  of  hours
around  dawn  in a motor court room, a few miles before reaching the town. I
had made up my mind that the fiend, this Schiller, had been a  car  salesman
who had perhaps got to know my Lolita by giving her a ride in Beardsley--the
day  her  bike  blew  a tire on the way to Miss Emperor--and that he had got
into some trouble since then. The corpse of the executed sweater, no  matter
how  I  changed its contours as it lay on the back seat of the car, had kept
revealing various outlines pertaining to Trapp-Schiller--the  grossness  and
obscene  bonhomie  of  his  body,  and  to  counteract  this taste of coarse
corruption I resolved to make myself especially  handsome  and  smart  as  I
pressed home the nipple of my alarm clock before it exploded at the set hour
of  six  a.m. Then, with the stern and romantic care of a gentleman about to
fight a duel, I checked the arrangement of my papers, bathed and perfumed my
delicate body, shaved my face and chest, selected a  silk  shirt  and  clean
drawers,  pulled  on  transparent  taupe socks, and congratulated myself for
having with me in my trunk some very  exquisite  clothes--a  waistcoat  with
nacreous buttons, for instance, a pale cashmere tie and so on.
     I  was  not  able,  alas,  to  hold  my  breakfast,  but dismissed that
physicality as a  trivial  contretemps,  wiped  my  mouth  with  a  gossamer
handkerchief  produced  from  my  sleeve,  and, with a blue block of ice for
heart, a pill on my tongue and solid death  in  my  hip  pocket,  I  stepped
neatly  into  a telephone booth in Coalmont (Ah-ah-ah, said its little door)
and rang up the only Schiller--Paul, Furniture--to be found in the  battered
book. Hoarse Paul told me he did know a Richard, the son of a cousin of his,
and  his  address was, let me see, 10 Killer Street (I am not going very far
for my pseudonyms). Ah-ah-ah, said the little door.
     At 10 Killer Street, a  tenement  house,  I  interviewed  a  number  of
dejected  old  people and two long-haired strawberry-blond incredibly grubby
nymphets (rather abstractly, just for the heck of it, the ancient  beast  in
me was casting about for some lightly clad child I might hold against me for
a  minute,  after  the  killing  was over and nothing mattered any more, and
everything was allowed). Yes, Dick Skiller had lived there,  but  had  moved
when  he  married.  Nobody knew his address. "They might know at the store,"
said a bass voice from an open manhole near which I happened to be  standing
with the two thin-armed, barefoot little girls and their dim grandmothers. I
entered  the  wrong  store and a wary old Negro shook his head even before I
could ask anything. I crossed over to a bleak grocery and there, summoned by
a customer at my request, a woman's voice from  some  wooden  abyss  in  the
floor, the manhole's counterpart, cried out: Hunter Road, last house.
     Hunter  Road  was miles away, in an even more dismal district, all dump
and ditch, and wormy vegetable garden, and shack, and gray drizzle, and  red
mud,  and  several  smoking  stacks  in  the distance. I stopped at the last
"house"--a clapboard shack, with two or three similar ones farther away from
the road and a waste of withered weeds all around. Sounds of hammering  came
from  behind  the house, and for several minutes I sat quite still in my old
car, old and frail, at the end of my journey, at my gray goal, finis,
my friends, finis, my friends. The time was around two. My pulse  was
40  one  minute and 100 the next. The drizzle crepitated against the hood of
the car. My gun had migrated to my right trouser pocket. A  nondescript  cur
came   out   from  behind  the  house,  stopped  in  surprise,  and  started
good-naturedly woof-woofing at me, his  eyes  slit,  his  shaggy  belly  all
muddy, and then walked about a little and woofed once more.


