Chapter 143: Jealousy (2)
Chu Lian spent two peaceful days in the estate. She was already starting to consider the revival plan for Guilin Restaurant. In two more days, she would ask Matriarch He for permission to go out and take a look at the restaurant herself.
It was almost mid-autumn soon. The estate was starting to prepare the necessary items for the colder months ahead. The temperature outside was getting lower, thanks to a few rounds of autumn rain, and it had become much cooler.
After having breakfast at Songtao Court in the morning, Chu Lian gave her morning greetings to Matriarch He as usual. She bumped into Madam Zou while she was there.
Matriarch He took a sip of tea. Perhaps due to the coming of autumn, Matriarch He had added some dried chrysanthemum flowers into her sencha today, giving it a fresh burst of flavour.
While looking at the floating yellow petals in her tea, Matriarch He suddenly remembered something. She immediately said, “It’s almost autumn now. It’s about time for all the courtyards to get additional clothes made. Dalang’s wife, have you finished the preparations?”
Madam Zou had just picked up her cup of tea. She hadn’t expected Matriarch He to mention this matter to her so abruptly, but she quickly replied, “Please don’t worry about it, Grandmother. The steward in charge of the needlework has already mentioned it to me. I’ve already given them my orders; the new clothes for this season will be made in the most trendy styles of the capital.”
After saying so, she turned to look at Chu Lian, who was sitting opposite her. Her eyes seemed to dim a little before she continued to say, “Third Sister-in-Law has just married in this year, and she’s so young and pretty. I took the initiative to add three more sets of clothing for Third Sister-in-Law. Does Grandmother have any other requests?”
It seemed like Madam Zou’s reply had satisfied Matriarch He. “Mm, you’ve done well, Dalang’s wife. Since Sanlang isn’t in the capital, we should be taking care of Sanlang’s wife as her senior family members. In my opinion, when it’s time for each courtyard to get new accessories, why don’t you add two more sets for Sanlang’s wife?”
“This granddaughter-in-law understands.” Although Madam Zou replied positively, beneath the surface, she had taken offence. Giving Chu Lian a few more sets of clothing was already considered special treatment; now she even had to order more accessories to be made for her.
A single set of clothes wouldn’t cost more than a hundred taels, regardless of the quality of the material used.
However, one set of accessories could cost at least a hundred or more! They would have to be high quality, too!
Upon thinking that Matriarch He had suddenly added on five to six hundred taels of expenses with just one sentence, Madam Zou felt extremely put off. Matriarch He didn’t know the cost of things since she wasn’t managing the household accounts.
The stores and fields that the estate had under their name didn’t produce much annual income for them.
None of the masters present in the Jing’an Estate knew how to manage businesses, so after deducting the necessary expenses for upkeep and maintaining connections with other houses, they didn’t have much money left.
Once Countess Jing’an used up her own funds, her medicine expenses would be shifted to the general accounts. A thousand taels a month was not a small sum. By then, it would be hard to manage this estate.
When Madam Zou thought back to when she had first married into the estate, she recalled that Matriarch He had never treated her this well. Jealousy and frustration took root in Madam Zou’s heart.
Chu Lian wanted to say something, but it wasn’t her turn to speak. She could see that the look in Madam Zou’s eyes was changing, and cried bitterly in her heart.
Ah, my dear grandmother, aren’t you creating trouble for me?!
How could their third branch get any extra accessories when the main branch wasn’t getting any?
Chu Lian was about to speak up and reject the offer when Matriarch He cut her off. “Sanlang’s wife is so young, it’s just the right time for her to dress up. A few accessories shouldn’t cost too much; furthermore, our estate should be able to spare that much.”
The matriarch’s gaze landed on Chu Lian’s abdomen.
Chu Lian choked and couldn’t bring herself to speak…
What else could she say? The matriarch had already had the final word.
Madam Zou, who had her eyes trained on Matriarch He, immediately caught the look she shot towards Chu Lian. Alarm bells rang in her head.
She couldn’t help the frustration she felt pressing like a heavy weight on top of her chest. Her face flushed red from the strength of her emotions.
After Chu Lian and Madam Zou headed to Countess Jing’an’s courtyard together for a visit, Matriarch He called her trusted Senior Servant Zhou over. She asked in a casual tone, “Is there any news about Sanlang’s wife?”
Senior Servant Zhou’s face crinkled up and she replied with difficulty, “I heard that Third Young Madam had her monthlies yesterday.”
Matriarch He’s face was filled with disappointment. It looked like the great-grandson she had been looking forward to wasn’t coming this year.
Senior Servant Zhou tried to comfort her. “Matriarch, although Third Young Madam comes from House Ying, Third Young Master only stayed a few days after they got married. How could she fall pregnant that easily?”
Matriarch He sighed, looking crestfallen. “You’re right, I was too hasty.”
When Chu Lian took her leave a step ahead of Madam Zou, Countess Jing’an kept Madam Zou back, intending to say a few words in private.
“Mother, is anything the matter?”
Countess Jing’an’s face was pale as she leaned against the headboard of her bed; every once in awhile, she would cough. As she held onto Madam Zou’s hands, she slowly said, “It’s almost time for the seasons to change. Since it’s almost autumn, there are many preparations to be done around the estate. It must have been tough on you.”
“Mother, what are you saying? It’s all part of my duty.” Madam Zou felt comforted by her mother-in-law’s words. The lingering frustration she felt from Qingxi Hall began to dissipate, and she managed to squeeze out a refreshed smile.
“Mother has also been in your position, and Mother knows how tiring it must be. While working to keep our estate running, don’t forget to take care of your own body.”
“Mm! I understand, Mother.”
After a short pause, Countess Jing’an spoke up again. “Sanlang’s wife has just joined our family. As her eldest sister-in-law, do take care of her a little more. Why don’t you give her an extra set of accessories this season?”
The rage that had just been quelled instantly flared up again.
So her mother-in-law had simply been saying those comforting words to pad her request for Chu Lian! Hah! How nice! All the senior family members were thinking of the third branch. Wasn’t it just because Sanlang had gone off to the northern border? But that was Sanlang’s own choice to go. Shouldn’t the blame be placed on Chu Lian for not managing to keep him here?
All of them wanted her to help make up for Sanlang’s absence, but who was going to make up this slight to her?!
She and Chu Lian were both legitimate wives of the estate!