Chu Lian had her dinner at Songtao Court before going to the study alone. She was practising her writing again when Jingyan came in to report that an invitation had come from Qingxi Hall.
Senior Servant Gui helped Chu Lian change into a new set of clothes before worriedly asking her, “Third Young Madam, could the matriarch be calling you over to talk about what happened at the Dingyuan Estate today?”
Chu Lian looked at Senior Servant Gui with wide, clear eyes. “Momo, what are you scared of? I didn’t do anything wrong. Even if Grandmother has called me over to talk about it, you don’t have to worry at all.”
Senior Servant Gui pressed her lips together without speaking. How could she not worry for Chu Lian? The people at the banquet were either members of the imperial family or high-ranking noble wives. Madam Huang, Lady Yang, Imperial Princess Leyao, Royal Princess Duanjia… they couldn’t afford to offend any one of them!
Perhaps due to living in the modern world for over twenty years, Chu Lian didn’t really notice differences in status or seniority when interacting with others. That was also one of the reasons why she had been able to face so many high-ranking noble madams at Mei Court without batting an eyelash.
Even if the current emperor of the Great Wu Dynasty stood before her right now, she would most likely only bow her head in respect and perform a normal greeting without any fear or reverence.
Senior Servant Gui’s light sigh was full of worry. She sent Chu Lian off to the entrance of Songtao Court and watched as her young madam’s silhouette disappeared into the dark night.
When Chu Lian reached Qingxi Hall, she saw that the matriarch had already changed into a more casual outfit for home: a dress embroidered with cranes. Matriarch He was seated on a sofa and having a cup of tea.
Chu Lian performed the usual greeting for seniors. She was then called to Matriarch He’s side with a smile.
“Sanlang’s wife, come, sit here.”
Chu Lian obediently sat next to Matriarch He.
Matriarch He brought out a fine yellow peach wood box and pushed it to Chu Lian.
“Sanlang’s wife, open it and take a look.”
Chu Lian tilted her head sideways and looked at Matriarch He with a puzzled expression. The warm light of the lamps complemented Chu Lian’s clear, spirited eyes. Since she was still young, there was a tenderness to her looks that spoke of her youth. Her appearance could easily invoke affection in the hearts of elders.
While looking at Chu Lian’s lovable, naive expression, Matriarch He found that she was liking this granddaughter-in-law of hers more and more each day.
Chu Lian opened the box, only to see a set of finely-made tableware decorated with patterns for longevity: a small bowl, ivory chopsticks, a gold-lined porcelain spoon, and a jade chopstick rest.
She held up this set of tableware and turned to Matriarch He, still a little bewildered.
Matriarch He chuckled. “This is a reward from Old Marquis Dingyuan.”
Chu Lian recalled the longevity peach buns that had been served at the banquet in the outer court earlier and immediately understood. “Could it possibly be because of those longevity peach buns…?”
Matriarch He nodded with a smile. “You silly girl. When did you learn how to make longevity peach buns? Why didn’t you make some for Grandmother to have a taste earlier?”
Back at the Dingyuan Estate, Matriarch He had been drinking tea in one of the courtyards, completely unaware of the events that had taken place at Mei Court. She had been chatting with a group of older madams when suddenly, one of Old Marquis Dingyuan’s closest manservants had sent this wooden box over. It was only after she had asked the servant that she found out about Chu Lian’s contribution to the feast: a plate of longevity peach buns that had been highly praised.
Various thoughts had run through Matriarch He’s head at the time, but none of them had showed on her face. She accepted the gift, gave her thanks, and graciously accepted the praises from the other old madams. It was only later on that she had heard the details from a servant sent by Madam Zou.
“If Grandmother wishes to eat some, I’ll make them tomorrow,” Chu Lian hurriedly offered.
“Good, good. Then Grandmother will be waiting for your longevity peach buns tomorrow.”