I  got  out  of  the  car and slammed its door. How matter-of-fact, how
square that slam sounded in  the  void  of  the  sunless  day!  Woof,
commented  the  dog  perfunctorily.  I  pressed the bell button, it vibrated
through my whole system. Personne. Je resonne. Repersonne. From  what
depth  this  re-nonsense?  Woof,  said  the  dog.  A rush and a shuffle, and
woosh-woof went the door.
     Couple of inches taller. Pink-rimmed glasses.  New,  heaped-up  hairdo,
new  ears.  How  simple!  The  moment, the death I had kept conjuring up for
three years was as simple as a bit of dry wood. She was frankly  and  hugely
pregnant.  Her  head looked smaller (only two seconds had passed really, but
let me give them as much  wooden  duration  as  life  can  stand),  and  her
pale-freckled cheeks were hollowed, and her bare shins and arms had lost all
their  tan,  so  that  the little hairs showed. She wore a brown, sleeveless
cotton dress and sloppy felt slippers.
     "We--e--ell!" she exhaled after a pause with all the emphasis of wonder
and welcome.
     "Husband at home?" I croaked, fist in pocket.
     I could not kill her, of course, as some have thought. You  see,
I  loved  her.  It  was love at first sight, at last sight, at ever and ever
     "Come in,"  she  said  with  a  vehement  cheerful  note.  Against  the
splintery deadwood of the door, Dolly Schiller flattened herself as best she
could (even rising on tiptoe a little) to let me pass, and was crucified for
a  moment,  looking down, smiling down at the threshold, hollow-cheeked with
round pommettes, her watered-milk-white arms outspread on the wood. I
passed without touching her bulging babe. Dolly-smell, with  a  faint  fried
addition.  My  teeth  chattered  like an idiot's. "No, you stay out" (to the
dog). She closed the door and followed me and her belly into  the  dollhouse
     "Dick's down there," she said pointing with an invisible tennis racket,
inviting  my  gaze  to  travel  from the drab parlor-bedroom where we stood,
right across the kitchen, and through the back doorway where,  in  a  rather
primitive  vista,  a dark-haired young stranger in overalls, instantaneously
reprieved, was perched with his back to me on a ladder fixing something near
or upon the shack of his neighbor, a plumper fellow with only one  arm,  who
stood looking up.
     This  pattern  she  explained  from  afar, apologetically ("Men will be
men"); should she call him in?
     Standing in the middle of the slanting room  and  emitting  questioning
"hm's,"  she  made  familiar  Javanese  gestures  with her wrists and hands,
offering me, in a brief display of humorous courtesy, to  choose  between  a
rocker  and  the  divan (their bed after ten p.m.). I say "familiar" because
one day she had welcomed me with the  same  wrist  dance  to  her  party  in
Beardsley.  We  both  sat  down on the divan. Curious: although actually her
looks had faded, I definitely realized, so hopelessly late in the  day,  how
much she looked--had always looked--like Botticelli's russet Venus--the same
soft  nose,  the  same blurred beauty. In my pocket my fingers gently let go
and repacked a little at the tip, within the handkerchief it was nested  in,
my unused weapon.
     "that's not the fellow I want," I said.
     The  diffuse look of welcome left her eyes. Her forehead puckered as in
the old bitter days:
     "Not who?"
     "Where is he? Quick!"
     "Look," she said, inclining her head to one side and shaking it in that
position. "Look, you are not going to bring that up."
     "I certainly am," I said, and for a moment--strangely enough  the  only
merciful,  endurable  one  in the whole interview--we were bristling at each
other as if she were still mine.
     A wise girl, she controlled herself.
     Dick did not know a thing of the whole  mess.  He  thought  I  was  her
father.  He  thought  she had run away from an upper-class home just to wash
dishes in a diner. He believed anything. Why should I want  to  make  things
harder than they were by raking up all that muck?
     But,  I  said,  she must be sensible, she must be a sensible girl (with
her bare drum under that thin brown stuff), she must understand that if  she
expected  the  help  I  had  come  to  give,  I  must  have at least a clear
comprehension of the situation.
     "Come, his name!"
     She thought I had guessed long ago. It  was  (with  a  mischievous  and
melancholy  smile)  such  a  sensational name. I would never believe it. She
could hardly believe it herself.
     His name, my fall nymph.
     It was so unimportant, she said. She suggested I skip it. Would I  like
a cigarette?
     No. His name.
     She  shook  her head with great resolution. She guessed it was too late
to raise hell and I would never believe the unbelievably unbelievable--
     I said I had better go, regards, nice to have seen her.
     She said really it was useless, she would never tell, but on the  other
hand, after all--"Do you really want to know who it was? Well, it was--"
     And softly, confidentially, arching her thin eyebrows and puckering her
parched  lips,  she  emitted, a little mockingly, somewhat fastidiously, not
untenderly, in a kind of muted whistle, the name that the astute reader  has
guessed long ago.
     Waterproof. Why did a flash from Hourglass Lake cross my consciousness?
I, too,  had known it, without knowing it, all along. There was no shock, no
surprise. Quietly the fusion took place, and  everything  fell  into  order,
into  the  pattern of branches that I have woven throughout this memoir with
the express purpose of having the ripe fruit fall at the right moment;  yes,
with  the  express  and perverse purpose of rendering--she was talking but I
sat melting in my golden peace--of rendering that golden and monstrous peace
through the satisfaction of logical  recognition,  which  my  most  inimical
reader should experience now.
     She  was,  as I say, talking. It now came in a relaxed flow. He was the
only man she had ever been crazy about. What about  Dick?  Oh,  Dick  was  a
lamb, they were quite happy together, but she meant something different. And
I had never counted, of course?
     She  considered  me  as  if  grasping  all  at once the incredible--and
somehow tedious, confusing and unnecessary--fact that the distant,  elegant,
slender, forty-year-old valetudinarian in velvet coat sitting beside her had
known  and  adored  every  pore  and  follicle of her pubescent body. In her
washed-out gray eyes, strangely spectacled,  our  poor  romance  was  for  a
moment  reflected,  pondered  upon,  and dismissed like a dull party, like a
rainy picnic to which only the  dullest  bores  had  come,  like  a  humdrum
exercise, like a bit of dry mud caking her childhood.
     I  just  managed to jerk my knee out of the range of a sketchy tap--one
of her acquired gestures.
     She asked me not to be dense. The past was the past. I had been a  good
father, she guessed--granting me that. Proceed, Dolly Schiller.
     Well,  did I know that he had known her mother? That he was practically
an old friend? That he had visited with his uncle  in  Ramsdale?--oh,  years
ago--and  spoken  at Mother's club, and had tugged and pulled her, Dolly, by
her bare arm onto his lap in front of everybody, and kissed  her  face,  she
was  ten  and furious with him? Did I know he had seen me and her at the inn
where he was writing the very play she was to  rehearse  in  Beardsley,  two
years  later?  Did  I  know--It  had been horrid of her to sidetrack me into
believing that Clare was an old  female,  maybe  a  relative  of  his  or  a
sometime  lifemate--and  oh,  what  a  close shave it had been when the Wace
Journal carried his picture.
     The Briceland Gazette had not. Yes, very amusing.
     Yes, she said, this world was just one gag after another,  if  somebody
wrote up her life nobody would ever believe it.
     At  this  point,  there  came  brisk homey sounds from the kitchen into
which Dick and Bill had lumbered in quest of beer. Through the doorway  they
noticed the visitor, and Dick entered the parlor.
     "Dick,  this is my Dad!" cried Dolly in a resounding violent voice that
struck me as a totally strange, and new, and cheerful,  and  old,  and  sad,
because the young fellow, veteran of a remote war, was hard of hearing.
     Arctic  blue  eyes,  black  hair, ruddy cheeks, unshaven chin. We shook
hands. Discreet Bill, who evidently took pride in working wonders  with  one
hand,  brought  in  the  beer  cans  he  had opened. Wanted to withdraw. The
exquisite courtesy of simple folks. Was made to stay. A beer ad. In point of
fact, I preferred it that way, and so did the Schillers. I switched  to  the
jittery rocker. Avidly munching, Dilly plied me with marshmallows and potato
chips. The men looked at her fragile, frileux, diminutive, old-world,
youngish but sickly, father in velvet coat and beige vest, maybe a viscount.
     They  were  under  the  impression  I had come to stay, and Dick with a
great wrinkling of brows that denoted difficult thought, suggested Dolly and
he might sleep in the kitchen on a spare mattress. I waved a light hand  and
told Dolly who transmitted it by means of a special shout to Dick that I had
merely  dropped  in  on my way to Readsburg where I was to be entertained by
some friends and admirers. It was then noticed that one of  the  few  thumbs
remaining  to  Bill  was  bleeding (not such a wonder-worker after all). How
womanish and somehow never seen that way before  was  the  shadowy  division
between  her  pale  breasts when she bent down over the man's hand! She took
him for repairs to the kitchen. For a few  minutes,  three  or  four  little
eternities  which  positively  welled  with  artificial  warmth,  Dick and I
remained alone. He sat on a hard chair rubbing his forelimbs and frowning. I
had an idle urge  to  squeeze  out  the  blackheads  on  the  wings  of  his
perspiring  nose  with  my  long  agate  claws.  He  had  nice sad eyes with
beautiful lashes, and very white teeth.  His  Adam's  apple  was  large  and
hairy.  Why  don't  they  shave better, those young brawny chaps? He and his
Dolly had had unrestrained intercourse on  that  couch  there,  at  least  a
hundred  and eighty times, probably much more; and before that--how long had
she known him? No grudge. Funny--no grudge at all, nothing except grief  and
nausea.  He  was now rubbing his nose. I was sure that when finally he would
open his mouth, he would say (slightly shaking his head): "Aw, she's a swell
kid, Mr. Haze. She sure is. And she's going to  make  a  swell  mother."  He
opened  his mouth--and took a sip of beer. This gave him countenance--and he
went on sipping till he frothed at the mouth. He was a lamb. He  had  cupped
her  Florentine  breasts.  His  fingernails  were  black and broken, but the
phalanges, the whole carpus, the strong shapely wrist were  far,  far  finer
than  mine:  I have hurt too much too many bodies with my twisted poor hands
to be proud of them. French epithets, a Dorset yokel's knuckles, an Austrian
tailor's flat finger tips--that's Humbert Humbert.
     Good. If he was silent I could be silent too. Indeed, I could very well
do with a little rest in this subdued,  frightened-to-death  rocking  chair,
before  I  drove  to  wherever  the  beast's  lair  was--and then pulled the
pistol's foreskin back, and then enjoyed the orgasm of the crushed  trigger:
I  was  always  a  good  little  follower  of the Viennese medicine man. But
presently I became sorry for poor Dick whom, in some hypnotoid  way,  I  was
horribly  preventing from making the only remark he could think up ("She's a
swell kid. . .").
     "And so," I said, "you are going to Canada?"
     In the kitchen, Dolly was laughing at something Bill had said or done.
     "And  so,"  I  shouted,  "you  are  going  to  Canada?  Not  Canada"--I
re-shouted--"I mean Alaska, of course."
     He nursed his glass and, nodding sagely, replied: "Well, he cut it on a
jagger, I guess. Lost his right arm in Italy."
     Lovely  mauve  almond  trees  in  bloom.  A  blown-off surrealistic arm
hanging up there in the pointillistic mauve.  A  flowergirl  tattoo  on  the
hand.  Dolly  and  band-aided  Bill  reappeared.  It occurred to me that her
ambiguous, brown and pale beauty excited the cripple. Dick, with a  grin  of
relief  stood  up.  He  guessed Bill and he would be going back to fix those
wires. He guessed Mr. Haze and Dolly had loads of  things  to  say  to  each
other.  He  guessed he would be seeing me before I left. Why do those people
guess so much and shave so little, and are so disdainful of hearing aids?
     "Sit down," she said, audibly striking her flanks  with  her  palms.  I
relapsed into the black rocker.
     "So you betrayed me? Where did you go? Where is he now?"
     She  took  from the mantelpiece a concave glossy snapshot. Old woman in
white,  stout,  beaming,  bowlegged,  very  short  dress;  old  man  in  his
shirtsleeves,  drooping  mustache,  watch  chain.  Her  in-laws. Living with
Dick's brother's family in Juneau.
     "Sure you don't want to smoke?"
     She was smoking herself. First time  I  saw  her  doing  it.  Streng
verboten  under  Humbert  the  Terrible.  Gracefully,  in  a  blue mist,
Charlotte Haze rose from her grave. I would find him through Uncle Ivory  if
she refused.
     "Betrayed  you?  No."  She  directed  the  dart of her cigarette, index
rapidly tapping upon it, toward the hearth exactly as her mother used to do,
and then, like her mother, oh my God,  with  her  fingernail  scratched  and
removed  a  fragment  of  cigarette paper from her underlip. No. She had not
betrayed me. I was among friends. Edusa had warned her that Cue liked little
girls, had been almost jailed once, in fact (nice fact),  and  he  knew  she
knew.  Yes . . . Elbow in palm, puff, smile, exhaled smoke, darting gesture.
Waxing  reminiscent.  He  saw--smiling--through  everything  and  everybody,
because  he  was not like me and her but a genius. A great guy. Full of fun.
Had rocked with laughter when she confessed about me and her,  and  said  he
had  thought so. It was quite safe, under the circumstances, to tell him . .
     Well, Cue--they all called him Cue--
     Her camp five years ago. Curious coincidence--. . . took her to a  dude
ranch about a day's drive from Elephant (Elphinstone). Named? Oh, some silly
name--Duk Duk Ranch--you know just plain silly--but it did not matter
now,  anyway,  because the place had vanished and disintegrated. Really, she
meant, I could not imagine how utterly lush that ranch was, she meant it had
everything but everything, even an indoor  waterfall.  Did  I  remember  the
red-haired  guy  we ("we" was good) had once had some tennis with? Well, the
place really belonged to Red's brother, but he had turned it over to Cue for
the summer. When Cue and she came, the others had them actually go through a
coronation ceremony and then--a terrific ducking,  as  when  you  cross  the
Equator. You know.
     Her eyes rolled in synthetic resignation.
     "Go on, please."
     Well.  The  idea  was  he  would take her in September to Hollywood and
arrange a tryout for her, a bit part in the tennis-match scene  of  a  movie
picture  based  on  a play of his--Golden Guts--and perhaps even have
her double one of its sensational starlets on the Klieg-struck tennis court.
Alas, it never came to that.
     "Where is the hog now?"
     He was not a hog. He was a great guy in many respects. But it  was  all
drink and drugs. And, of course, he was a complete freak in sex matters, and
his friends were his slaves. I just could not imagine (I, Humbert, could not
imagine!)  what  they  all  did  at  Duk Duk Ranch. She refused to take part
because she loved him, and he threw her out.
     "What things?"
     "Oh, weird, filthy, fancy things. I mean, he  had  two  girls  and  tow
boys, and three or four men, and the idea was for all of us to tangle in the
nude  while an old woman took movie pictures." (Sade's Justine was twelve at
the start.)
     "What things exactly?"
     "Oh, things . . . Oh, I--really I"--she uttered the "I"  as  a  subdued
cry  while  she  listened  to  the source of the ache, and for lack of words
spread the five fingers of her angularly up-and-down-moving  hand.  No,  she
gave it up, she refused to go into particulars with that baby inside her.
     That made sense.
     "It is of no importance now," she said pounding a gray cushion with her
fist and  then  lying  back,  belly  up, on the divan. "Crazy things, filthy
things. I said no, I'm just not going  to  [she  used,  in  all  insouciance
really,  a  disgusting  slang  term  which, in a literal French translation,
would be souffler] your beastly boys, because I want only you.  Well,
he kicked me out."
     There  was  not  much  else  to tell. That winter 1949, Fay and she had
found jobs. For almost two years she had--oh, just drifted, oh,  doing  some
restaurant  work in small places, and then she had met Dick. No, she did not
know where the other was. In New York, she guessed. Of  course,  he  was  so
famous  she would have found him at once if she had wanted. Fay had tried to
get back to the Ranch--and it just was not there any more--it had burned  to
the  ground, nothing remained, just a charred heap of rubbish. It was
so strange, so strange--
     She closed her eyes and opened her mouth, leaning back on the  cushion,
one  felted foot on the floor. The wooden floor slanted, a little steel ball
would have rolled into the kitchen. I knew all I wanted to know.  I  had  no
intention  of  torturing  my  darling.  Somewhere  beyond  Bill's  shack  an
afterwork radio had begun singing of folly and fate, and there she was  with
her ruined looks and her adult, rope-veined narrow hands and her goose-flesh
white arms, and her shallow ears, and her unkempt armpits, there she was (my
Lolita!),  hopelessly worn at seventeen, with that baby, dreaming already in
her of becoming a big shot and retiring around 2020 A.D.--and I  looked  and
looked  at  her, and knew as clearly as I know I am to die, that I loved her
more than anything I had ever seen  or  imagined  on  earth,  or  hoped  for
anywhere else. She was only the faint violet whiff and dead leaf echo of the
nymphet I had rolled myself upon with such cries in the past; an echo on the
brink  of  a  russet  ravine,  with  a far wood under a white sky, and brown
leaves choking the brook, and one last cricket in the crisp weeds . . .  but
thank  God  it  was  not  that  echo alone that I worshipped. What I used to
pamper among the tangled vines of my heart, mon grand  pиchи radieux,
had  dwindled  to  its  essence: sterile and selfish vice, all that I
canceled and cursed. You may jeer at me, and threaten to  clear  the  court,
but  until  I  am  gagged  and half-throttled, I will shout my poor truth. I
insist the world know how much I loved my Lolita, this  Lolita,  pale
and  polluted,  and  big  with  another's  child, but still gray-eyed, still
sooty-lashed,  still  auburn  and  almond,  still  Carmencita,  still  mine;
Changeons  de vie, ma Carmen, allons vivre quelque part oы nous ne serons
jamais sиparиs; Ohio? The wilds of Massachusetts?  No  matter,  even  if
those  eyes  of  hers  would  fade to myopic fish, and her nipples swell and
crack, and her lovely young velvety delicate delta be tainted and torn--even
then I would go mad with tenderness at the mere sight of your dear wan face,
at the mere sound of your raucous young voice, my Lolita.
     "Lolita," I said, "this may be neither here nor there but I have to say
it. Life is very short. From here to that old car you know so well there is a
stretch of twenty, twenty-five paces. It is a very short  walk.  Make  those
twenty-five  steps.  Now. Right now. Come just as you are. And we shall live
happily ever after."
     Carmen, voulez-vous venir avec moi?
     "You mean," she said opening her eyes and raising herself slightly, the
snake that may strike, "you mean you will give us [us] that money only if  I
go with you to a motel. Is that what you mean?"
     "No,"  I  said,  "you  got  it  all  wrong.  I  want  you to leave your
incidental Dick, and this awful hole, and come to live with me, and die with
me, and everything with me" (words to that effect).
     "You're crazy," she said, her features working.
     "Think  it  over,  Lolita.  There  are  no  strings  attached.  Except,
perhaps--well,  no  matter."  (A  reprieve,  I  wanted  to say but did not.)
"Anyway, if you refuse you will still get your . . . trousseau."
     "No kidding?" asked Dolly.
     I handed her an envelope with four hundred dollars in cash and a  check
for three thousand six hundred more.
     Gingerly,  uncertainly,  she received mon petit cadeau; and then
her forehead became a beautiful pink. "You mean," she  said,  with  agonized
emphasis,  "you are giving us four thousand bucks?" I covered my face
with my hand and broke into the hottest tears I had ever shed. I  felt  them
winding through my fingers and down my chin, and burning me, and my nose got
clogged, and I could not stop, and then she touched my wrist.
     "I'll  die  if  you touch me," I said. "You are sure you are not coming
with me? Is there no hope of your coming? Tell me only this."
     "No," she said. "No, honey, no."
     She had never called me honey before.
     "No," she said, "it is quite out of the question.  I  would  sooner  go
back to Cue. I mean--"
     She  groped  for  words.  I supplied them mentally ("He broke my
heart. You merely broke my life").
     "I think," she went on--"oops"--the envelope skidded to the  floor--she
picked  it  up--"I  think it's oh utterly grand of you to give us all
that dough. It settles everything, we can  start  next  week.  Stop  crying,
please. You should understand. Let me get you some more beer. Oh, don't cry,
I'm so sorry I cheated so much, but that's the way things are."
     I  wiped  my  face and my fingers. She smiled at the cadeau. She
exulted. She wanted to call Dick. I said I would have to leave in a  moment,
did not want to see him at all, at all. We tried to think of some subject of
conversation. For some reason, I kept seeing--it trembled and silkily glowed
on  my  damn  retina--a  radiant  child  of  twelve, sitting on a threshold,
"pinging" pebbles at an empty can. I almost said--trying to find some casual
remark--"I wonder sometimes what has become of the little  McCoo  girl,  did
she  ever  get  better?"--but  stopped  in  time  lest she rejoin: "I wonder
sometimes what has become of the little Haze girl . . ." Finally, I reverted
to money matters. That sum, I said, represented more or less  the  net  rent
from  her  mother's house; she said: "Had it not been sold years ago?" No (I
admit I had told her this in order to sever all connections with R.);
a lawyer would send a full account of the financial situation later; it  was
rosy;  some of the small securities her mother had owned had gone up and up.
Yes, I was quite sure I had to go. I had to go, and find  him,  and  destroy
     Since  I  would  not  have  survived  the  touch  of  her  lips, I kept
retreating in a mincing dance, at every step she and her belly  made  toward
     She  and the dog saw me off. I was surprised (this a rhetorical figure,
I was not) that the sight of the old car in which she had ridden as a  child
and  a  nymphet,  left  her so very indifferent. All she remarked was it was
getting sort of purplish about the gills. I said it was hers, I could go  by
bus. She said don't be silly, they would fly to Jupiter and buy a car there.
I said I would buy this one from her for five hundred dollars.
     "At  this  rate  we'll be millionnaires next," she said to the ecstatic
     Carmencita, lui demandais-je . . . "One last word," I said in my
horrible careful  English,  "are  you  quite,  quite  sure  that--well,  not
tomorrow,  of  course, and not after tomorrow, but--well--some day, any day,
you will not come to live with me? I will create a brand new God  and  thank
him  with  piercing  cries,  if  you give me that microscopic hope" (to that
     "No," she said smiling, "no."
     "It would have made all the difference," said Humbert Humbert.
     Then I pulled out my automatic--I mean, this is the kind of fool  thing
a reader might suppose I did. It never even occurred to me to do it.
     "Good  by-aye!"  she changed, my American sweet immortal dead love; for
she is dead and immortal if you are reading this. I mean, such is the formal
agreement with the so-called authorities.
     Then, as I drove away, I heard her shout in  a  vibrant  voice  to  her
Dick;  and  the dog started to lope alongside my car like a fat dolphin, but
he was too heavy and old, and very soon gave up.
     And presently I was driving through the drizzle of the dying day,  with
the windshield wipers in full action but unable to cope with my tears.


