One cool May evening, while walking round the sidewalk by her house, Pearl found a baby.
The baby was tucked in a bush – not a prickly one, but a soft kind with tiny pink flowers.
Pearl had a heart for tiny things and a baby brother. So she picked up the baby, soothed its cries, and set it in her bag with great care.
She entered the kitchen to present the baby to her mother.
“Look, she was in a bush and she’s crying.”
Her mother wiped her hands and bent to examine the baby. She suggested a bath.
“She might feel better when she’s clean.”
Pearl agreed and rushed to the bathroom, where she gave the baby a gentle bath under the faucet, the water somewhere between hot and cold. She even used some of mother’s special lilac soap. Upon exiting, she encountered her father, who was carrying her baby brother to the kitchen.
“Pearl, what a beautiful baby! Did you and Mommy get her at the store?”
“Nooooo, Daddy!” Pearl drew it out to highlight her father’s silliness, then said simply, “I found her in the bushes.”
“Oh, of course. Silly me. What is her name?”
Pearl hadn’t thought that far ahead. She pondered, then stated with resolution:
Her mother entered. “Agnes is a pretty name. Why don’t you bring her to dinner?”
Pearl agreed, and they set up a special seat for Agnes, who was perfectly content to sit and look. Pearl thought she must have had a snack recently and so wasn’t hungry, so she didn’t worry. Pearl’s brother wasn’t worried either, and stole Agnes’s meatballs to prove it.
Pearl was thoughtful over her meatballs.
“Why was Agnes in the bushes?”
Mommy responded. “It could be that someone lost her.”
Pearl was displeased.
“I would go back for my baby if I lost her.”
“Oh, but sometimes you don’t realize you lose things. You’ve dropped things before.”
“But not babies!”
Mommy had to give her that one. Baby brother squished a meatball between his fingers.
Pearl was reflective over her mashed potatoes.
“Why did Agnes’s mommy and daddy not come back for her?”
Daddy responded. “Well, they might not have been able to come back.”
Pearl was distressed.
“Wouldn’t they miss her?”
“I’m sure, but they might not have time to go searching.”
“You have to have time for babies!”
Daddy had to give her that one. Baby brother combed his hair with his fork.
Pearl was determined over her peas.
“I’m going to take care of Agnes better than her mommy and daddy did.”
Pearl’s parents looked at each other. Mommy responded.
“Honey, we don’t know if her parents are out looking for her right now, missing their baby Agnes very much. We would miss you very much if we lost you.”
Pearl was surprised.
“Do you think they love her?”
“I’m sure they do, honey. Somebody does, for sure.”
“You have to love babies.”
Her parents had to give her that one. Baby brother slid peas under his plate.
After dinner, Pearl dressed baby Agnes in a tiny blue nightgown. Daddy prepared a small crib for her. Baby brother contributed a worn choo-choo train. They set the crib close to Pearl’s bed so she could tend to Agnes during the night.
When her parents shut the door and the night light shone slowly, Pearl sang a quiet lullaby to Agnes. Baby brother hummed a low harmony through his nose.
The next May morning, after breakfast, there was a knock. Pearl was reading to Agnes on the couch. Baby brother was managing his trains. Daddy opened the door.
It was a mommy. She hadn’t slept. She had a girl Pearl’s age with her, who looked like she had been crying.
“I’m sorry to bother you. We’re looking for a my daughter’s baby doll.”
The little girl saw Agnes and cried, “Lucy!”
Pearl held Agnes close and looked to her father. He nodded.
She turned and carefully carried Agnes to the girl.
“Lucy is a pretty name.”