In December, the headmistress at Beardsley, Pratt, has a meeting with Humbert about Lolita. She believes Lolita's sexual maturation is interfering with her grades. She and all the other teachers are concerned that Lolita is uninterested in, and ignorant of, sexuality, and want Humbert to encourage her to socialize with boys. They also want him to allow her to participate in the play "The Hunted Enchanters," especially since the author will visit in the spring. Humbert agrees to the play.
Lolita gets sick, and after she recovers, Humbert throws her an unsuccessful party with boys. He buys her a bicycle and a history book of American painting.
The true title of the play Pratt refers to is "The Enchanted Hunters," listed in the Who's Who guide under Clare Quilty. That Quilty will be visiting Beardsley in the spring, combined with his previous shadowing of Humbert and Lolita, suggests he has sinister intentions, though it remains unclear what exactly they are.
Humbert does not fully read "The Enchanted Hunters," the play Lolita is in, but he gathers the basic plot. Lolita plays a farmer's daughter who uses hypnotism to enchant six hunters into believing their lives were dreams from which she awoke them. A seventh hunter, a poet, played by Mona, insists that the fantastic backdrop of the play, and the farmer's daughter, are all creations of his imagination. Humbert and Lolita are both aware that the play has nearly the same name as the hotel where they first had sex.
The play's name is important not only for the reminder of the hotel and the suggestion that fate has again connected the dots in their lives. Much like the character she plays, Lolita is an enchanter who has hypnotized Humbert. Humbert the hunter also feels like his past life has been a dream, that his memories of Annabel are revived through Lolita. Moreover, Quilty also hunts Lolita.
The seventh hunter, on the other hand, is a stand-in for the author - and any of four authors, either Quilty (who wrote the play itself), Humbert (who has written this memoir), John Ray, Jr. (who has edited the manuscript), or even Nabokov. This merging of authority coincides with the play's "profound message," one that can be applied to Lolita as well: "mirage and reality merge in love." Humbert overlooks the often vulgar reality of Lolita and chooses to see her enchanting mirage, we have to question sometimes if he is relating true or illusory events, and even Humbert doubts his own sanity at times.
Lolita takes piano lessons twice a week with Miss Emperor, but one night while playing chess Humbert receives a call from her teacher saying that Lolita has missed the last two sessions. When confronted, Lolita says she has been practicing the play with Mona in a park. Humbert calls Mona, who corroborates the story. When he looks at Lolita again, she appears changed, coarser and older. He tells her he does not believe her story, and threatens to take her away. They fight and yell, and stop only when a neighbor calls to complain about the noise.
Lolita uses the disturbance to escape, and Humbert pursues her on foot. He finds her in a phone booth. She quickly hangs up, saying she tried to reach him at home. She says she hates school and wants to go away with him again. They have sex at home while Humbert cries.
Humbert makes an excuse and leaves Beardsley with Lolita. As they are driving away, Lolita's acting coach sees them and laments Lolita's departure from the play, especially since the author liked her so much. Humbert asks Lolita who the author is, and she says "Some old woman, Clare Something."
Miss Emperor is an allusion to the music teacher Mlle. Lempereur in Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary (Nabokov makes this clear by accidentally calling Gaston "Gustave"). In it, Emma Bovary pretends to go to her for lessons while being unfaithful to her husband, suggesting that Lolita does the same to Humbert when she skips out on piano lessons.
The chess metaphor - Humbert's queen, or Lolita, is in danger - reinforces the infidelity allusion. Obviously, Lolita was not calling Humbert at home, as she claims. The only possibility, then, is that she is intimate with another man. The clue that it is Quilty comes out when Lolita pretends Quilty is a woman.
Humbert and Lolita drive westward, staying at motels along the way. Though he keeps a close watch on her during their journey, Humbert believes Lolita might be contacting a person he does not know while they stop at a gas station. In another town, Humbert goes and gets a haircut while Lolita stays in bed. He watches intently various cars and people as he returns to Lolita, suspicious that she has been out. He strips her naked, trying to discover her infidelity.
The red car that appeared at The Enchanted Hunter pops up again here, and Humbert describes Lolita's "diabolical glow." The allusions to the devil ("red" and "diabolical") connect the two instances and point to Lolita's sexual relationship with Quilty. Humbert's pursuit of the "shadow of infidelity" confirms Quilty's presence, since the Doppelgänger is frequently described as a shadow of the protagonist.
Humbert keeps a .32-caliber gun that used to belong to Haze's husband inside a small, lockable copper case Godin gave him.
As they drive further west, Humbert grows preoccupied by the red convertible lagging behind them. He believes the driver is a detective, and sees him for the first time at a gas station, when the man (who looks like a relative of Humbert's named Gustave Trapp) talks in a familiar manner to Lolita. Lolita denies knowing who he is. After more driving, Humbert finally loses the red convertible.
They attend a play in the town of Wace by authors Clare Quilty and Vivian Darkbloom. Afterward, Lolita seems dazed, and Humbert catches a glimpse of the authors. Humbert and Lolita briefly discuss them later; Lolita says Vivian was the male author and Clare was the female.
Lolita says "'I am not a lady and do not like lightning," and the play they see, as the Who's Who certifies, is "The Lady Who Loved Lightning." (The title also brings us back to the death of Humbert's mother by lightning.)
In keeping with the fantastical elements of the play, Lolita seems enchanted and hypnotized by the play, much as "The Enchanted Hunters" strives to do. It is becoming more obvious that Lolita knows Quilty intimately (who is not the female author, as she lies; also recall that Vivian Darkbloom is an anagram for Vladimir Nabokov).
Another reversal of the play's title is occuring - Lolita (and, by extension, Humbert) is now becoming the hunted, with Quilty as the hunter.
Humbert and Lolita pick up their forwarded mail. Humbert reads a letter from Mona to Lolita describing the play and her plans. By the time he has finished reading it, Lolita has left the post office, and he worries she has escaped for good. He eventually finds her outside. She says she had met a girl from the town of Beardsley, but further interrogation from Humbert catches a few lies. He reveals that he has copied down the red convertible's license plate number, but when he looks at the paper, he sees Lolita has changed around the letters and numbers. Once they have driven out of the town, Humbert slaps her.
Humbert figures out that the driver of the red convertible, whom he calls Trapp, keeps switching cars, often using gray cars. They get a flat tire, and Humbert gets out and decides to ask Trapp for a car jack. As he walks toward him, Humbert's car rolls forward - Humbert is sure Lolita started it to detain him - and in the confusion, Trapp drives away. Wary of growing insanity, Humbert decides to transfer his gun from his box to his pocket.
"Qu'il t'y," the French Mona repeats in her letter, is a knowing reference to Quilty, and reinforces the point that she knew about him earlier and probably helped cover for Lolita when she was supposed to have her piano lessons. (Humbert, however, does not decode this.)
Lolita is not the only one who metamorphoses; Quilty's ever-changing cars are like skins he sheds, and the predominant color of gray accentuates his shadowy qualities.
Humbert's growing insanity is leading him to murder, as he himself predicts. The motivating desire is shifting now from sex, which dictated Part One of the novel, to murder. The two are opposed: one gives life, the other takes it.