Leaving  as  I did Coalmont around four in the afternoon (by Route X--I
do not remember the number(, I might have made Ramsdale by dawn  had  not  a
short-cut  tempted  me.  I  had  to  get onto Highway Y. My map showed quite
blandly that just beyond Woodbine, which I reached  at  nightfall,  I  could
leave paved X and reached paved Y by means of a transverse dirt road. It was
only  some  forty  miles long according to my map. Otherwise I would have to
follow X for another hundred miles and then use leisurely looping Z  to  get
to  Y  and  my destination. However, the short-cut in question got worse and
worse, bumpier and bumpier, muddier and muddier, and  when  I  attempted  to
turn  back  after  some  ten  miles  of purblind, tortuous and tortoise-slow
progress, my old and weak Melmoth got stuck in deep clay. All was  dark  and
muggy,  and  hopeless.  My headlights hung over a broad ditch full of water.
The surrounding country, if  any,  was  a  black  wilderness.  I  sought  to
extricate  myself  but  my  rear  wheels  only  whined in slosh and anguish.
Cursing my plight, I took off my fancy clothes, changed into slacks,  pulled
on the bullet-riddled sweater, and waded four miles back to a roadside farm.
It  started  to  rain on the way but I had not the strength to go back for a
mackintosh. Such incidents have convinced me  that  my  heart  is  basically
sound  despite  recent  diagnoses. Around midnight, a wrecker dragged my car
out. I navigated back to Highway X and traveled on. Utter weariness overtook
me and hour later, in an anonymous little town. I pulled up at the curb  and
in darkness drank deep from a friendly flask.
     The  rain  had  been  canceled miles before. It was a black warm night,
somewhere in Appalachia. Now  and  then  cars  passed  me,  red  tail-lights
receding, white headlights advancing, but the town was dead. Nobody strolled
and  laughed  on  the sidewalks as relaxing burghers would in sweet, mellow,
rotting Europe. I was alone to enjoy the  innocent  night  and  my  terrible
thoughts. A wire receptacle on the curb was very particular about acceptable
contents: Sweepings. Paper. No Garbage. Sherry-red letters of light marked a
Camera  Shop.  A large thermometer with the name of a laxative quietly dwelt
on the front of a drugstore. Rubinov's Jewelry  company  had  a  display  of
artificial diamonds reflected in a red mirror. A lighted green clock swam in
the linenish depths of Jiffy Jeff Laundry. On the other side of the street a
garage  said  in  its sleep--genuflection lubricity; and corrected itself to
Gulflex Lubrication. An airplane, also gemmed by Rubinov,  passed,  droning,
in  the  velvet heavens. How many small dead-of-night towns I had seen! This
was not yet the last.
     Let me dally a little, he is as good as  destroyed.  Some  way  further
across  the  street,  neon  lights flickered twice slower than my heart: the
outline of a restaurant sign, a large coffee-pot, kept bursting, every  full
second  or  so,  into emerald life, and every time it went out, pink letters
saying Fine Foods relayed it, but the pot could  still  be  made  out  as  a
latent  shadow teasing the eye before its next emerald resurrection. We made
shadow-graphs. This furtive burg was not far from The Enchanted  Hunters.  I
was weeping again, drunk on the impossible past.


At  this  solitary  stop for refreshments between Coalmont and Ramsdale
(between innocent Dolly Schiller and jovial Uncle Ivor), I reviewed my case.
With the utmost simplicity and  clarity  I  now  saw  myself  and  my  love.
Previous  attempts  seemed  out  of  focus  in comparison. A couple of years
before, under the guidance of an intelligent French-speaking  confessor,  to
whom,   in  a  moment  of  metaphysical  curiosity,  I  had  turned  over  a
Protestant's drab atheism for an old-fashioned popish cure, I had  hoped  to
deduce  from  my  sense  of  sin  the existence of a Supreme Being. On those
frosty mornings in rime-laced Quebec, the good priest worked on me with  the
finest  tenderness and understanding. I am infinitely obliged to him and the
great Institution he represented. Alas, I was unable to transcend the simple
human fact that whatever spiritual solace I might find, whatever lithophanic
eternities might be provided for me, nothing could make my Lolita forget the
foul lust I had inflicted upon her. Unless it can be proven to me--to me  as
I  am  now,  today, with my heart and by beard, and my putrefaction--that in
the infinite run it does not matter a jot that a North  American  girl-child
named  Dolores  Haze  had been deprived of her childhood by a maniac, unless
this can be proven (and if it can, then life is a joke), I see  nothing  for
the  treatment  of my misery but the melancholy and very local palliative of
articulate art. To quote an old poet:

     The moral sense in mortals is the duty
     We have to pay on mortal sense of beauty.


