Humbert Humbert learns that Lolita has begun skipping piano lessons. He becomes so anxious that he loses a game of chess to Gaston Godin for the first time. When he confronts Lolita, she tells him she’s been rehearsing for the play with Mona Dahl. Humbert calls Mona for confirmation, which she gives, but still doesn’t believe Lolita. He accuses her of lying, and further, of having told Mona everything about them. The two have a screaming match in the house, during which Lolita calls Humbert a rapist, accuses him of killing her mother, and threatens to have sex with the first man who asks her to. Humbert tries to keep Lolita from running out of the house, but is distracted when the phone rings—it is the spinster neighbor, calling to complain about the noise. Humbert reflects on the role of telephones in the important moments of his life.
Humbert and Lolita’s façade of ordinary life collapses as he begins to realize she is up to something. Humbert’s loss at chess suggests that someone—like Lolita and Quilty, for instance—might be outmaneuvering him somewhere else. As earlier with Charlotte, a telephone call stops Humbert from keeping Lolita from running out of the house. We see here that Lolita has been more aware of what Humbert has done to her than she appears to be in earlier chapters. She describes events differently than he has presented them, causing us to doubt his earlier story. She calls him a rapist, where Humbert earlier claimed she initiated sex. We become aware of how much—Lolita’s feelings, for instance—Humbert has been suppressing or hiding from his readers.
After hanging up, Humbert pursues Lolita out of the house and on foot through the rainy night. He finds her in a telephone booth, on a call with someone. Suddenly adopting a much friendlier attitude towards him, she announces that she wishes to leave Beardsley and go on the road again, just so long as she can choose the destination. When they get back home, she asks Humbert to carry her up the stairs, saying that she’s “feeling romantic.”
Lolita’s sudden change in attitude is suspicious. It should be clear that she is manipulating Humbert, even to him. The way Humbert accepts her explanation without asking questions goes to show how much his feelings warp his perceptions and judgment. As we have seen, telephones are never insignificant details in this novel. Lolita has been on the phone with Clare Quilty. She is planning her escape with him.