In all our thirty years of marriage, we never had a complete bedroom suite. It was almost complete, but the bedroom was a bit of ‘this and that’ from the family, pieces I liked very much, but I was ready for a change. I didn’t think the “change” would be in US currency.
It happened one Saturday afternoon as I was browsing a consignment store website. They were doing an estate sale that day and had just what I wanted! A vintage, french-style bedroom suite! What a delight to the eyes! It was beautiful. I had to have it, but at what price? So, I called, and to my surprise, the owner answered. She said since it was late in the day, I could have it at half-price if I came right away. It was across town. So off my husband went in his van. The owners helped him load it into his van, and he brought it home. A neighbor helped him carry it in. At first, he wanted to put it in storage, until we could clean out the bedroom, but I knew that would only forestall the clearing out, so I had him set everything in the livingroom.
When they brought it in, I saw it was more beautiful than it looked online. Solid wood, dove-tailed drawers with cedar bottoms, hand-craved scroll-work and metal handles so ornate I could hardly stand my joy! They even had glass tops to protect the wood. However, it had a heavy build-up of polish and the drawers smelled like a cross between moth-balls and old lady sachet, but I was delighted and up for the challenge. I scrubbed and scrubbed. I used all manner of remedies to kill the smell, and finally decided on baking soda and newspaper. There was however, a surprise in one of the drawers.
It was full of all sorts of old wonderful things. I looked everything over very carefully. I thought at first the owner, who I knew, had left me a bunch of estate sale leftovers as a throw-in. I love old things, so I carefully removed each item and examined it. Some silk ties, vintage handbags, handkerchiefs, some old japanese rice cloth, a fan, and then I saw them, some old family heirloom jewelry, and three dollar coins. A Peace Dollar, A Liberty Dollar, and A Morgan Dollar.
Well, clearly, these were not meant for me. Someone had missed clearing it out. I had two instantaneous thoughts, one; “Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers”, and two; “Return them”.
I knew the coins and jewelry were valuable. The other things, a small sum. I looked them up online. The coins were worth about $95.00 I thought. The jewelry was monogrammed and sterling. Clearly, things that had been worn by the family. A baby’s signet ring and bracelet, a Victorian perfume holder necklace, a pin made out of animal teeth, and a few other pieces. They were probably worth more at a Cash For Gold place. There was one just up the street. “Take them”, but no,why add to the temptation? We could use the money, for sure, but my conscience was far more valuable to not alter after I had worked so hard to develop it to be one that did not waver.
I returned to the consignment store with the items. She was stunned by my honesty and thanked me, but there was something insincere in her words. She said them with her back turned. I asked if I could keep the one handbag, and she gave me the box, but the jewelry and coins she kept. I explained I thought they were meant for someone as they were all together in a mesh compact case, and said I wanted them to go back to the family. She said she would return them. And off I went strongly suspecting she would not. But that was not the point. It was on her conscience now, not mine. As I left, she added, ” You know, you got a really good deal on that furniture”. Yep. she was going to pocket them.
Wait, who was I to judge her? Perhaps she would return them. But it was of no consequence, I knew I had done the right thing. I had my peace, my liberty and I was not going after my version of a J.P. Morgan fortune. I could sleep soundly in my beautiful new bedroom knowing I had done the right thing.
Looking back, the only thing I regret was not playing detective. I could have gone to the county website, looked up the address of the estate, then looked up the obit and found the family that way and returned to them personally. But who knows if I would have found them? Besides, what is done, is done. I learned quite joyfully that safeguarding your mind and morals is far more valuable and rewarding than selling out your principles for a few coins. I seemed to remember a famous story along those lines….