There  was  the  day,  during  our  first  trip--our  first  circle  of
paradise--when  in  order to enjoy my phantasms in peace I firmly decided to
ignore what I could not help perceiving, the fact that I was to  her  not  a
boy friend, not a glamour man, not a pal, not even a person at all, but just
two  eyes and a foot of engorged brawn--to mention only mentionable matters.
There was the day when having withdrawn the functional promise  I  had  made
her  on  the  eve  (whatever she had set her funny little heart on--a roller
rink with some special plastic floor or a movie matinee to which she  wanted
to  go  alone),  I  happened  to glimpse from the bathroom, through a chance
combination of mirror aslant and door ajar, a look on her face .  .  .  that
look  I  cannot  exactly  describe  .  .  . an expression of helplessness so
perfect that it seemed to grade into one of rather comfortable inanity  just
because  this  was  the  very  limit of injustice and frustration--and every
limit presupposes something beyond it--hence the neutral  illumination.  And
when you bear in mind that these were the raised eyebrows and parted lips of
a child, you may better appreciate what depths of calculated carnality, what
reflected  despair,  restrained  me  from  falling  at  her  dear  feet  and
dissolving in human tears, and sacrificing my jealousy to whatever  pleasure
Lolita might hope to derive from mixing with dirty and dangerous children in
an outside world that was real to her.
     And  I  have  still  other smothered memories, now unfolding themselves
into  limbless  monsters  of  pain.  Once,  in  a  sunset-ending  street  of
Beardsley,  she  turned to little Eva Rosen (I was taking both nymphets to a
concert and walking behind them so close as almost to  touch  them  with  my
person), she turned to Eva, and so very serenely and seriously, in answer to
something  the other had said about its being better to die than hear Milton
Pinski, some local schoolboy she knew, talk about music, my Lolita remarked:
     "You know, what's so dreadful about dying is that you are completely on
your own"; and it struck me, as my automaton knees went up and down, that  I
simply did not know a thing about my darling's mind and that quite possibly,
behind the awful juvenile clichиs, there was in her a garden and a twilight,
and a palace gate--dim and adorable regions which happened to be lucidly and
absolutely  forbidden  to me, in my polluted rags and miserable convulsions;
for I often noticed that living as we did, she and I, in a  world  of  total
evil,  we  would  become  strangely  embarrassed whenever I tried to discuss
something she and an older friend, she and a parent, she and a real  healthy
sweetheart, I and Annabel, Lolita and a sublime, purified, analyzed, deified
Harold  Haze,  might  have discussed--an abstract idea, a painting, stippled
Hopkins or shorn Baudelaire, God or Shakespeare, anything of  genuine  kind.
Good  will! She would mail her vulnerability in trite brashness and boredom,
whereas I, using for my desperately detached comments an artificial tone  of
voice  that  set  my  own  last  teeth on edge, provoked my audience to such
outbursts of rudeness as made any further  conversation  impossible,  oh  my
poor, bruised child.
     I  loved  you.  I  was  a  pentapod  monster,  but  I  loved you. I was
despicable and brutal, and turpid, and everything, mais je  t'aimais,  je
t'aimais! And there were times when I knew how you felt, and it was hell
to know it, my little one. Lolita girl, brave Dolly Schiller.
     I  recall  certain moments, let us call them icebergs in paradise, when
after having had my fill of her--after fabulous, insane exertions that  left
me  limp  and  azure-barred--I  would gather her in my arms with, at last, a
mute moan of human tenderness (her skin glistening in the neon light  coming
from  the  paved court through the slits in the blind, her soot-black lashes
matted, her grave gray eyes more vacant  than  ever--for  all  the  world  a
little   patient   still   in   the  confusion  of  a  drug  after  a  major
operation)--and the tenderness would deepen to  shame  and  despair,  and  I
would  lull and rock my lone light Lolita in my marble arms, and moan in her
warm hair, and caress her at random and mutely ask her blessing, and at  the
peak  of  this  human  agonized  selfless  tenderness (with my soul actually
hanging around her naked body and ready to repent), all at once, ironically,
horribly, lust would swell again--and "oh, no," Lolita would say with
a sigh to heaven, and the next moment  the  tenderness  and  the  azure--all
would be shattered.
     Mid-twentieth  century  ideas concerning child-parent relationship have
been considerably tainted  by  the  scholastic  rigmarole  and  standardized
symbols  of  the psychoanalytic racket, but I hope I am addressing myself to
unbiased readers. Once when Avis's father had honked outside to signal  papa
had come to take his pet home, I felt obliged to invite him into the parlor,
and  he  sat  down  for  a  minute,  and  while we conversed, Avis, a heavy,
unattractive, affectionate child, drew up  to  him  and  eventually  perched
plumply  on his knee. Now, I do not remember if I have mentioned that Lolita
always had an absolutely enchanting smile  for  strangers,  a  tender  furry
slitting  of the eyes, a dreamy sweet radiance of all her features which did
not mean a thing of course, but was so  beautiful,  so  endearing  that  one
found  it  hard  to  reduce such sweetness to but a magic gene automatically
lighting  up  her  face  in  atavistic  token  of  some  ancient   rite   of
welcome--hospitable prostitution, the coarse reader may say. Well, there she
stood  while  Mr. Byrd twirled his hat and talked, and--yes, look how stupid
of me, I have left out the main characteristic of the famous  Lolita  smile,
namely:  while the tender, nectared, dimpled brightness played, it was never
directed at the stranger in the room but hung in  its  own  remote  flowered
void, so to speak, or wandered with myopic softness over chance objects--and
this is what was happening now: while fat Avis sidled up to her papa, Lolita
gently  beamed  at a fruit knife that she fingered on the edge of the table,
whereon she leaned, many miles away from me. Suddenly, as Avis clung to  her
father's  neck and ear while, with a casual arm, the man enveloped his lumpy
and large offspring, I saw Lolita's smile lose all its light  and  become  a
frozen  little  shadow  of itself, and the fruit knife slipped off the table
and struck her with its silver handle a freak blow on the ankle  which  made
her  gasp,  and  crouch head forward, and then, jumping on one leg, her face
awful with the preparatory grimace which children hold till the tears  gush,
she was gone--to be followed at once and consoled in the kitchen by Avis who
had  such  a  wonderful  fat  pink  dad  and  a  small chubby brother, and a
brand-new baby sister, and a home, and two grinning  dogs,  and  Lolita  had
nothing. And I have a neat pendant to that little scene--also in a Beardsley
setting.  Lolita, who had been reading near the fire, stretched herself, and
then inquired, her elbow up, with a grunt: "Where  is  she  buried  anyway?"
"Who?"  "Oh,  you  know,  my murdered mummy." "And you know where her
grave is," I said controlling myself, whereupon I named  the  cemetery--just
outside  Ramsdale, between the railway tracks and Lakeview Hill. "Moreover,"
I added, "the tragedy of such an  accident  is  somewhat  cheapened  by  the
epithet  you  saw  fit to apply to it. If you really wish to triumph in your
mind over the idea of death--" "Ray," said Lo for hurrah, and languidly left
the room, and for a long while I stared with smarting eyes  into  the  fire.
Then  I  picked up her book. It was some trash for young people. There was a
gloomy girl Marion, and there was her  stepmother  who  turned  out  to  be,
against  all expectations, a young, gay, understanding redhead who explained
to Marion that Marion's dead mother had really been a heroic woman since she
had deliberately dissimulated her great love  for  Marion  because  she  was
dying, and did not want her child to miss her. I did not rush up to her room
with  cries.  I always preferred the mental hygiene of noninterference. Now,
squirming and pleading with my own memory, I recall that on this and similar
occasions, it was always my habit and method to ignore  Lolita's  states  of
mind  while  comforting  my  own  base  self. When my mother, in a livid wet
dress, under the tumbling mist (so I vividly imagined her), had run  panting
ecstatically  up  that  ridge  above  Moulinet  to  be  felled  there  by  a
thunderbolt, I was but an infant, and in  retrospect  no  yearnings  of  the
accepted  kind could I ever graft upon any moment of my youth, no matter how
savagely psychotherapists heckled me in my later periods of depression.  But
I  admit  that  a  man  of  my  power  of  imagination cannot plead personal
ignorance of universal emotions. I may also have  relied  too  much  on  the
abnormally chill relations between Charlotte and her daughter. But the awful
point  of  the  whole  argument is this. It had become gradually clear to my
conventional Lolita during our singular and bestial cohabitation  that  even
the  most  miserable  of  family lives was better than the parody of incest,
which, in the long run, was the best I could offer the waif.


