From Chapter Fourteen: The Collector of Hands
The hands were everywhere. Wooden hands, marble and stone and crystal hands, many, many hands made of materials Natalie couldn’t identify. They lurked. They crept out from behind jars. Some, palms-up, held bottles. They touched books, papers, oddities, as if they had been placed here and there to keep other things where they belonged. They held every conceivable posture and infested every surface, every cabinet, like mice in a pantry–except these were cold and dead and unmoving.
But even the hands weren’t as unsettling as the automata.
She had expected to see more like the miniature harlequin and tiny One-Man Band, but the size of Limberleg’s collection was unnerving. The clockwork things outnumbered even the hands: paired dancers and ugly-faced monkeys with fiddles or harps, finches in cages, a girl at a loom, a farmer with a pig on his knee, a spindly golden tree with a skeletal bird poised above a beetle. They had nappy fur and elaborate costumes. Moth-eaten antiques stood beside bright new tin or aluminum relations. Their rigid limbs stood frozen in awkward, half-completed gestures.
None of them seemed to have keys.
The most elaborate automaton was tucked into a corner half hidden by the examination chair: it was a clockwork man nearly two feet tall standing in a booth on a platform under a finely crafted little tree. He wore an old-fashioned frock coat and blue-lensed glasses. Strands of red and gray hair stuck out from under his top hat. It was a perfect replica of Dr. Limberleg, down to the long-fingered hands in ivory-colored gloves that he held out over four large flowerpots. One of the pots canted backwards, as if the toy had worn down in the act of raising or lowering it, and underneath it a smaller clockwork figure in floppy boots and a velvet musketeer doublet sat cross-legged. Gray, spiky hair stood up all over its little head: a tiny, miniature Chevalier Alpheus Nervine. It grinned ghoulishly over a pair of brass cymbals.
It was that particular automaton that started moving first.