A New Invention
Chapter 1: The Magician
It was morning, and Hugo weaved through the bustling crowd at the train station. He had a new magic trick figured out, all by himself- of course, he was Professor Alcofrisbas, and magic tricks should be quite simple to him. Still, he was rather pleased with himself, and he set off to find Isabelle to show her this new trick.
It'd been a month since Hugo had given his first public magic performance as the professor, and he was living with Isabelle and her godparents. Of course, he kept his daily job of winding the clocks, and Isabelle would come with him. Sometimes, he felt slightly annoyed when she would simply open up a volume of Sherlock Holmes as he sweated and wound the many clocks in the station. However, she read aloud, and Hugo enjoyed hearing the stories Isabelle had chosen on her frequent trips to the bookstore. He didn't bother complaining, since this was how he'd done it before he met Isabelle anyway. At least there's a bit of entertainment as he worked now.
Papa Georges still kept his toy booth open, and he'd started making little toys based off of the eccentric, colorful characters in his film. Children and adults alike all went to the booth and it became a common destination for tourists. Whenever Hugo passed by, Papa Georges asked him if he could also sit behind the desk for a while and help him out. The booth had been expanded, and there were multiple lines waiting to get their hands on one of Méliès' accessories for A Trip to the Moon. Every time, Hugo would pick up a small contraption with the man on the moon and a rocket zooming straight into its right eye. Then, a minute later, a person would ask for the item, saying that it was the last one available.
"Greetings, Monsieur… Cabret," a voice said as Hugo emerged from the large throng of people. Hugo looked up.
It was the Station Inspector with his dog, Maximilian, right by his side. His leg brace had been updated so that it was quieter, more flexible, and (most of all) made the Inspector much friendlier.
"Hello," Hugo said hesitantly. His first instinct had been to run, but he reminded himself that he was no longer alone. He had guardians and a friend- the Station Inspector had no right to chase him and lock him up. Max was rather obedient lately, so he probably realized that too.
"Where's Christina Rossetti?" the Inspector asked.
"What?" Hugo said, confused.
"Christina Rossetti," the Station Inspector repeated. "Rossetti… you know, the poetry girl."
"You mean Isabelle?" Hugo said. The Station Inspector must've remembered the poem that Isabelle had recited to draw attention from Hugo. The poem was by Christina Rossetti.
Hugo was unsure of why he was having such a long conversation with the Inspector. It was a little strange for both people, since they were enemies a few months ago. "I haven't seen her."
"Check the toy booth," the Inspector suggested awkwardly. "She's probably helping out her- OY, YOU! YOU DIRTY LITTLE URCHIN, STAY WHERE YOU ARE!"
Hugo spun around as a filthy child grabbed someone's bag. He remembered the other orphan that'd stolen a paper bag and was locked up. The Inspector had shouted at him, "Is that your paper bag? IS THAT YOUR PAPER BAG?!"
Hugo had never seen that orphan since.
This orphan was quickly caught by the Inspector and Max, and the Station Inspector screamed the usual things. Hugo knew, though, that there would be hope for this orphan as the flower girl, Lisette, wandered over. The Inspector saw her, too, and let go of the orphan, quietly murmuring, "Stay there," and he walked off to meet Lisette. Max whined but he had to follow. The orphan, stunned at his luck, took a few seconds before dashing off.
Hugo grinned, turning around and heading to the toy booth. He had originally intended to go to the bookstore, but Isabelle had probably already been there- the clocks said that it was almost ten o' clock. Hugo reminded himself that as soon as he found Isabelle, they would go to what she called Hugo's "covert lair" and wind the clocks.
Isabelle was just leaving as Hugo arrived at the toy booth.
"Good morning," she said cheerfully. Her godfather was well again, of course, and that made her even happier than she was before.
"Hello," Hugo greeted her. "Do you want to make the trip around the clocks?"
"Okay," Isabelle said. She held up a book that she'd tucked under her arm. "There's a new book in the bookstore about Greek Mythology- I just got it!"
Clearly, Isabelle was as excited about her new book as Hugo was about his card trick. That's right, his card trick- he could show it to her when they entered the apartment that he used to live in. He still had an old pack of cards in there.
"I have a new card trick too," Hugo said. "Would you like to see it?"
"Oh, good," Isabelle said enthusiastically. "I would love to see it."
The children entered a vent on the side of a wall and walked through corridors, descending on a staircase, and sliding down a smooth, curved ramp. They arrived at a desk.
"That's where Papa Georges' automaton used to be," Isabelle remembered. Hugo recalled the many nights he spent trying to fix the mechanical man without the notebook. Much to his surprise, he had succeeded, allowing the machine to draw a picture that was originally by Papa Georges. The automaton is in Hugo's room in the apartment building that the Méliès family live in. Now, there was a dusty deck of cards.