Ramsdale revisited. I approached it from the  side  of  the  lake.  The
sunny  noon  was  all  eyes.  As  I  rode  by in my mud-flecked car, I could
distinguish scintillas of diamond water between the far pines. I turned into
the  cemetery  and  walked  among  the  long  and  short  stone   monuments.
Bonzhur,   Charlotte.   On  some  of  the  graves  there  were  pale,
transparent little national flags slumped in  the  windless  air  under  the
evergreens.  Gee,  Ed,  that was bad luck--referring to G. Edward Grammar, a
thirty-five-year-old New York office manager who had just been arrayed on  a
charge of murdering his thirty-three-year-old wife, Dorothy. Bidding for the
perfect  crime,  Ed had bludgeoned his wife and put her into a car. The case
came to light when two county policemen on patrol saw Mrs. Grammar's new big
blue Chrysler, an anniversary present from  her  husband,  speeding  crazily
down  a hill, just inside their jurisdiction (God bless our good cops!). The
car sideswiped a pole, ran up an embankment covered with beard  grass,  wild
strawberry  and  cinquefoil,  and  overturned.  The wheels were still gently
spinning in the mellow sunlight when the officers removed Mrs. G's body.  It
appeared to be routine highway accident at first. Alas, the woman's battered
body  did  not  match  up  with only minor damage suffered by the car. I did
     I rolled on. It was funny to see again the slender white church and the
enormous elms. Forgetting  that  in  an  American  suburban  street  a  lone
pedestrian  is  more conspicuous than a lone motorist, I left the car in the
avenue to  walk  unobtrusively  past  342  Lawn  Street.  Before  the  great
bloodshed, I was entitled to a little relief, to a cathartic spasm of mental
regurgitation.  Closed  were  the  white  shutters  of the Junk mansion, and
somebody had attached a found black velvet hair ribbon to the white FOR SALE
sign which was leaning toward the  sidewalk.  No  dog  barked.  No  gardener
telephoned.  No  Miss  Opposite  sat  on  the vined porch--where to the lone
pedestrian's annoyance two pony-tailed young women in identical polka-dotted
pinafores stopped doing whatever they were doing to stare at  him:  she  was
long dead, no doubt, these might be her twin nieces from Philadelphia.
     Should  I  enter  my  old  house?  As in a Turgenev story, a torrent of
Italian music came from an  open  window--that  of  the  living  room:  what
romantic  soul  was playing the piano where no piano had plunged and plashed
on that bewitched Sunday with the sun on her beloved legs?  All  at  once  I
noticed that from the lawn I had mown a golden-skinned, brown-haired nymphet
of  nine or ten, in white shorts, was looking at me with wild fascination in
her large blue-black eyes. I said something  pleasant  to  her,  meaning  no
harm, an old-world compliment, what nice eyes you have, but she retreated in
haste  and  the  music  stopped  abruptly,  and  a violent-looking dark man,
glistening with sweat, came out and glared at me. I  was  on  the  point  of
identifying  myself when, with a pang of dream-embarrassment, I became aware
of my mud-caked dungarees, my filthy and torn sweater, my bristly  chin,  my
bum's  bloodshot  eyes. Without saying a word, I turned and plodded back the
way I had come. An aster-like anemic flower grew out of a  remembered  chink
in the sidewalk. Quietly resurrected, Miss Opposite was being wheeled out by
her  nieces, onto her porch, as if it were a stage and I the star performer.
Praying she would not call to me, I hurried to my car. What a  steep  little
street.  What  a  profound  avenue.  A  red  ticket showed between wiper and
windshield; I carefully tore it into two, four, eight pieces.
     Feeling I was losing my time, I drove  energetically  to  the  downtown
hotel where I had arrived with a new bag more than five years before. I took
a  room,  made  two  appointments by telephone, shaved, bathed, put on black
clothes and went down for a drink in  the  bar.  Nothing  had  changed.  The
barroom  was suffused with the same dim, impossible garnet-red light that in
Europe years ago went with low haunts, but here meant a bit of atmosphere in
a family hotel. I sat at the same little table where at the very start of my
stay, immediately after becoming Charlotte's lodger, I had  thought  fit  to
celebrate  the  occasion  by  suavely  sharing  with  her  half  a bottle of
champagne, which had fatally conquered her poor brimming heart. As  then,  a
moon-faced  waiter was arranging with stellar care fifty sherries on a round
tray for a wedding party. Murphy-Fantasia, this time. It was  eight  minutes
to three. As I walked though the lobby, I had to skirt a group of ladies who
with  mille  grбces  were taking leave of each other after a luncheon
party. With a harsh cry of recognition, one  pounced  upon  me.  She  was  a
stout, short woman in pearl-gray, with a long, gray, slim plume to her small
hat.  It  was  Mrs.  Chatfield. She attacked me with a fake smile, all aglow
with evil curiosity. (Had I done to Dolly, perhaps, what  Frank  Lasalle,  a
fifty-year-old  mechanic,  had done o eleven-year-old Sally Horner in 1948?)
Very soon I had that avid glee well under  control  She  thought  I  was  in
California.  How  was--?  With  exquisite  pleasure  I  informed her that my
stepdaughter had just married a  brilliant  young  mining  engineer  with  a
hush-hush  job  in  the  Northwest.  She  said she disapproved of such early
marriages, she would never let her Phillys, who was now eighteen--
     "Oh yes, of course," I said quietly. "I remember Phyllis.  Phyllis  and
Camp Q. yes, of course. By the way, did she ever tell you how Charlie Holmes
debauched there his mother's little charges?"
     Mrs. Chatfiled's already broken smile now disintegrated completely.
     "For  shame," she cried, "for shame, Mr. Humbert! The poor boy has just
been killed in Korea."
     I said  didn't  she  think  "vient  de,"  with  the  infinitive,
expressed  recent  events  so much more neatly than the English "just," with
the past? But I had to be trotting off, I said.
     There were only two blocks to Windmuller's office. He greeted me with a
very slow, very enveloping, strong, searching grip.  He  thought  I  was  in
California.  Had I not lived at one time at Beardsley? His daughter had just
entered Beardsley College. And how was--? I have all  necessary  information
about  Mrs.  Schiller.  We  had a pleasant business conference. I walked out
into the hot September sunshine a contented pauper.
     Now that everything had been put out  of  the  way,  I  could  dedicate
myself  freely to the main object of my visit to Ramsdale. In the methodical
manner on which I have always  prided  myself,  I  had  been  keeping  Clare
Quilty's face masked in my dark dungeon, where he was waiting for me to come
with   barber  and  priest:  "Rиveillez-vous, Laqueue, il  est  temps  de
mourir!"  I  have  no  time  right  now  to  discuss  the  mnemonics  of
physiognomization--I  am on my way to his uncle and walking fast--but let me
jot down this: I had preserved in the alcohol of a clouded memory  the  toad
of  a  face.  In  the  course  of  a  few glimpses, I had noticed its slight
resemblance to a cheery and rather repulsive wine dealer, a relative of mine
in Switzerland. With his dumbbells and stinking tricot, and fat hairy  arms,
and  bald  patch,  and  pig-faced  servant-concubine,  he was on the whole a
harmless old rascal. Too harmless, in fact, to be confused with my prey.  In
the state of mind I now found myself, I had lost contact with Trapp's image.
It   had  become  completely  engulfed  by  the  face  of  Clare  Quilty--as
represented, with artistic precision, by an easeled photograph of  him  that
stood on his uncle's desk.
     In  Beardsley,  at  the hands of charming Dr. Molnar, I had undergone a
rather serious dental operation, retaining only a few upper and lower  front
teeth.  The  substitutes  were  dependent  on  a  system  of  plates with an
inconspicuous wire affair running along my upper gums. The whole arrangement
was a masterpiece of  comfort,  and  my  canines  were  in  perfect  health.
However,  to  garnish my secret purpose with a plausible pretext, I told Dr.
Quilty that, in hope of alleviating facial neuralgia, I had decided to  have
all  my  teeth removed. What would a complete set of dentures cost? How long
would the process take, assuming we fixed our  first  appointment  for  some
time  in  November? Where was his famous nephew now? Would it be possible to
have them all out in one dramatic session?
     A white-smocked, gray-haired man, with a crew  cut  and  the  big  flat
cheeks  of  a  politician, Dr. Quilty perched on the corner of his desk, one
foot  dreamily  and  seductively  rocking  as  he  launched  on  a  glorious
long-range plan. He would first provide me with provisional plates until the
gums settled. Then he would make me a permanent set. He would like to have a
look  at  that  mouth  of  mine.  He  wore perforated pied shoes. He had not
visited with the rascal since 1946, but supposed he could be  found  at  his
ancestral  home,  Grimm Road, not far from Parkington. It was a noble dream.
His foot rocked, his gaze was inspired. It would cost me around six hundred.
He suggested he take measurements right away, and make the first set  before
starting  operations.  My mouth was to him a splendid cave full of priceless
treasures, but I denied him entrance.
     "No," I said. "On second thoughts, I shall have  it  all  done  by  Dr.
Molnar.  His price is higher, but he is of course a much better dentist than
     I do not know if any of my readers will ever have a chance to say that.
It is a delicious dream feeling. Clare's uncle remained sitting on the desk,
still looking dreamy, but his foot had stopped push-rocking  the  cradle  of
rosy  anticipation.  On  the  other  hand, his nurse, a skeleton-thin, faded
girl, with the tragic eyes of unsuccessful blondes, rushed after me so as to
be able to slam the door in my wake.
     Push the magazine into the butt. Press home until you hear or feel  the
magazine  catch  engage. Delightfully snug. Capacity: eight cartridges. Full
Blued. Aching to be discharged.


A gas station attendant in Parkington explained to me very clearly  how
to  get  to  Grimm  Road.  Wishing  to  be  sure  Quilty would be at home, I
attempted to ring him up but learned that his private telephone had recently
been disconnected. Did that mean he was gone? I started to  drive  to  Grimm
Road, twelve miles north of the town. By that time night had eliminated most
of  the  landscape and as I followed the narrow winding highway, a series of
short posts, ghostly white, with  reflectors,  borrowed  my  own  lights  to
indicate  this  or that curve. I could make out a dark valley on one side of
the road and wooded slopes on the other, and in front of me,  like  derelict
snowflakes,  moths drifted out of the blackness into my probing aura. At the
twelfth mile, as foretold, a curiously  hooded  bridge  sheathed  me  for  a
moment  and,  beyond  it, a white-washed rock loomed on the right, and a few
car lengths further, on the same side, I turned off the highway up  gravelly
Grimm  Road. For a couple of minutes all was dank, dark, dense forest. Then,
Pavor Manor, a wooden house with a turret, arose in a circular clearing. Its
windows glowed yellow and red; its drive was cluttered  with  half  a  dozen
cars.  I  stopped  in  the  shelter  of the trees and abolished my lights to
ponder the next move quietly. He would be surrounded  by  his  henchmen  and
whores.  I  could  not help seeing the inside of that festive and ramshackle
castle in terms of "Troubled Teens," a story in one of her magazines,  vague
"orgies,"  a  sinister adult with penele cigar, drugs, bodyguards. At least,
he was there. I would return in the torpid morning.
     Gently I rolled back to town, in that old faithful car  of  mine  which
was serenely, almost cheerfully working for me. My Lolita! There was still a
three-year-old  bobby  pin  of  hers in the depths of the glove compartment.
There was still that stream of pale moths siphoned out of the  night  by  my
headlights.  Dark  barns  still  propped themselves up here and there by the
roadside. People were still going to the movies. While searching  for  night
lodgings,  I  passed  a  drive-in. In a selenian glow, truly mystical in its
contrast with the moonless and massive night, on a gigantic screen  slanting
away  among dark drowsy fields, a thin phantom raised a gun, both he and his
arm reduced to tremulous dishwater by the oblique  angle  of  that  receding
world,--and the next moment a row of trees shut off the gesticulation.


