My Grandfather as a boy walking through a wood with his father, walking out to see what they’ve killed. England between the wars. The wood is near Dorchester and Thomas Hardy has not long been dead. What time of year is this? I don’t know, but I keep seeing leaves. A carpet of dead leaves. Black leaves. Leather boots churning the leaves. My Great-Grandfather – Granfer – wearing his weskit over his collar-less white shirt. Their eyes scanning the ground looking for traps. Traps that they had planted. Iron teeth to catch a rabbit. But instead, something else, lying in the leaves.
What is this? Not a rabbit, but a leather wallet. My Grandad sees it first. ‘Dad, Dad, what’s this?’ The older man takes it. Opens it to see notes, coins. Notes the size of newspapers. You have to unfold them; lay them flat to see their value. ‘There’s over a hundred pounds here.’ Enough to buy a house with.
So, this man and boy, not averse to stealing a swede from a farmer’s field, out poaching for rabbits, what did they do? The honest and proper thing, of course. They handed it in, the whole lot. Handed it in at Dorchester police station. The rightful owner was found. He took the lot. Never left anything for a reward, not even a shilling.
If ever I found anything my Grandad would tell me to put it in my pocket and not say anything. Finders keepers, he’d say. Losers weepers.