The children moved over the desk. Hugo picked up the cards. With a swift motion, he made the cards look brand new, the dust disappearing. Isabelle clapped as Hugo prepared to do his new trick.
"Isabelle, please pick a card," Hugo said in a dramatic voice, as if he was performing at a theater. Isabelle picked a king of hearts. Hugo took the card back and put it into his free hand. Then, he threw it up into the air.
After a long time, the card finally descended from the ceiling. Hugo caught it, and said, "Was your card a king of hearts?"
Isabelle nodded. Hugo slowly took out the card that he caught. He turned it around- Isabelle's eyes grew wide.
The card was still a king of hearts.
Isabelle was confused, but she had no time to say anything, because Hugo flipped the card again, and the king of hearts was replaced by the queen of hearts.
"Bravo! Quelles performances exceptionnelles!" Isabelle laughed. Hugo grinned. And now, it was time to wind the 27 clocks in the station.
Hugo added drops of oil to the gears and shafts of the clocks as Isabelle buried her head in her new Greek mythology book. Hugo paused every so often to listen and comment.
"… Heracles stepped forward, unarmed and unprotected as he wrestled his hooded, dark opponent. Death was not ever conquered by any common mortal, but Heracles was not a normal mortal. The two mighty beings reeled and struggled, until Death felt Heracles' unmatched grip crack his ribs. Death surrendered, finally defeated, and returned to the shadows and Hades' palace in defeat." Isabelle closed the book and left a bookmark between the pages where she stopped reading.
"Is the last clock done?" she asked.
"Yes," Hugo answered, tired. He felt like Heracles after battling Death- exhausted, sore, and hungry. However, he felt happy that most of the clocks wouldn't need to be wound for a few days. "Let's go get some lunch."
Hugo was taught by Papa Georges about how to cash paychecks, and suddenly, Hugo was quite wealthy, as his deceased uncle's paychecks were all his. Some days, he would take Isabelle and occasionally Etienne, a kind boy older than Hugo with an eye patch, to the movies. Many of Papa Georges' movies were being rereleased, so Hugo and Isabelle made sure they saw every one of them.
Hugo bought three croissants, one for him, one for Isabelle, and one for Papa Georges because he was too busy to buy lunch for himself. After delivering a croissant to Papa Georges, the two sat down as a waitress served some warm French onion soup.
"Thank you," Isabelle said politely. She paid for the soup with a coin and turned her attention to Hugo. "So, what do we do after lunch?"
"We could take a stroll around," Hugo suggested. "Go to the movies, see a magic show… I'm sure Papa Georges has some ideas, we can ask him later."
The two children finished their croissants and soup, heading towards the toy booth again. To their surprise, they found a disappointed crowd in front of the shop, and Papa Georges was looking very distressed.
"Everything is sold out!" he muttered in Hugo's ear. "What am I supposed to do?"
"Maybe you can keep making toys."
"But if I keep making toys, what's going to keep the customers here?"
"You can leave that to me," Hugo answered confidently. He whispered his plan to Isabelle, and just as the people were beginning to leave, Isabelle called out, "Everyone, listen! Professor Alcofrisbas is making a performance right here at the toy booth! Come along, it's a free performance! Yes, that's right, gather around over there…"
Hugo took a deck of cards that looked like they weren't used for a few months, and he dusted them off with a flourish as usual. The crowd gasped, and Papa Georges smiled next to him, speedily making a windup rocket.
Hugo was glad that he'd studied over a hundred magic tricks with cards, and even more without. He made cards rise up and float back down. He made a paper airplane spin around about thirty times before it started to fall. He even made a toy appear out of thin air (which was curiously identical to the toy Papa Georges had just finished, though everyone's attention was on Hugo and they took no notice of this) and sold it to the first person in line. Meanwhile, Isabelle was directing more and more people to the toy booth.
After an hour of magic tricks, Hugo ran out of ideas. Fortunately, Papa Georges finally had enough toys to sell to the customers. He thanked Hugo and Isabelle and gave them a stack of coins.
"How about you spend an afternoon at the new museum that opened just down the street?" he suggested, smiling. Then he turned back to the customers and continued to sell accessories to eager customers.
Hugo led Isabelle through the sea of people and exited the train station through the double- doors into the warm, sunny street. It was summer, Hugo's favorite time of the year. Almost every day was an opportunity for adventure, but in the winter, the cold usually prevented Hugo from going outside.
"I see the museum, right down there!" Isabelle pointed to a large building of white marble.
When the children entered the building, they found that it was even larger than the Film Academy. Sunlight filtered through the roof of stained glass. The polished floor squeaked as many people walked across its gleaming surface. Hugo and Isabelle walked to the front desk and used the stack of coins Papa Georges gave them. The lady behind the desk accepted the coins, found some change, and said: "Merci… Passez un bon moment!"
As Hugo continued on to the exhibits, he thought, Today's going to be a slightly different adventure!