Cessily moved the feather duster gingerly around the trophies and artifacts on the wood bookcases, the signed baseball in its little glass box, a love-worn teddy bear propped into a corner, and the small easel-backed photographs showing groups of triumphant and dewy-faced boys, grinning ear to ear. A boy in the middle of one photo held a massive trophy aloft above his head; he was flanked by others of his ilk, all of them swept up in the joy of a moment. Each boy in the front row took a single knee, most of them smiling, too; Cessily smiled along with them.
She tenderly lifted the photo and tried to discern who among these identically uniformed boys belonged to the family living in this house, but it was hard to know for sure. She restored the photograph to its spot and continued with the duster, lifting an object to clear away the film under it, and then dusting the object itself, as she had been shown. Moving down to the next shelf, she began on the books, swiping the feathers across their spines, easing the duster into the cranny between the books and the shelf above them. She cocked her head to better survey the titles, various and beloved childhood tomes, a few familiar novels and some unknown to her, a pocket collection of Shakespeare bound in leather, and a small collection of secondary school books.
Her index finger followed each curvilinear binding as she whispered the titles before alighting on a Latin text. Pulling it from the shelf, she carefully propped the other books around it so as not to send the top-heavy cast-iron bookend tumbling. Its pages fell open to a black-and-white image of bas relief portraying axe-wielding women riding horseback into battle, bare-breasted women with wavy locks of hair flowing over their shoulders; she found the absence of pupils in their eyes unnerving. The caption read, Amazons in battle, and below it, a title: A WOMAN’S ARMY CORPS.
Cessily continued exploring the printed text on the page, following each word with her fingers as she routinely did, but this time found her strategy wanting. Gēns Amāzonum dīcitur omnīnō ex mulieribus cōnstitisse. She tried reading the foreign words aloud, haltingly. After intuiting the meaning of Amazonum, she concluded dicitur bore a passing resemblance to dictator. It was the best she could do. She glanced again at the bas relief detail in wonderment: an army of women. Amazon women—This notion bewildered and somehow delighted her.
The sound of a car motor idling outside in the drive stirred her from this delicious puzzle and reminded her there were still chores to see to in the kitchen, a table to set, and a pair of cocktails to pour. She slipped the book back into its place on the shelf, straightened her dress, and hustled down the servant’s steps, repeating aloud the pair of words so as to remember them. When she arrived home later that night, she would thumb through her dictionary looking for any clues that might shed light upon her marvelous new discovery—an army of Amazon women.