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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am writing in response to the couple in Anchorage who were torn over whether or not to keep the $42 the husband found in the glove compartment of the used car they had recently purchased.

They have no legal responsibility to return the money to the car's original owner. To illustrate, here's a similar case that went to the Supreme Court in 1981: In the case of the City of Everett v. the Estate of Sumstad, the Mitchells were a couple who purchased a used safe at an auction for $50. The safe had previously belonged to the Sumstad estate and contained a locked inside compartment. The Mitchells had a locksmith open the compartment and discovered $32,207 inside.

The Everett police impounded the money and brought an action against both the Sumstad estate and the Mitchells to determine the owner of the money. The trial court decided in favor of the estate, but in appeal, summary judgment was for the Mitchells.

Since the Mitchells understood the sale was final, and the auctioneer reserved no rights of the estate to any contents of the safe, the reasonable conclusion is that the auctioneer objectively intended to sell both the safe and its contents, and that both parties mutually assented to the sale. Therefore, the Anchorage couple should feel no guilt in keeping the $42, since the Supreme Court ruled that the Mitchells could keep $32,207. -- KNOWS THE LAW

DEAR KNOWS: Surely you also must know that that which is legal is not always moral. I rest my case.

DEAR ABBY: The first time you quoted "The Reading Mother," I meant to write to you; when you did it again today, I decided I would not fail this time.

Why not a reading father? My three sons received bedtime readings from the time they were small until almost through high school. I, their father, was the reader; I love books, and I enjoyed the material at least as much as they did.

We got through the Alice books, "Gulliver's Travels," "Huckleberry Finn," "Lord of the Rings," and scores of others.

I was in medical school and psychiatric residency training during many of these years, and the hours spent reading to my children were a welcome relief to me, as well as an introduction to the world of literature to them.

I recommend reading aloud to children of all ages by either parent. -- ROB HARDY, CHIEF, MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES, R.A.F., LAKENHEATH, UNITED KINGDOM

DEAR DR. HARDY: I am printing your letter in the interest of fairness to those fathers who read to their children. Although their numbers may not be as great as mothers, they deserve to be counted.

CONFIDENTIAL TO DESPERATE IN CHICAGO: "The darkest hour in a man's life is when he sits down to plan how to get money without earning it." -- HORACE GREELEY

People are eating them up! For Abby's favorite recipes, send a long, business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Cookbooklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054. (Postage is included.)

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