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Supply and Demand
Finch keeps a hats-cleaned-by-electricity-while-you-wait establishment, nine feet by
twelve, in Third Avenue. Once a customer, you are always his. I do not know his secret
process, but every four days your hat needs to be cleaned again.
Finch is a leathern, sallow, slowfooted man, between twenty and forty. You would say he
had been brought up a bushelman in Essex Street. When business is slack he likes to talk,
so I had my hat cleaned even oftener than it deserved, hoping Finch might let me into
some of the secrets of the sweatshops.
One afternoon I dropped in and found Finch alone. He began to anoint my headpiece de
Panama with his mysterious fluid that attracted dust and dirt like a magnet.
"They say the Indians weave 'em under water," said I, for a leader.
"Don't you believe it," said Finch. "No Indian or white man could stay under water that
long. Say, do you pay much attention to politics? I see in the paper something about a law
they've passed called 'the law of supply and demand.'"
I explained to him as well as I could that the reference was to a politico-economical law,
and not to a legal statute.
"I didn't know," said Finch. "I heard a good deal about it a year or so ago, but in a one-
sided way."
"Yes," said I, "political orators use it a great deal. In fact, they never give it a rest. I
suppose you heard some of those cart-tail fellows spouting on the subject over here on
the east side."
"I heard it from a king," said Finch--"the white king of a tribe of Indians in South
I was interested but not surprised. The big city is like a mother's knee to many who have
strayed far and found the roads rough beneath their uncertain feet. At dusk they come
home and sit upon the door- step. I know a piano player in a cheap cafe who has shot
lions in Africa, a bell-boy who fought in the British army against the Zulus, an express-
driver whose left arm had been cracked like a lobster's claw for a stew-pot of Patagonian
cannibals when the boat of his rescuers hove in sight. So a hat-cleaner who had been a
friend of a king did not oppress me.
"A new band ?" asked Finch, with his dry, barren smile.
"Yes," said I, "and half an inch wider." I had had a new band five days before.