I  left Insomnia Lodge next morning around eight and spent some time in
Parkington. Visions of bungling the execution kept  obsessing  me.  Thinking
that perhaps the cartridges in the automatic had gone stale during a week of
inactivity,  I  removed them and inserted a fresh batch. Such a thorough oil
bath did I give Chum that now I could not get rid of the stuff.  I  bandaged
him  up  with  a  rag, like a maimed limb, and used another rag to wrap up a
handful of spare bullets.
     A thunderstorm accompanied me most of the way back to Grimm  Road,  but
when  I  reached Pavor Manor, the sun was visible again, burning like a man,
and the birds screamed in the drenched and steaming trees. The elaborate and
decrepit house seemed to stand in a kind of daze, reflecting as it  were  my
own  state,  for  I could not help realizing, as my feet touched the springy
and insecure ground, that I had overdone the alcoholic stimulation business.
     A guardedly ironic silence answered my bell. The garage,  however,  was
loaded with his car, a black convertible for the nonce. I tried the knocker.
Re-nobody. With a petulant snarl, I pushed the front door--and, how nice, it
swung open as in a medieval fairy tale. Having softly closed it behind me, I
made  my  way  across a spacious and very ugly hall; peered into an adjacent
drawing room; noticed a number of used glasses growing out  of  the  carpet;
decided that master was still asleep in the master bedroom.
     So  I  trudged  upstairs.  My  right  hand  clutched muffled Chum in my
pocket, my left patted  the  sticky  banisters.  Of  the  three  bedrooms  I
inspected,  one  had obviously been slept in that night. There was a library
full of flowers. There was a rather bare room with ample  and  deep  mirrors
and a polar bear skin on the slippery floor. There were still other rooms. A
happy  though struck me. If and when master returned from his constitutional
in the woods, or emerged from some secret lair, it  might  be  wise  for  an
unsteady  gunman  with  a  long  job before him to prevent his playmate from
locking himself up in a room. Consequently, for at least five minutes I went
about--lucidly  insane,  crazily  calm,  an   enchanted   and   very   tight
hunter--turning  whatever  keys  in  whatever locks there were and pocketing
more planned privacy than have modern glamour-boxes, where the bathroom, the
only lockable locus, has to  be  used  for  the  furtive  needs  of  planned
     Speaking  of  bathrooms--I  was  about to visit a third one when master
came out of it, leaving a brief  waterfall  behind  him.  The  corner  of  a
passage   did   not  quite  conceal  me.  Gray-faced,  baggy-eyed,  fluffily
disheveled in a scanty balding way, but  still  perfectly  recognizable,  he
swept  by  me  in  a purple bathrobe, very like one I had. He either did not
notice  me,  or  else  dismissed  me  as   some   familiar   and   innocuous
hallucination--and,   showing   me   his   hairy   calves,   he   proceeded,
sleepwalker-wise, downstairs. I pocketed my last key and followed  him  into
the  entrance hall. He had half opened his mouth and the front door, to peer
out through a sunny chink as one who thinks  he  has  heard  a  half-hearted
visitor  ring  and recede. Then, still ignoring the raincoated phantasm that
had stopped in midstairs, master walked into a cozy boudoir across the  hall
from the drawing room, through which--taking it easy, knowing he was safe--I
now  went  away  from  him,  and in a bar-adorned kitchen gingerly unwrapped
dirty Chum, talking care not to leave any oil stains on the chrome--I  think
I  got  the  wrong  product,  it  was  black  and awfully messy. In my usual
meticulous way, I transferred naked Chum to a clean recess about me and made
for the little boudoir. My step, as I say, was springy--too springy  perhaps
for  success. But my heart pounded with tiger joy, and I crunched a cocktail
glass underfoot.
     Master met me in the Oriental parlor.
     "Now who are you?" he asked in a high hoarse voice,  his  hands  thrust
into  his dressing-gown pockets, his eyes fixing a point to the northeast of
my head. "Are you by any chance Brewster?"
     By now it was evident to everybody that he was in a fog and  completely
at my so-called mercy. I could enjoy myself.
     "That's  right," I answered suavely. "Je suis Monsieur Brustхre.
Let us chat for a moment before we start."
     He looked pleased. His smudgy mustache twitched. I removed my raincoat.
I was wearing a black suit, a black shirt, no tie. We sat down in  two  easy
     "You know," he said, scratching loudly his fleshy and gritty gray cheek
and showing his small pearly teeth in a crooked grin, "you don't look
like Jack  Brewster.  I  mean, the resemblance is not particularly striking.
Somebody told me he had a brother with the same telephone company."
     To have him trapped, after those years of repentance and rage . . .  To
look  at the black hairs on the back of his pudgy hands . . . To wander with
a hundred eyes over his purple silks and  hirsute  chest  foreglimpsing  the
punctures,   and  mess,  and  music  of  pain  .  .  .  To  know  that  this
semi-animated, subhuman trickster  who  had  sodomized  my  darling--oh,  my
darling, this was intolerable bliss!
     "No, I am afraid I am neither of the Brewsters."
     He cocked his head, looking more pleased than ever.
     "Guess again, Punch."
     "Ah,"  said  Punch,  "so  you  have  not  come to bother me about those
long-distance calls?"
     "You do make them once in a while, don't you?"
     "Excuse me?"
     I said I had said I thought he had said he had never--
     "People," he said, "people in general, I'm not accusing you,  Brewster,
but  you  know  it's  absurd the way people invade this damned house without
even knocking. They use the vaterre, they use the kitchen,  they  use
the  telephone.  Phil  calls  Philadelphia. Pat calls Patagonia. I refuse to
pay. You have a funny accent, Captain."
     "Quilty," I said, "do you recall a little  girl  called  Dolores  Haze,
Dolly Haze? Dolly called Dolores, Colo.?"
     "Sure, she may have made those calls, sure. Any place. Paradise, Wash.,
Hell Canyon. Who cares?"
     "I do, Quilty. You see, I am her father."
     "Nonsense," he said. "You are not. You are some foreign literary agent.
A Frenchman  once  translated  my  Proud  Flesh as La Fiertи de la
Chair. Absurd."
     "She was my child, Quilty."
     In the state he was in he could not really be taken aback by  anything,
but  his  blustering manner was not quite convincing. A sort of wary inkling
kindled his eyes into a semblance of  life.  They  were  immediately  dulled
     "I'm  very fond of children myself," he said, "and fathers are among my
best friends."
     He turned his head away, looking for something. He beat his pockets. He
attempted to rise from his seat.
     "Down!" I said--apparently much louder than I intended.
     "You need not roar at  me,"  he  complained  in  his  strange  feminine
manner. "I just wanted a smoke. I'm dying for a smoke."
     "You're dying anyway."
     "Oh, chucks," he said. "You begin to bore me. What do you want? Are you
French,  mister?  Wooly-woo-boo-are?  Let's go to the barroomette and have a
     He saw the little dark weapon lying in my palm as if I were offering it
to him.
     "Say!" he drawled (now imitating the underworld  numskull  of  movies),
"that's a swell little gun you've got there. What d'you want for her?"
     I slapped down his outstretched hand and he managed to knock over a box
on a low table near him. It ejected a handful of cigarettes.
     "Here  they are," he said cheerfully. "You recall Kipling: une femme
est une femme, mais un Caporal est une cigarette? Now we need matches."
     "Quilty," I said. "I want you to concentrate. You are going to die in a
moment.  The  hereafter  for  all  we  know  may  be  an  eternal  state  of
excruciating   insanity.   You   smoked   your   last  cigarette  yesterday.
Concentrate. Try to understand what is happening to you."
     He kept taking the Drome cigarette apart and munching bits of it.
     "I am willing to try," he said. "You are either Australian, or a German
refugee. Must you talk to me? This is a Gentile's house,  you  know.  Maybe,
you'd  better  run  along.  And  do stop demonstrating that gun. I've an old
Stern-Luger in the music room."
     I pointed Chum at his  slippered  foot  and  crushed  the  trigger.  It
clicked.  He  looked  at  his foot, at the pistol, again at his foot. I made
another awful effort, and, with a ridiculously feeble and juvenile sound, it
went off. The bullet entered the thick pink rug, and I  had  the  paralyzing
impression that it had merely trickled in and might come out again.
     "See  what  I mean?" said Quilty. "You should be a little more careful.
Give me that thing for Christ's sake."
     He reached for it. I pushed him back into the chair. The rich  joy  was
waning.  It was high time I destroyed him, but he must understand why he was
being destroyed. His condition infected me, the weapon felt limp and  clumsy
in my hand.
     "Concentrate,"  I  said,  "on  the  thought  of  Dolly  Haze  whom  you
     "I did not!" he cried. "You're all wet. I  saved  her  from  a  beastly
pervert.  Show  me  your badge instead of shooting at my foot, you ape, you.
Where is that badge? I'm not responsible for the rapes  of  others.  Absurd!
That  joy  ride, I grant you, was a silly stunt but you got her back, didn't
you? Come, let's have a drink."
     I asked him whether he wanted to be executed sitting or standing.
     "Ah,  let  me  think,"  he  said.  "It  is  not   an   easy   question.
Incidentally--I  made a mistake. Which I sincerely regret. You see, I had no
fun with your Dolly. I am  practically  impotent,  to  tell  the  melancholy
truth.  And  I gave her a splendid vacation. She met some remarkable people.
Do you happen to know--"
     And with a tremendous lurch he fell all over  me,  sending  the  pistol
hurtling  under  a  chest of drawers. Fortunately he was more impetuous than
vigorous, and I had little difficulty in shoving him back into his chair.
     He puffed a little and folded his arms on his chest.
     "Now you've done it," he said. "Vous voilю dans de beaux draps,  mon
     His French was improving.
     I  looked  around. Perhaps, if--Perhaps I could--On my hands and knees?
Risk it?
     "Alors, que fait-on?" he asked watching me closely.
     I stooped. He did not moved. I stooped lower.
     "My dear sir," he said, "stop trifling with life  and  death.  I  am  a
playwright.  I  have  written  tragedies,  comedies,  fantasies. I have made
private  movies  out  of   Justine   and   other   eighteenth-century
sexcapades. I'm the author of fifty-two successful scenarios. I know all the
ropes.  Let  me  handle this. There should be a poker somewhere, why don't I
fetch it, and then we'll fish out your property."
     Fussily, busybodily, cunningly, he had risen again while he  talked.  I
groped under the chest trying at the same time to keep an eye on him. All of
a  sudden  I noticed that he had noticed that I did not seem to have noticed
Chum protruding from beneath the other corner  of  the  chest.  We  fell  to
wrestling  again.  We  rolled all over the floor, in each other's arms, like
two huge helpless children. He was naked and goatish under his robe,  and  I
felt  suffocated as he rolled over me. I rolled over him. We rolled over me.
They rolled over him. We rolled over us.
     In its published form, this book is being read, I assume, in the  first
years  of  2000  A.D.  (1935 plus eighty or ninety, live long, my love); and
elderly readers will surely recall at this point the obligatory scene in the
Westerns of their childhood. Our tussle,  however,  lacked  the  ox-stunning
fisticuffs,  the  flying furniture. He and I were two large dummies, stuffed
with dirty cotton and rags. It was a silent, soft, formless  tussle  on  the
part  of  two literati, one of whom was utterly disorganized by a drug while
the other was handicapped by a heart condition and too  much  gin.  When  at
last  I  had possessed myself of my precious weapon, and the scenario writer
had been reinstalled in his low chair, both of us were panting as the cowman
and the sheepman never do after their battle.
     I  decided  to  inspect  the  pistol--our  sweat  might  have   spoiled
something--and  regain  my  wind  before  proceeding to the main item in the
program. To fill in the pause, I proposed he read his own  sentence--in  the
poetical form I had given it. The term "poetical justice" is one that may be
most happily used in this respect. I handed him a neat typescript.
     "Yes,"  he  said,  "splendid idea. Let me fetch my reading glasses" (he
attempted to rise).
     "Just as you say. Shall I read out loud?"
     "Here goes. I see it's in verse.

