Chapter 54 (V2): Abacus
Wang Shi was pleased and proudly glanced at Old Mistress Zhuang in the eye.Feeling discontented and helpless at the same time, Old Mistress Zhuang remained silent. However, the one to speak up was Old Mistress Li and she smiled, “Staying true to the facts, I may have strayed a little on my judgement. From the way I see it, why don’t we send the two’s best and most appreciated work to the gentlemen in the house and have them do the judging? How about it?”
In many households, there would be two or three gentlemen who were knowledgeable in the world of poetry. The proposed idea to kick the ball out by Old Mistress Li was so as not to offend either party.
Wang Shi was already completely satisfied, for at least the Shi family marrying such a daughter-in-law in would not have any dissatisfaction from the public anymore. And so, why not be generous? Wang Shi grinned, “No need for this to become so troublesome! Miss Tang coming here from afar isn’t easy, so we’ll let her have the perfume!”
A bottle of Western perfume may seem rare to find for other families, but for the Shi family, obtaining one by their own means was nothing! Something like that bottle was not very important to Wang Shi.
Wang Shi was full of generosity, but little did she know that her words were of a great insult to Old Mistress Zhuang and Miss Tang; as if they were really contesting for the bottle of perfume!
Miss Tang had eaten a loss for being a guest from afar. Although her heart felt extremely embarrassed, it would be inconvenient for her to say anything. As such, Old Mistress Zhuang became the one to speak, ” Ai, that cannot be the case! How can we change what has been set? The perfume’s a small matter!” With that said, she immediately ordered for the four chosen poetry to be sent out.
“Really, taking my kindness for granted!” Wang Shi became angry and snapped.
Seeing the gunpowder in the air, the crowd quickly laughed and greeted the event as the past.
Old Mistress Zhuang’s sister-in-law, Old Mistress Jiang, was somewhat annoyed. With a shallow smile, she sneered, “If I may say, it’s not as if the Shi family’s young master is taking the imperial examinations, so isn’t these poetry somewhat irrelevant to Young Mistress Shi! The Shi business is so huge, so shouldn’t it need someone to help in managing the household? Oh, I forgot. I heard that Old Mistress Shi let her niece, who grew up in the household, do it instead! No wonder the Shi family’s Young Mistress had so much time on her hands to read poetry because there was someone to carry all that huge burden!”
Old Mistress Jiang’s words caused the crowd to turn silent in an instant.
Gu Fangzi and Shi Fengju being lovey-dovey was something known throughout the whole of Qingzhou city. What Old Mistress Jiang did was inciteful, with words of sarcasm. A string of words which brought about ridicule to Sang Wan for being ignorant, and also Old Mistress Wang for putting up an act; to boast about Sang Wan when she obviously valued her niece, Gu Fangzi, more!
That was a thorn in Wang Shi’s heart. Hearing those words, she was dismayed and furious. However, she knew not how to cover up, but subconsciously went to look at how her daughter-in-law would react.
Sang Wan’s heart was furious and embarrassed. Saying that she did not blame her mother-in-law was impossible. It had been clear that the engagement had been set between her and Shi Fengju, yet she had let the relationship between Shi Fengju and Gu Fangzi continue, and to even go as far as encouraging them!
But the die had already been cast, and what had already been established could neither be changed by her, nor expressed by her. Seeing Wang Shi giving her a glance, Sang Wan felt even more embarrassed and awkward. How she wished she could cry this bitterness away.
“Mother-in-law is kind and had accepted Cousin Fangzi into the household since young. So how is that wrong? My cousin-in-law is entirely grateful and wishes to return the favor, isn’t it normal for humans? As for how I am, what has that got to do with my cousin-in-law? Old Mistress Jiang’s words truly puzzle me!” Sang Wan’s tone was gentle, but one could feel the chill in those words as her brilliant eyes looked at Old Mistress Jiang. There was no anger or flaunting of power as she displayed her virtuousness.
Old Mistress Jiang was pushed to a corner by her manner. Feeling a little guilty, she remained her strong front and she sneered, “Although you may not understand, that doesn’t mean your mother-in-law doesn’t!”
Wang Shi snapped angrily, “I don’t understand too! Sang Wan is our Shi family’s daughter-in-law, and will become the person in-charge of our household in the future! This fact will never change! Old Mistress Jiang coming at us with such provocative words, just what is the meaning of that?”
Sang Wan quickly smiled, “Mother, I think Old Mistress Jiang is only being concern, worrying that your daughter-in-law isn’t virtuous enough and that she’ll not be able to be a support for her husband! She’s worried about our Shi family! Do not worry, Old Mistress Jiang, for Sang Wan will not let you worry any longer! The Shi family being the head of riches would continue in the long run! Managing the household, and managing the business records, Sang Wan dare not flaunt her little knowledge of it!”
“Oh? Other than writing poetry, does the Shi family’s young mistress know how to use the abacus as well? Could you let us witness it for a bit!” Old Mistress Jiang saw Old Mistress Zhuang’s darkened face, and could not help but become secretly angry. How she wished Sang Wan would embarrass herself in front of the crowd, exposing that ugly self; just like the saying to kill the snake and show the stick.
“That’s it! If even using the abacus is difficult, then you’re not fit to be the Shi family’s daughter-in-law! Don’t you say so, Sister Wang?” Old Mistress Zhuang laughed.
Wang Shi did not speak, and she glanced at Sang Wan.
“Then please, may I have Old Mistress Zhuang bring me an abacus! Sang Wan hopes not to disappoint everyone here!” Sang Wan remained fearless and smiled.
