The courtyard was still divided into the front courtyard and back courtyard. The former front yard of the old house had almost doubled in size. Also, in front of the three new rooms was a courtyard with a total area of 3-4 mu, which was extravagant! The back courtyard was still close to the lake and was no smaller the front yard. In the autumn and winter, when the lake became shallower, more fertile land would appear!
Before Yu Hai had extended the size of the courtyards, he had discussed it with the village chief and offered to pay for the extra land. This was to prevent other people from complaining later on.
Now that Yu Hai’s connections far exceeded those of his, the village chief also had his own thoughts on the matter. Yu Hai was not only the relative of a general, but even the future head of the Zhou family also treated him differently. Reportedly, Princess Consort Jing, who was building a residence in the West Mountains, also liked Yu Hai’s little girl. Becoming friends with such a person would only have benefits and no harm. Maybe one day, he could even use Yu Hai’s help.
At first, he was unwilling to accept money Yu Hai was using to buy the land. Later, after Yu Hai explained the logic to him, he took the silver as a symbolic gesture. The price of land for residences in the village was low to begin with. In addition, the village chief also deliberately lowered the price even more, so it was almost the same as giving it away for nothing. Yu Hai said that he would remember this favor.
Time had flown by and youth is hard to keep. In an instant, the autumn harvest had gone by and winter had quietly come. Everyone in Dongshan Village began to store food and firewood for the winter. Due to the severe drought in the northeast part of the country and their inability to harvest grain, the price of grain in the northern parts were affected. The price of refined rice and white flour had kept increasing and even the price of coarse grain has increased a little compared to the previous year.
The eldest son of the village chief, who was doing business in other places, often sent back news that the drought impacted the northeast the most. Although the emperor had allocated money for disaster relief, what the common people actually received wasn’t enough to support them through the bitter winter. People in the northeast with relatives elsewhere had packed up their belongings and fled. Refugees are beginning to appear everywhere too.
The situation in Dongshan Village was okay. Although there was less rain in the summer, it was more uniform and had less impact on the crops.
Unknowingly, the day for Xiaocao’s youngest paternal aunt, Yu Caidie, to get married arrived. The day before the wedding, all her relatives and friends had come over to add to her dowry. Although Yu Hai hated Madam Zhang, he was still Yu Caidie’s older brother after all, so he naturally wouldn’t cause problems on her wedding day.
The previous day, Yu Hai had taken his youngest daughter to town. He wanted to buy a silver bracelet for his little sister, but he didn’t believe in his ability to pick a good one, so he took Xiaocao with him.
Xiaocao had no ill feelings toward this weak, kind hearted, youngest paternal aunt of hers. It was said that the family her aunt was marrying into had a good situation, and Madam Zhang, whose heart was full of her youngest son, definitely wouldn’t prepare a large dowry for her. When ancient women married, their dowry represented the degree of importance they attached to her. It also represented her standing in her husband’s family.
In addition to a pair of dragon and phoenix bracelets, Xiaocao also chose a pair of hairpins and a pair of red coral earrings. Coral ornaments were still expensive even though Tanggu Town overlooked the sea. A pair of red coral earrings were worth more than the dragon and phoenix bracelets and hairpins added together. However, spending a few dozen taels was nothing to the current Yu Family.
After thinking about it, they also went to the shop beside the previous melon shop and chose several pieces of cloth. All of them were the kind of fine cloth that farmers would be reluctant to wear. Her godmother had said that a married girl should have several pieces of cloth to store away at the bottom of one’s dowry box.
While they were in Tanggu Town, Yu Hai and his daughter also met some unkempt refugees. The new county magistrate had installed some simple shacks outside the town for them, and they ate porridge donated by larger households. The winters were long in the north, so Xiaocao wondered if they would survive the long winter.
Yu Hai had been standing at the refugee camp for a long time. He looked carefully at them and seem to be searching for something. Xiaocao thought her father was feeling sympathetic for the refugees, so she bought some coarse grain steamed buns and asked the steamed bun shop to deliver it over. It wasn’t that she couldn’t afford to buy white flour steamed buns, but she understood that giving them food that was too fancy might cause a backlash.
At this time, there weren’t many refugees outside of Tanggu Town. Yu Hai handed out the steamed buns one by one to everyone and received countless words of gratitude. Xiaocao noticed her father occasionally asked about Liu Hu. Who was Liu Hu? Why did her father care so much about this person?
At home, during dinner time, Yu Hai sighed and mentioned his older sister who had been married off to the northeast. “My ill-fated elder sister hasn’t sent a letter to me for many days already. I don’t know what the situation in her village is like, will she be like those refugees with nowhere to go……”
Madam Liu softly comforted him, "Don't worry. Those refugees don't have relatives to take them in. Dongshan Village is your elder sister's maiden home and you are her younger brother. If she really can't make a living, she will come back."
Yu Hai slowly shook his head and said, "You know that my elder sister hates Madam Zhang to her bones. Even if she had to beg outside, she won't come home. Although I sent her a letter telling her we have separated from them, I'm afraid that she will go to other places for refuge to avoid giving me problems..."
"That shouldn't happen. If it was me, for my children to suffer less, I would choose to go to a place I was familiar with. Maybe your elder sister is already on her way over!" Oldest Sister in-law had three children, and the youngest one was only a year older than Shitou. She wouldn’t ignore her children for the sake of her pride.
