CH 154 The Grievance of Staying in the Guest House
Third Old Mistress Shi’s face darkened immediately as she sighed awkwardly and said, “This is the way the royal court works, how can they deny us? Moreover, my husband’s health is more important. We can’t simply ignore his health condition in order to keep his position! What will we become then!”
Second Old Mistress Shi was feeling upset as well. She thought: hmph, since when do you have a say? Although your husband became an official, he received the position through the Shi family. How could he resign like this without telling us a thing?
“I don’t know how the royal court works, but I wonder, Third Brother was alright for so many there, so how did he get so seriously ill last year?”
“How would I know!” Third Old Mistress Shi said coldly, “He always keeps himself healthy, who’d have known he would fall ill? The climate there really isn’t good! Now that my husband has resigned, maybe the court will station him at a better place next time!”
“Oh! Then we will see how after one or two years then!” Second Old Mistress Shi despised the word ‘maybe’. She thought to herself: what ‘maybe’? More like ‘not possible’! Who do you think you’re trying to fool when you’re not even sure yourself!
Third Old Mistress was immediately triggered by Second Old Mistress Shi’s sarcastic comment. Just when she raised her brows and was about to refute, Third Old Master Shi raised his voice and interrupted without batting an eyelid, “In any case, I will strive to be stationed at a better place next time so that I will be able to contribute to our Shi family! I feel ashamed to mention that over all these years that I’ve been far away at Sichuan, I’ve been relying on the allowance from home, but I’ve never done anything for the family! Ai, I’ll give a better explanation to my brother and sister-in-laws slowly in the future after settling down!”
Since Third Old Master Shi had already said so, everyone else could only smile, “Third Brother, please don’t regard yourself as an outsider, that amount of money is something you ought to have, no need to feel ashamed!”
Seeing that it was almost time, Shi Fengju laughed, “Third Uncle and Third Aunt must be tired! How about I lead you to the guest house to rest first? Let’s have dinner together tonight to welcome Third Uncle and Third Aunt back.”
Third Old Master Shi and Third Old Mistress Shi were eager to get out of this conversation and have a good rest. After getting up from their seat, they excused themselves after an exchange of pleasantries.
Third Old Mistress Shi then sent servants to call for her two daughters.
Wang Shi asked without much thought, “My place is quite spacious and warm, why not let them sisters stay here for the time being?”
Third Old Master Shi hurriedly smiled and said, “We’ll have to trouble Eldest Sister-in-law then!”
However, who knew that Third Old Mistress Shi would say otherwise, “It’s fine, it’s fine! We’ll all stay in the guest house! Those two children are very naughty; it won’t be good if they were to disturb Eldest Sister-in-law!” She remained persistent in bringing her two daughters along.
“Alright then, so be it!” Since she insisted, Wang Shi said no more.
However, after they had left, Second Old Mistress Shi dragged Wang Shi aside and whispered to her secretly, “Eldest Sister-in-law, look at Third Sister-in-law! You were being so kind to let our two nieces stay and take care of them, but they became suspicious of you instead! I’m sure they were afraid that you might secretly ask their daughters about them since they were rushing to bring them away! Your kindness wasn’t recompensed! Even I am feeling indignant for Eldest Sister-in-law!”
Wang Shi did not think so at first, but her heart nearly skipped a beat after hearing Second Old Mistress Shi’s words. After much thought: wasn’t that the case? That worried expression on Zhang Shi’s face a moment ago!
“What nonsense are you saying!” Wang Shi’s face turned white with anger, but she said, “Which mother does not love her own children? Third Sister-in-law isn’t wrong for worrying about her daughters!”
I’ll let you remain stubborn then! Looking at her annoyed face, Second Old Mistress Shi covered her mouth and chuckled lightly, “Eldest Sister-in-law is right, it may just be me thinking too much then!” Second Old Mistress Shi left unhurriedly after saying so.