Mistress Zhuang was completely sure of herself that Sang Wan had never used the abacus even in the Sang family. She smiled and nodded before ordering a servant to bring it over immediately. Secretly, she sneered: Let’s just see how long you can continue running that mouth of yours.
The servant not only brought the oiled abacus but also a roll of business accounts and smiled, “This servant pondered for a while and thinks that the abacus has to be used together with the business accounts to calculate the records. Without the business accounts, there’s no way to use the abacus, right? Fortunately, here’s the account for last month’s garden. Our Old Mistress has already counted it a few days ago, so why don’t, Young Mistress Shi use this for practice!”
“How dare you decide all that on your own!” Mistress Zhuang glared at the servant but she quickly turned to Sang Wan and gave a false smile, “Sang Wan, what do you think?”
“Sang Wan is more than happy to!” Sang Wan did not raise a brow. Receiving the abacus and the roll of business accounts, she sat down and set the beads to zero before spreading the book open on her left hand. With a hand to flip the book, her five fingers on her other hand flew into action, like a dexterous swallow in the sky, the fingers moved the beads in the abacus up and down, making a crisp sound. Her performance was smooth and skilled, with an unspeakable elegance.
The audience were all in a daze as they silently watched the pair of clever hands without blinking an eye.
Old Mistress Zhuang was also taken aback. She was different from Wang Shi; Wang Shi was lazy and there was nothing she had to care about, letting matters in the household be handled by the household department and Gu Fangzi while the outer matters were handled by the head servants who report directly to her son. On the other hand, Old Mistress Zhuang was someone who likes to keep herself busy. Many of the business accounts had to be handed up to her and verified by her personally. Now, seeing Sang Wan’s performance, she knew absolutely that she was truly skilled!
“In total, three thousand six hundred and seventy-two silvers. Am I right?” Following a crisp sound, Sang Wan’s fingers made a clear halt and she rested them on the ground.
The servant took a look at the paper in his hand and became dumbfounded. As for Mistress Zhuang, she had remembered every single cleared account book and had no need to refer to a paper to know that the figures were correct.
“Young Mistress Shi truly is amazing!” Old Mistress Zhuang could not help but sigh. She subconsciously took a glimpse at Tang Yuzhen and her heart felt a sense of disappointment.
Her son was not as bad as Shi Fengju, would his wife then have to suffer under Shi Fengju’s daughter-in-law then?
The women rumbled with praise. Many of them knew at least how to count a few of the business accounts, and even for those who had never fiddled with the abacus, they would have seen others or their own daughter-in-law do it before. However, they had never seen anyone who could use the abacus so beautifully like Sang Wan did; so to say, it was extremely mesmerizing!
The smile on Wang Shi’s face could not be any broader. Even she had not known that Sang Wan was actually so gifted! In the future when the Shi family belongs to her, she could finally be at ease! It seems, that old mister’s eyes really could not be compared with!
The crowd saw Old Mistress Zhuang and Old Mistress Jiang’s face turn dark and awkward, and they quickly tried to brighten up the atmosphere. They were, after all, in the Zhuang household; having the host uncomfortable was uncalled for.
Not too far away, behind a bush of hibiscus flowers, a tall and handsome young man with dark hair, who wore a robe, gazed listlessly at the gathering.
That man was the only child of the Zhuang couple, Zhuang Weixian.
Moreover, him standing there was not his intention, but his mother, Old Mistress Zhuang, who strongly urged him to do so. His mother had never backed down from getting him married. Instead, the more she battled, the more courageous she got and today, she had him stand here to observe Miss Tang.
He knew that after the banquet was over, his mother would be in good spirits and enraptured to ask him how Miss Tang was; whether he liked her; and whether he was satisfied. And without even waiting for his answer, she would overly praise Miss Tang as if no one would be greater than her!
Zhuang Weixian watched for a while and earnestly listened to the few sentences picked out by the women as they judged the poetries. Savoring the words, he could not help but nod a few times for some of the poetry sounded somewhat not too bad, just that he could not identify whether it was done by Miss Tang or the Shi family’s Young Mistress. Pressing his conscious, he would rather believe it was the Shi family’s Young Mistress who did it. Who asked his mother to try forcing Miss Tang to his side?
The incident later startled him a little and his brows could not help but knit together. He felt that his mother and aunt were going a little too overboard! He could not bear to watch the Shi family’s Young Mistress anymore and his heart secretly prayed that her heart was strong enough. She must absolutely not cry; otherwise, the Zhuang family’s face would be thrown for being unkind!
Of course, even if the Shi family’s Young Mistress were to cry, Zhuang Weixian also felt that it was meant to happen because which woman could endure such humiliation? He was clear of the relationship between Shi Fengju, that b*stard, and his cousin. And what’s more, that b*stard would often complain to him right before his marriage about the Sang family’s Missy and his 120% resentment and hostility towards her. For that fact, Zhuang Weixian could empathize with him because even though their circumstances were different, he knew that in a certain sense, they were no different! He knew having a woman to truly love him was not easy and was even more sure that the Sang family’s Missy, after entering the family, must have had a miserable life. Shi Fengju that lad, seemingly gentle, but often hurt others without knowing! For that, he shall be watched closely, and the day when he suffers shall be the day a fatal blow will be delivered upon him!
And because of that, the Sang family’s Missy’s days must have definitely not been great! And now, to be humiliated in front of so many people, he touched his heart and understood that even enduring might be too difficult.
But unexpectedly, what came after surprised him entirely! The Sang family’s Missy was able to remain calm and gentle. What was even more stunning was the way her hand used the abacus, absolutely amazing!
To be able to use the abacus so beautifully, he had never witnessed anything like that before.