Xiaocao thought about it and asked, “Father, is Oldest Uncle called Liu Hu?
Yu Hai nodded his head. She guessed right. Today in the refugee camp, her father was looking for news on her oldest paternal aunt’s family.
A night without any conversation passed. The next day was the day to add to Yu Caidie’s dowry. Originally, Yu Hai planned on giving them the things and going home. However, many people were only coming over to add to the dowry because of his relationship with Yu Caidie. When he saw one person, he'd chat for a minute, and when he saw another person, he'd chat a few more minutes; all of sudden he couldn't get away for a while.
Yu Caidie's handkerchief was given to the married women of the village who wanted to be nice. They all gathered around the room on the east side of the house and congratulating her. Yu Caidie's face was red, and she bashfully bowed her head, occasionally showing her shy smile.
Her dowries were in the main room, and there was a total of six chests. For a farming village, it was pretty good. Even though Madam Zhang loved money, this was still her daughter. As such, she wouldn’t be stingy on the dowry. In addition to the betrothal gifts given by the man’s family and the six chests of dowry, she added ten taels of silver and hid a six taels and six mace of auspicious money among the dowry.
When Yu Hai came to add to the dowry, Madam Zhang didn't go out. When the man went back into the courtyard, the maidens and married women all rushed over. Li Xiaomeng, a good friend of Yu Caidie's, joked with a smile, "Caidie, look at all the good things your second elder brother brought you. It's such a big bag!"
Another round-faced married woman said, "I'm sure it won't be bad. There are only two families in Dongshan Village that live in a brick house, and Brother Dahai's family is one of them! Their house is similar to the houses of the rich in the city; it even has cornices on its four corners! How stylish!"
Li Xiaomeng nodded and said with a smile, "Yeah! Yeah! It's said that there are several mu of land just in the courtyard. Brother Dahai has made a lot of money on the early ripening vegetables he grows in his yard. Next year, he will definitely earn more than what he made last year!"
A married woman, who was obviously jealous of their success, curled up her lips and sourly said, “Having money doesn’t mean they are willing to give it up! Heh, look at that old cotton cloth wrapper, you don’t even know how old the cloth is! They aren’t even willing to spend money on a cloth wrapper, how good could the thing inside be?”
Madam Zhang silently stood behind the crowd without any expression on her face. All of a sudden, her expression changed into something fierce. She took a step forward and squeezed out a smile at the maidens and wives present. She loudly said, “Caidie, take a look at what good things your Second Brother brought you!!”
Her voice shook the ears of the people in the room, and even the men in the courtyard clearly heard her. Madam Zhang originally thought that because of what she did when she was younger, Yu Hai still had a deep hatred for her. So he definitely wouldn’t send anything good. She wanted to let the villagers know that Yu Hai got rich and looked down on his family. Let’s see how he behaved in the village after this.
The old cloth was quickly opened by her, and the red, blue, and flowery textiles inside were exposed. There were at least five or six different ones. One of the wives exclaimed and picked up one of the fine cotton bolts with red flowers on a blue background and said, "Wow! This is chintz!"
"Let me see, let me see!!" Li Xiaomeng squeezed over and touched it with her hand. Without any envy, she said "It's real! The feel of it and this pattern... Last time, when I was in the cloth shop and saw the fine cotton cloth, the feel of it wasn't as good as this one! One foot was fifty copper coins! This piece of cloth is at least six feet long. If you are careful with it, you could make an outfit and still have a surplus."
“Tsk tsk! Six pieces of fine cotton cloth and every one of them is six feet...it’s at least four or five taels. Brother Dahai is very generous!” The round faced wife gently stroked a piece of cloth and was reluctant to let go.
Yu Caidie was still looking from the side and had a smile and tears in her eyes. She turned her back to them and gently wiped the corners of her eyes with the handkerchief and thought, ‘Second Brother is still the Second Brother who cares about me...’
Li Xiaomeng was looking through every piece of cloth, and suddenly an exquisite wooden box fell out of the innermost piece of cloth. With her sharp eyes and nimble hands, she quickly caught it. Looking at the beautifully carved box, she knows the things inside must be precious. If they broke she wouldn’t be able to afford it!
“What is this?” The wives and maidens all gathered around, curiously looking at the box in Li Xiaomeng’s hands.
“I know! Last time I went into town for the fair, I was separated from my family. Somehow, I walked to Dongcheng District, where the houses are magnificent. Among them is a jewelry shop, which was the largest and most imposing. A lady, wearing silk and satins, came out from inside and her maidservant was holding such a box. I quietly inquired about the cheapest earrings in the store and it was several taels!!” The one speaking was the youngest daughter of the village chief. She was one year younger than Caidie and has already found a household she was going to marry into next month.
Li Xiaomeng’s hands holding the box trembled a bit, so close! Thankfully, it didn’t fall on the ground.
“Xiaomeng, open it and take a look!” The youngest daughter of the village chief excitedly urged.
“What are you looking at? It’s just a pair of earrings worth a few silvers. What’s worth chatting about!” Upon seeing that Yu Hai didn’t get disgraced, Madam Zhang’s old face was pulled so long that it looked like a shoehorn. She reached out to pull the box out of Li Xiaomeng’s hands.Previous Chapter Next Chapter