The old man looked agitated today.
"The Invention of Hugo Cabret," Vocabulary from Part 1
September 24, 2013
The old man looked agitated today.
He was furious with himself for being caught.
Still holding on to the boy’s arm, the old man snatched the notebook away, set it down out of Hugo’s reach, opened it, and flipped through the pages.
The old man shuddered at the sound of the breaking toy.
The jars sat on shelves made from scavenged planks he had found inside the walls of the station.
Under his rickety bed lay a pile of Hugo’s drawings.
Peering out through the numbers, Hugo spied the old man again, alone in his toy booth at the end of the hallway, looking through the pages of Hugo’s notebook.
He could tell it wouldn’t need to be wound for another day or two, so Hugo kept going, until all twenty-seven clocks in the station had been attended to, just the way his uncle had taught him.
He emerged through the golden doors into the dark streets of Paris.
They soon arrived at a decrepit apartment building across from the graveyard.
Hugo, he said, “Don’t you know that the sound of clicking boot heels can summon ghosts?"
Not knowing what else to do, he walked to a cluttered pile of boxes in the corner of his room and moved them to the side, revealing a hiding place in the wall.
The sole purpose of the machines was to fill people with wonder, and they succeeded.
It was as if the magicians had created artificial life, but the secret was always in the clockworks.
Later, when he visited his father at his clock shop, Hugo watched him carefully, and then when he grew restless he made little mechanical animals out of the extra bits and pieces lying around.
The machine was so intricate, so complicated, that he almost got dizzy looking at it.
Meanwhile, Hugo’s father grew obsessed with getting the automaton to work.
They remained optimistic that it could be fixed, and they talked about what the automaton might write once it was working again.
“You’ll be my apprentice,” he vaguely heard his uncle saying as they walked.
There it was, like an accusation, reminding Hugo that everything in his life had been destroyed.
Hugo took a deep breath, went back, and cleared away the charred debris.
The automaton was heavy and in several pieces, but he picked it up and, not having anywhere else to go, returned to the dreaded station.
He stared at the misshapen pieces of metal and was thankful that his uncle still hadn’t returned.
“What is your attachment to this notebook?” he demanded as he shook Hugo.
The steady rhythm of the clock lulled Hugo to sleep, but he dreamed of fire and woke up with a start.
The coffee was hot, and as Hugo let it cool, he looked around the cavernous station at all the people rushing by with a thousand different places to go.
One moment he felt hopeful that he’d get his notebook back, the next he felt angry and resentful.
He rubbed the buttons on his jacket and deftly pocketed the tiny mechanisms he wanted.
As he watched the old man play, he saw things that captivated him.
Inside, clear black-and-white diagrams revealed what seemed like an endless array of card tricks, many of which Hugo had seen the old man do.
For the first time, Hugo had fixed something on the mechanical man without guidance from the notebook!
Had the Station Inspector begun investigating and found out that Hugo’s uncle was gone?
The mechanical man was finally holding a brand-new handmade pen with a specially cut metal nib.
With the proper instruction, his talent for machines translated perfectly to magic tricks.
It wasn’t just the understanding of machinery, it was the dexterity, the talent within his fingers themselves, as if they automatically knew what to do.
A cascade of perfect movements, with hundreds of brilliantly calibrated actions, coursed through the mechanical man.
Two little hammerlike contraptions came down and trailed along the edges of the notched disks, rising and falling as the disks steadily turned.
The shoulder affected the elbow, and as the elbow engaged, it sent other movements in a chain reaction down into the wrist and, finally, the hand.
The children tried desperately to read it, but there were no letters, no words, no sentences, just random, disconnected markings.
Isabelle stayed where she was, watching as these markings accumulated on the page, one after the other.
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