Wang Shi calmed herself with a single breath and called for Sang Wan, “Hurry and do what you have to!”
That was what Sang Wan was waiting to hear. She quickly smiled, “Then your daughter-in-law will be taking her leave now. I’ll come back and consult Mother if there’s anything that I cannot decide for myself! Also, for the dishes tonight, I will send the menu to Mother to have a look after checking through it once it’s ready! Mother please don’t dislike disfavor your daughter-in-law for any shortcomings.”
Wang Shi was feeling annoyed at that moment, so how would she be willing to bother about what goes with the third family? She waved her hand after hearing Sang Wan and said uninterestedly, “Mother trusts that you can handle it by yourself. There’s no need to come and ask me! Asking me won’t give you any answers! In any case, they’re part of our family, you don’t have to be too nervous when being around them! I don’t feel like checking tonight’s menu as well, so settle it with the kitchen yourself. Do it quickly and don’t get it done too late!”
Sang Wan could only agree and turned to leave.
While on her way, she ran into Shi Fengju by chance. Shi Fengju was returning from the guest house after leading the third family to the guest house, so the two continued on their way back to Ning Garden together.
“In the end, it just doesn’t feel right to let Third Uncle and Third Aunt stay in the guest house. Let the servants hurry up and get Ji Cui Tower and Han Shuang Pavilion prepared!” Shi Fengju smiled and said.
Sang Wan smiled bitterly, “Mother washed her hands clean of it, so you’ll have to help me out!” If not, I will be displeased with both of you again! Or so she thought.
Shi Fengju loved to hear her rely on him and laughed immediately, “Don’t you worry, who, other than me, will offer to help you? If anything goes wrong, just blame it on me!”
Sang Wan giggled and pretended to be annoyed with him, “As if I’d dare to push all the blame onto you. Mother wouldn’t spare me either!”
They could not help but laugh and their mood lightened a lot for a moment.
After returning to Ning Garden, Zhide hurriedly smiled and reported to Sang Wan before she even had the chance to do so, “The kitchen will be sending the menu over soon and will hurry to prepare them once the masters have checked it through. We weren’t sure which house to clean, but Liu Ya has already went to call for servants and look for tools. Nanny Li followed the rest of the nannies who went to see the third family as they returned. We’re not entirely sure whether our arrangements are proper, but they should be back soon. Young Master and Young Mistress, please have a rest first!”
Sang Wan and Shi Fengju looked at each other and smiled, “It must be tough on all of you to make such thorough arrangements. If anyone is here to report later, you can tell them to inform Liu Ya that Ji Cui Tower and Han Shuang Pavilion are to be cleaned. Your young master and I will be going over there later to see if there’s anything else that needs to be added!”
Zhide hurriedly accepted and went to send out the instructions. The two of them sat down and a young servant served them tea.
“Ji Cui Tower and Han Shuang Pavilion are taken care of everyday so it should not be too troublesome to tidy up. Everything else that we need are in the storehouse, so there’s nothing for you to worry about.” Shi Fengju smiled.
Shortly after, the kitchen delivered the menu over. Many of the dishes were distinguishingly Sichuan local cuisine such as smoked bacon with pine nuts, braised beancurd with crab meat, stir-fried pork with broccoli, deep fried pork loin etc. Clearly, the kitchen had put in effort to come up with tonight’s menu. They made it specially for the third family to ease their homesickness.
Sang Wan handed the menu over to Shi Fengju after browsing through it and laughed, “I don’t know about Third Uncle and Third Aunt’s liking and since Mother doesn’t want to have a look, you’ll have to make the decision then. If everything’s fine, we should let the kitchen start preparing the dishes as soon as possible!”
Shi Fengju smiled as he took the menu from her. Then he nodded after a quick glance at it, “Auntie Han has been in charge of our kitchen for more than twenty years. Since she’s the one who prepared this, then it should be good to go!”
Sang Wan hurriedly sent a servant to inform the kitchen.
