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The Short Stories of Nicholas Hancock
Published by The British Hancock Society
by arrangement with the author.

Copyright  ©  2008 Nicholas Hancock.  Permission  is granted  to  distribute  in  any  medium, commercial or
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Before Deodorants

The Mattei Amazon, Roman copy after an original attributed to Phidias, c. 440 BC; in the …
Alinari—Art Resource

   Millennia ago, when armpits were as perilous as bear-pits and Queen Hippolyta as Amazonrangy as bog asphodel, her Amazons only had to sniff the Scythian air like rutting stags and they knew whether she was upwind or downwind.

Her rankest garment, it is to be noted, was her girdle, so powerful being the scent of it that her warrior maidens went all of a tremble when they got wind of it. Indeed their strength as a fighting force lay not so much in their one-breasted archery as in the mortal effects of the queen's girdle on their enemies.

And who were these enemies if not all mankind? - that is, in distinction to womankind. The idea of being defeated by a mob of bow-toting broads deflated more than the egos of Greek and Persian alike; but one classical whiff of that girdle was enough to precipitate flight and syntactic confusion.

Now Eurystheus, King of Tiryns, had taken strong-man Hercules prisoner through Hera's wiles, sending the club-wielding thug on a load of meaningless tasks called Labours. The ninth of these was to snatch her redolent article of clothing from the queen. To do so
he had to travel north through the vasty Hercynian forests with his servant Sancho Panza.

Through the Black Sea in a cockleshell paddled the formidable pair till they arrived in the pretty resort of Crimea, where our hero already scented the mythical lingerie.

Arrows to the left of them, arrows to the right of them whistled and thudded: Hercules was now a noble pincushion, Sancho a colourful display of flight feathers. But still the heroic two went onward through the outer ditches and the palisades.
However, Hippolyta was a cool queen: her Amazon's intuition told her at once what the two were after. Letting out a cry of regal modesty, she stretched for her pine resin pencil and, raising her arms, sought to neutralise her foul effluvium.
Too little and too late. Hercules and Sancho Panza were already upon her, stripping her of her girdle, now both resinous and gamey.
As soon as they were back in King Erystheus' castle, the monarch stared haughtily at the girdle, pinching his nostrils. 'Get back there, you muscle-bound ninnies, I asked for her kirtle, not her girdle. Get back to Scythia at once!'
And, as soon as the arrows had been extracted from their flesh, the two were back on the road again to complete Labour 9b.