Enigma

I AM NOT straight, neither am I crooked, but while my form partakes of both qualities, the former greatly preponderates. I belong to the fairer portion of the creation, yet as Hercules twined the distaff, so some of the ruder sex amuse themselves with me. I am not a pen or a pencil, but when in use I occupy the position assigned to both. I am a manufacturer of fabrics in cotton, silk, and wool; neither do I scruple to impress the precious metals into my service; but for all this the Factory Bill affects me not, for, prized by the rich, and especially by those afflicted with nervous ennui, they protect and foster me in their homes; nevertheless, while contributing to their amusement, I have not scorned to assist the poor in earning their scanty meal. Erratic and eccentric in my movements, I am easily guided by those who understand me, and that understanding is obtained nearly as readily as the fact is discovered of my power to show off a beautiful hand to the greatest advantage, giving it a commanding position and the companionship of industry. And now, dames and maidens, my fair mistresses, I crave of you my name.

This riddle is included in Ladies’ Needlework; Crochet Tales and Poetry: A Melange of Instructions and Amusements, originally published in 1849 in England and available as a PieceWork eBook. Pose this brainteaser at your next guild or other get-together!

(The answer to the enigma is “A Crochet.” We’re pretty sure the word “Hook” should have been added—those Victorians!)

—Elizabeth


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