Right at this moment, Nanny Li returned as well and Sang Wan laughed, “Nanny must be tired, have a rest! Lord and I are about to head over to Ji Cui Tower and have a look around!”
Shi Fengju asked, “Are the servants, who came with Third Uncle and Third Aunt, settled down? Did they complain about anything?” Among the servants who came, some were old and had followed the Third Shi family when they left the household, as well as those who were brought. After following their master who was an official, it was inevitable for them to regard themselves a notch above others and might be finicky. The servants would bring shame to their masters if they quarrelled among themselves. Moreover, since they had no reputation to keep, why would they care about it? Such servants are harder to deal with compared to their masters.
“Young Master, not to worry, this old servant had everything settled! Everything is alright now! This old servant really is tired. I will take a short rest first before heading over to Ji Cui Tower to see if there’s anything that I can help with,” Nanny Li smiled and said so. There were indeed a few who were hard to deal with, but as Shi Fengju’s nanny, no one would dare to disrespect her. And only because of that, the servants of Third Shi family were settled without much of a problem.
“Thank you, Nanny! Please take a rest first!” Shi Fengju smiled and nodded before he went out with Sang Wan.
Ji Cui Tower’s floor had already been cleaned and the servants were now wiping the doors, windows, pillars, and every corner. They hurriedly bowed and greeted Shi Fengju and Sang Wan after seeing that they had arrived.
“No need to be overly courteous, quickly go back to work!” Sang Wan smiled and said, “Make it through the next few days and everyone will be rewarded after it’s complete!”
Sang Wan had never neglected giving out rewards. All of the servants cheered after hearing her words and they smiled while thanking their young mistress before returning to work energetically.
“How’s Han Shuang Pavilion doing?” Sang Wan asked Liu Ya.
“Hong Ye is watching over there! Young Mistress, there’s nothing for you to worry!” Liu Ya hurriedly smiled and replied, “It’s very messy and dusty here. Young Master and Young Mistress, please go back first. It won’t be too late to check again tomorrow after we are done with the cleaning today!”
Sang Wan laughed, “Since we are already here, it won’t hurt to have a look around? Go ahead with your work, no need to worry about us!” She walked in with Shi Fengju as she spoke.
Shi Fengju stopped Liu Ya and had her prepare some writing materials before he smiled at Sang Wan, “There are a lot of things that needs to be added on here. It would be easier if we recorded them down with paper and brush!” So the two of them checked every corner, from beds, chairs and cupboards, to curtains and mattresses and carefully discussed about the type of furniture to choose, as well as the material and size; which carpet to match them with; what display items to put on the curio shelves; where to put the screens; where to hang the curtains etc, they spent nearly four hours in discussion. It was fortunate that Nanny Li arrived shortly after to listen and secretly take quick notes so that she could have the things cleaned early the next morning after picking them out from the storehouse. By afternoon, everything should be ready to be moved.
Sang Wan suddenly recalled something and exclaimed, “Oh right, Mother told me before that we don’t know if Third Uncle and Third Aunt had brought back enough clothes with them. Nanny Li, send a servant to inform the tailor to come and measure their clothing sizes tomorrow and quickly get their clothes ready! Also, check if there are new bedding in the storehouse. Take them out and lay them under the sun if there are, if not, quickly send a few servants to buy them!”
“Our family has stores that sells silk, ready-made clothes, as well as embroidery. It won’t be difficult to handle!” Shi Fengju smiled and told Nanny Li that she just had to send a servant to inform the purchasing department.
Nanny Li accepted the instructions and smiled, “Young Mistress can head down to Han Shuang Pavilion tomorrow and let this old servant know how you’d like to decorate it, just like today. This old servant will have everything else handled at the storehouse. Once everything’s done, Young Master and Young Mistress can come again to check and make any changes if needed. You should quickly go back now and get some rest, wash, and change into a new set of clothes. There’s still tonight’s dinner with Old Mistress!”