     Because you took advantage of a sinner
     because you took advantage
     because you took
     because you took advantage of my disadvantage . . .

     "That's good, you know. That's damned good."

     . . . when I stood Adam-naked
     before a federal law and all its stinging stars

     "Oh, grand stuff!"

     . . . Because you took advantage of a sin
     when I was helpless moulting moist and tender
     hoping for the best
     dreaming of marriage in a mountain state
     aye of a litter of Lolitas . . .

     "Didn't get that."

     Because you took advantage of my inner
     essential innocence
     because you cheated me--

     "A little repetitious, what? Where was I?"

     Because you cheated me of my redemption
     because you took
     her at the age when lads
     play with erector sets

     "Getting smutty, eh?"

     a little downy girl still wearing poppies
     still eating popcorn in the colored gloam
     where tawny Indians took paid croppers
     because you stole her
     from her wax-browed and dignified protector
     spitting into his heavy-lidded eye
     ripping his flavid toga and at dawn
     leaving the hog to roll upon his new discomfort
     the awfulness of love and violets
     remorse despair while you
     took a dull doll to pieces
     and threw its head away
     because of all you did
     because of all I did not
     you have to die

     "Well, sir, this is certainly a fine poem. Your  best  as  far  as  I'm
     He folded and handed it back to me.
     I  asked  him  if  he  had  anything  serious  to say before dying. The
automatic was again ready for use on the person. He looked at it and  heaved
a big sigh.
     "Now  look here, Mac," he said. "You are drunk and I am a sick man. Let
us postpone the matter. I need quiet. I have to nurse my impotence.  Friends
are  coming in the afternoon to take me to a game. This pistol-packing farce
is  becoming  a  frightful  nuisance.  We  are  men   of   the   world,   in
everything--sex,  free  verse,  marksmanship.  If you bear me a grudge, I am
ready to make unusual amends. Even an old-fashioned rencontre,  sword
or  pistol, in Rio or elsewhere--is not excluded. My memory and my eloquence
are not at their best today, but really, my dear Mr. Humbert, you  were  not
an ideal stepfather, and I did not force your little protиgиe to join me. It
was she made me remove her to a happier home. This house is not as modern as
that ranch we shared with dear friends. But it is roomy, cool in summer  and
winter, and in a word comfortable, so, since I intend retiring to England or
Florence  forever,  I  suggest  you  move in. It is yours, gratis. Under the
condition you stop pointing at me that [he swore disgustingly] gun.  By  the
way,  I  do not know if you care for the bizarre, but if you do, I can offer
you, also gratis, as house pet, a rather exciting little freak, a young lady
with three breasts, one a dandy, this is a rare  and  delightful  marvel  of
nature.  Now,  soyons  raisonnables. You will only wound me hideously
and then rot in jail while I recuperate in a  tropical  setting.  I  promise
you,  Brewster,  you  will be happy here, with a magnificent cellar, and all
the royalties from my next play--I have not much at the bank right now but I
propose to borrow--you know, as the Bard said, with that cold in  his  head,
to  borrow  and to borrow and to borrow. There are other advantages. We have
here a most  reliable  and  bribable  charwoman,  a  Mrs.  Vibrissa--curious
name--who  comes  from  the  village  twice  a week, alas not today, she has
daughters, granddaughters, a thing or two I know about the chief  of  police
makes  him  my  slave.  I  am  a playwright. I have been called the American
Maeterlinck. Maeterlinck-Schmetterling, says I. Come on! All  this  is  very
humiliating,  and  I  am  not  sure  I  am  doing the right thing. Never use
herculanita with rum. Now drop that pistol like a good fellow. I  knew  your
dear  wife  slightly.  You  may  use my wardrobe. Oh, another thing--you are
going to like this. I  have  an  absolutely  unique  collection  of  erotica
upstairs.  Just  to  mention  one  item:  the  in folio de-luxe Bagration
Island by the explorer and psychoanalyst  Melanie  Weiss,  a  remarkable
lady,  a  remarkable  work--drop that gun--with photographs of eight hundred
and something male organs she examined and measured in 1932 on Bagration, in
the Barda Sea, very illuminating graphs, plotted with  love  under  pleasant
skies--drop  that  gun--and  moreover  I  can  arrange  for  you  to  attend
executions, not everybody knows that the chair is painted yellow--"
     Feu. This time I hit something hard. I hit the back of  a  black
rocking chair, not unlike Dolly Schiller's--my bullet hit the inside surface
of  its  back  whereupon it immediately went into a rocking act, so fast and
with  such  zest  that  any  one  coming  into  the  room  might  have  been
flabbergasted  by  the  double miracle: that chair rocking in a panic all by
itself, and the armchair, where my purple target had just been, now void  of
all life content. Wiggling his fingers in the air, with a rapid heave of his
rump, he flashed into the music room and the next second we were tugging and
gasping  on  both  sides of the door which had a key I had overlooked. I won
again, and with another abrupt movement Clare  the  Impredictable  sat  down
before  the  piano  and  played  several atrociously vigorous, fundamentally
hysterical, plangent chords, his jowls quivering, his spread  hands  tensely
plunging,  and  his  nostrils  emitting the soundtrack snorts which had been
absent from our fight. Still singing those impossible sonorities, he made  a
futile  attempt  to  open  with  his  foot a kind of seaman's chest near the
piano. My next bullet caught him somewhere in the side, and he rose from his
chair higher and higher, like old, gray, mad Nijinski,  like  Old  faithful,
like  some old nightmare of mine, to a phenomenal altitude, or so it seemed,
as he rent the air--still shaking with the  rich  black  music--head  thrown
back  in a howl, hand pressed to his brow, and with his other hand clutching
his armpit as if stung by a hornet, down he came on his heels and,  again  a
normal robed man, scurried out into the hall.
     I  see  myself  following  him through the hall, with a kind of double,
triple, kangaroo jump, remaining  quite  straight  on  straight  legs  while
bouncing  up  twice in his wake, and then bouncing between him and the front
door in a ballet-like stiff bounce, with the purpose  of  heading  him  off,
since the door was not properly closed.
     Suddenly  dignified,  and  somewhat  morose,  he started to walk up the
broad stairs, and, shifting my position, but not actually following  him  up
the  steps, I fired three or four times in quick succession, wounding him at
every blaze; and every time I did it to him, that horrible thing to him, his
face would twitch in an absurd clownish manner, as if he  were  exaggerating
the  pain;  he  slowed  down,  rolled  his eyes half closing them and made a
feminine "ah!" and he shivered every time a bullet hit  him  as  if  I  were
tickling  him,  and  every  time  I  got  him with those slow, clumsy, blind
bullets of mine, he would  say  under  his  breath,  with  a  phony  British
accent--all  the while dreadfully twitching, shivering, smirking, but withal
talking in a curiously detached and even amiable manner:  "Ah,  that  hurts,
sir, enough! Ah, that hurts atrociously, my dear fellow. I pray you, desist.
Ah--very  painful,  very painful, indeed . . . God! Hah! This is abominable,
you should really not--" His voice trailed off as he  reached  the  landing,
but  he  steadily walked on despite all the lead I had lodged in his bloated
body--and in distress, in dismay, I understood that far from killing  him  I
was  injecting  spurts of energy into the poor fellow, as if the bullets had
been capsules wherein a heady elixir danced.
     I reloaded the thing with hands  that  were  black  and  bloody--I  had
touched  something  he had anointed with his thick gore. Then I rejoined him
upstairs, the keys jangling in my pockets like gold.
     He was trudging from room to room,  bleeding  majestically,  trying  to
find  an  open  window, shaking his head, and still trying to talk me out of
murder. I took aim at his head, and he retired to the master bedroom with  a
burst of royal purple where his ear had been.
     "Get  out,  get  out  of here," he said coughing and spitting; and in a
nightmare of wonder, I saw this blood-spattered but still buoyant person get
into his bed and wrap himself up in the chaotic bedclothes.  I  hit  him  at
very  close range through the blankets, and then he lay back, and a big pink
bubble with juvenile connotations formed on his lips, grew to the size of  a
toy balloon, and vanished.
     I  may  have lost contact with reality for a second or two--oh, nothing
of the I-just-blacked-out sort that your  common  criminal  enacts;  on  the
contrary,  I  want  to stress the fact that I was responsible for every shed
drop of his bubbleblood; but a kind of momentary shift occurred as if I were
in the connubial bedroom, and Charlotte were sick in bed. Quilty was a  very
sick man. I held one of his slippers instead of the pistol--I was sitting on
the  pistol.  Then I made myself a little more comfortable in the chair near
the bed, and consulted my wrist watch. The crystal was gone but  it  ticked.
The  whole  sad  business had taken more than an hour. He was quiet at last.
Far from feeling any relief, a burden even weightier  than  the  one  I  had
hoped  to get rid of was with me, upon me, over me. I could not bring myself
to touch him in order to make sure he was  really  dead.  He  looked  it:  a
quarter  of  his  face  gone, and two flies beside themselves with a dawning
sense of unbelievable luck. My hands were hardly in  better  condition  than
his.  I  washed  up  as  best  I could in the adjacent bathroom. Now I could
leave. As I emerged on  the  landing,  I  was  amazed  to  discover  that  a
vivacious  buzz  I had just been dismissing as a mere singing in my ears was
really a medley of voices and radio music coming from the downstairs drawing
     I found there a number of people who apparently had  just  arrived  and
were  cheerfully  drinking  Quilty's  liquor. There was a fat man in an easy
chair; and two dark-haired pale young beauties, sisters no  doubt,  big  one
and  small one (almost a child), demurely sat side by side on a davenport. A
florid-faced fellow with sapphire-blue eyes was in the act of  bringing  two
glasses  out of the bar-like kitchen, where two or three women were chatting
and chinking ice. I stopped in the doorway and said:  "I  have  just  killed
Clare  Quilty."  "Good for you," said the florid fellow as he offered one of
the drinks to the elder girl. "Somebody ought to have  done  it  long  ago,"
remarked  the  fat  man. "What does he say, Tony?" asked a faded blonde from
the bar. "He says," answered the florid fellow, "he has killed Cue." "Well,"
said another unidentified man rising in a corner where he had been crouching
to inspect some records, "I guess we all should do  it  to  him  some  day."
"Anyway,"  said  Tony,  "he'd  better  come down. We can't wait for him much
longer if we want to go to that game." "Give this  man  a  drink  somebody,"
said the fat person. "What a beer?" said a woman in slacks, showing it to me
from afar.
     Only  the  two  girls on the davenport, both wearing black, the younger
fingering a bright something about her white neck, only they  said  nothing,
but  just  smiled  on,  so young, so lewd. As the music paused for a moment,
there was a sudden noise on the stairs. Tony and  I  stepped  out  into  the
hall.  Quilty  of  all people had managed to crawl out onto the landing, and
there we could see him, flapping and heaving, and  then  subsiding,  forever
this time, in a purple heap.
     "Hurry  up,  Cue," said Tony with a laugh. "I believe, he's still--" He
returned to the drawing room, music drowned the rest of the sentence.
     This, I said to myself, was the end of the ingenious play staged for me
by Quilty. With a heavy heart I left the house and walked though the spotted
blaze of the sun to my car. Two other cars were parked on both sides of  it,
and I had some trouble squeezing out.


The  rest  is a little flattish and faded. Slowly I drove downhill, and
presently found myself going at the same lazy pace in a  direction  opposite
to  Parkington.  I  had  left  my  raincoat  in  the boudoir and Chum in the
bathroom. No, it was not a house I would have liked to live in.  I  wondered
idly  if  some surgeon of genius might not alter his own career, and perhaps
the whole destiny of mankind, by reviving quilted Quilty, Clare Obscure. Not
that I cared; on the whole I wished to forget the whole mess--and when I did
learn he was dead, the only satisfaction it  gave  me,  was  the  relief  of
knowing  I  need  not mentally accompany for months a painful and disgusting
convalescence interrupted by  all  kinds  of  unmentionable  operations  and
relapses,  and  perhaps an actual visit from him, with trouble on my part to
rationalize him as not being a ghost. Thomas had something.  It  is  strange
that  the  tactile  sense,  which is so infinitely less precious to men than
sight, becomes at critical moment our main, if not only, handle to  reality.
I  was  all  covered  with  Quilty--with  the feel of that tumble before the
     The road now stretched across open country, and it occurred to  me--not
by  way  of protest, not as a symbol, or anything like that, but merely as a
novel experience--that since I had disregarded all laws of humanity, I might
as well disregard the rules of traffic. So I crossed to the left side of the
highway and checked the feeling, and the feeling was good. It was a pleasant
diaphragmal melting, with elements of diffused tactility, all this  enhanced
by  the  thought  that  nothing  could be nearer to the elimination of basic
physical laws than deliberately driving on the wrong side of the road. In  a
way,  it  was  a very spiritual itch. Gently, dreamily, not exceeding twenty
miles an hour, I drove on that queer mirror side. Traffic  was  light.  Cars
that  now  and then passed me on the side I had abandoned to them, honked at
me brutally. Cars coming towards me wobbled, swerved, and cried out in fear.
Presently I found myself approaching populated places. Passing through a red
light was like a sip of forbidden Burgundy when I  was  a  child.  Meanwhile
complications were arising. I was being followed and escorted. Then in front
of  me  I  saw two cars placing themselves in such a manner as to completely
block my way. With a graceful movement I turned off the road, and after  two
or  three  big  bounces,  rode  up a grassy slope, among surprised cows, and
there I came to a  gentle  rocking  stop.  A  kind  of  thoughtful  Hegelian
synthesis linking up two dead women.
     I  was  soon to be taken out of the car (Hi, Melmoth, thanks a lot, old
fellow)--and was, indeed, looking forward to surrender myself to many hands,
without doing anything to  cooperate,  while  they  moved  and  carried  me,
relaxed,  comfortable,  surrendering  myself  lazily,  like  a  patient, and
deriving an eerie enjoyment from my limpness  and  the  absolutely  reliable
support  given  me  by  the police and the ambulance people. And while I was
waiting for them to run up to me on the high slope, I evoked a  last  mirage
of wonder and hopelessness. One day, soon after her disappearance, an attack
of  abominable  nausea  forced me to pull up on the ghost of an old mountain
road that now accompanied, now traversed  a  brand  new  highway,  with  its
population of asters bathing in the detached warmth of a pale-blue afternoon
in  late  summer.  After  coughing  myself inside out, I rested a while on a
boulder, and then, thinking the sweet air might do me good, walked a  little
way  toward  a low stone parapet on the precipice side of the highway. Small
grasshoppers spurted out of the withered roadside weeds. A very light  cloud
was  opening  its  arms  and  moving  toward a slightly more substantial one
belonging to another, more sluggish, heavenlogged system.  As  I  approached
the  friendly abyss, I grew aware of a melodious unity of sounds rising like
vapor from a small mining town that lay at my feet, in a fold of the valley.
One could make out the geometry of the streets between  blocks  of  red  and
gray roofs, and green puffs of trees, and a serpentine stream, and the rich,
ore-like  glitter of the city dump, and beyond the town, roads crisscrossing
the crazy quilt of dark and pale fields, and behind it all,  great  timbered
mountains.  But even brighter than those quietly rejoicing colors--for there
are colors and shades that seem to enjoy themselves  in  good  company--both
brighter  and dreamier to the ear than they were to the eye, was that vapory
vibration of accumulated sounds that never ceased for a moment, as  it  rose
to  the  lip  of  granite  where  I  stood  wiping my foul mouth. And soon I
realized that all these sounds were of one nature, that no other sounds  but
these  came from the streets of the transparent town, with the women at home
and the men away. Reader! What I heard was but the  melody  of  children  at
play,  nothing but that, and so limpid was the air that within this vapor of
blended voices, majestic and minute, remote and magically  near,  frank  and
divinely  enigmatic--one  could hear now and then, as if released, an almost
articulate spurt of vivid laughter, or the crack of a bat, or the clatter of
a toy wagon, but it was all really too far for the eye  to  distinguish  any
movement  in  the  lightly etched streets. I stood listening to that musical
vibration from my lofty slope, to those flashes of  separate  cries  with  a
kind  of  demure  murmur for background, and then I knew that the hopelessly
poignant thing was not Lolita's absence from my side, but the absence of her
voice from that concord.
     This then is my story. I have reread it. It has bits of marrow sticking
to it, and blood, and beautiful bright-green flies. At this or that twist of
it I feel my slippery self eluding me, gliding into deeper and darker waters
than I care to probe. I have camouflaged what I could  so  as  not  to  hurt
people.  And  I have toyed with many pseudonyms for myself before I hit on a
particularly apt one. There are in my notes "Otto Otto" and "Mesmer  Mesmer"
and  "Lambert  Lambert," but for some reason I think my choice expresses the
nastiness best.
     When I started, fifty-six days ago, to write  Lolita,  first  in
the  psychopathic ward for observation, and then in this well-heated, albeit
tombal, seclusion, I thought I would use these notes in toto at my trial, to
save not my head, of course, but my soul. In  mind-composition,  however,  I
realized  that  I  could  not parade living Lolita. I still may use parts of
this memoir in hermetic sessions, but publication is to be deferred.
     For reasons that may appear more obvious than they  really  are,  I  am
opposed to capital punishment; this attitude will be, I trust, shared by the
sentencing  judge.  Had  I come before myself, I would have given Humbert at
least thirty-five years for rape, and dismissed the rest of the charges. But
even so, Dolly  Schiller  will  probably  survive  me  by  many  years.  The
following  decision I make with all the legal impact and support of a signed
testament: I wish this memoir to be published only when Lolita is no  longer
     Thus, neither of us is alive when the reader opens this book. But while
the blood  still  throbs through my writing hand, you are still as much part
of blessed matter as I am, and I can still talk to you from here to  Alaska.
Be  true  to  your  Dick. Do not let other fellows touch you. Do not talk to
strangers. I hope you will love your baby. I hope it will  be  a  boy.  That
husband  of  yours, I hope, will always treat you well, because otherwise my
specter shall come at him, like black smoke, like a demented giant, and pull
him apart nerve by nerve. And do not pity C. Q. One had  to  choose  between
him  and  H.H.,  and  one  wanted  H.H. to exist at least a couple of months
longer, so as to have him make you live in the minds of later generations. I
am thinking of aurochs and angels, the secret of durable pigments, prophetic
sonnets, the refuge of art. And this is the only immortality you and  I  may
share, my Lolita.