The Green Lotus Peasant GirlChapters List
Chapter 119: Embarrassment
As the two of them walked towards the village, Li Qinghe asked curiously, "Did they spend a lot of money?"
Anyway, the money that Zhou Chengkang brought was used to buy snacks, fabrics, and embroidery thread for her wife and the child. He didn't spend any of the money on himself.
"They spent quite a bit," Zhou Chengkang whispered as he led Xiyu. "With so many people living in the inn, they had to eat and drink. Also, the silver that the eldest brother found earlier was all returned. Some of it was used to buy jewelry, and your sister-in-law even went and pawned it. They said they bought it for seven or eight taels of silver, but they only got four taels in the end. Altogether, they spent more than twenty taels."
"They should still have some left over from before, and they also sold the house later on..."
Li Qinghe raised her eyebrows. "They should still have some left over?"
"They might have some left, but not much," Zhou Chengkang said casually. "They have skills, and as long as they have tools, they won't starve."
That's true. They could earn quite a bit from selling tofu in a year.
The atmosphere was still good. Mei Hua was quite happy. Although money was spent, the person was rescued. Zhang Haiyao was also happy. She went home for two days when they went to the county town this time, and she could continue to visit in the future. Li Qingmiao didn't care, but it was always a good thing when someone returned safely after being away for almost two months. The only unhappy person was probably eldest brother Zhou.
He sat in the corner, silently eating and hardly speaking. He gobbled up his food and had become much thinner, probably having suffered a lot.
When someone asked him a question, he would answer with just one sentence, never initiating conversation.
Although it didn't matter to the others that he didn't like to talk, they felt uneasy that after all the effort to save him, he didn't even say a thank you.
But then again, he was their eldest brother, what more could they do?
At most, they would just have less contact with him in the future.
After finishing their meal, Li Qinghe helped clean up the dishes and planned to go home.
But suddenly there was a commotion from the main room. It was Mrs. Zhou's voice, with anger and confusion, "If you don't go, what are you going to do?"
Then it was eldest brother Zhou's rough voice, "I will farm. After the division of property, those lands are enough to support our family."
When Li Qinghe and her husband entered the room, they saw Mei Hua crying with her face covered, and Xili was also scared. The child had been taken care of by Mei Hua recently. Although they didn't mistreat her while they were in the county town, she was infected with the tense atmosphere, and was now on the verge of tears, with red eyes.
Mei Hua saw Xili and hugged her, and the mother and daughter cried together.
"What happened?" Zhou Chengkang asked, "It's good news that the eldest brother came back. He has survived a near-death experience this time. We should just live our lives well from now on."
He never said such words before. Luckily, he met the county magistrate and told him that eldest brother Zhou was innocent and didn't commit murder. Thanks to his intervention, the investigation was conducted in detail, and the truth was brought to light. The county magistrate was a patient man who believed in the importance of justice. If it had been someone else in his position who was quick to judge and eager to convict, eldest brother Zhou would never have returned home.
It should be noted that those two robbers were sentenced to be beheaded after the fall. If it were not for the county magistrate sitting on top, eldest brother Zhou would have been waiting for execution in prison by now.
And it was not allowed to collect the corpses!
Eldest brother Zhou had been standing sternly at the table confronting Mrs. Zhou. Suddenly, he knelt down and cried, holding his head.
The family of three wept, and Mrs. Zhou's eyes were red.
Zhang Haiyao quietly approached Li Qinghe and whispered, "Eldest sister-in-law said that she will start selling tofu tomorrow, but eldest brother doesn't want to."
Eldest brother Zhou cried out, "As soon as I go out, so many people stare at me! Some even come up and ask me if I really killed someone? They say I lived in prison for two months... I can't take it anymore, everyone thinks I'm a thief!"
Hearing him say this, Li Qinghe understood that he probably couldn't accept the curious looks from others.
But in fact, they were just curious.
Just live your own life, and things will be better after a while.
As she was thinking this, on the other side, Mrs. Zhou had already spoken up, "You have no ambition at all. I'm not forcing you to go out, but if you don't go out, others will be even more curious and dig deeper. If they ask you, just tell them the truth. There are those who have thick skin, stayed in jail for two months and still brag about it as their capital. How come you can't accept it when it comes to you?"
"When you picked up those bags of silver back then, didn't you ever think it would lead to this day?"
"Don't bring up that silver." Eldest brother Zhou hollered, "The biggest regret of my life is picking up those bags!"
"You regret it now, but it has already happened. It's not like I asked you to pick it up." Mrs. Zhou wasn't afraid of him, "What's the use of being fierce with me? If you have the guts, go out and be fierce with others!"
She looked at the mother and daughter who were crying in each other's arms and scolded, "Mei Hua, make tofu for him tomorrow morning… If you don't go, get out of here. You have nothing to eat or drink, and you still have the nerve? I think you're just idle!"
Li Qinghe and her husband quietly withdrew and went home.
"Is eldest brother still embarrassed?" She was quite surprised.
But then again, since the matter did not involve them, no one could say he was being affected, because being jailed for two months was a topic of conversation in this simple village, whether he was guilty or not. And in the eyes of the villagers, anyone who went to jail was not a good person.
"Give it some time, and it'll be fine," Zhou Chengkang dismissed the notion.
Mrs. Zhou was right, he didn't want to go, but it wasn't time to throw in the towel yet.
The harder things got, the more they had to face it with courage. According to their original plan, they still wanted to send Xili to the town to study in the future. If eldest brother Zhou was cowardly now, Xili would inevitably draw attention to herself when she was in town later. Besides, if they only farmed, it would be difficult to support someone to study.
The more straightforward he was now, the less people would talk about him in the future.
The next morning, because Zhou Chengkang had been away for so long, many things at home needed replenishing, so the couple went to town early. As they were leaving the village, they ran into eldest brother Zhou, who was dragging his feet and refusing to go. When he saw their carriage coming, he waved and said, "Fourth brother, give me a ride."
When he got in, Li Qinghe curiously asked, "Where's your carriage?"
Eldest brother Zhou fell silent for a moment and replied, "Sold it."
In fact, she was not to be blamed. Zhou Chengkang hadn't mentioned it yet, and when the couple were alone together, they didn't often talk about other people's affairs. Especially since eldest brother Zhou and the couple didn't get along well, it would only be adding insult to injury to bring up these things.
When Li Qinghe saw that eldest brother Zhou's face wasn't looking too good, she knew she had said the wrong thing and felt awkward in the carriage. She went outside and sat with the father and son.
When they arrived at the town entrance, they got out of the carriage, and Zhou Chengkang parked it. He took his wife and son to the streets, where there was a big fair today. The town was particularly lively. In a little while, the autumn harvest would begin. Now these people were busy preparing their farm tools, and it was quite lively.
The family of three strolled around for half a day, finished their shopping, and went to the jewelry store in town. It wasn't really to buy anything, but rather because Mrs. Xu would ask them to send a few letters back every year.
Sometimes Li Qinghe would come to town and ask around, and this time there was indeed a letter.
Opening it up, Mrs. Xu wrote that after the autumn harvest, she would bring Bin'er back to stay for a while.
It had been several years since she left town, and Li Qinghe missed her quite a bit. The man greeted them to look at the jewelry, but the two smiled and declined. When Zhou Chengkang returned earlier, he brought some back for his wife, and the ones in town were inferior in both craftsmanship and style compared to those in the county.
After leaving the store, the family of three planned to go home. It was already noon, and there were fewer people on the street. When they arrived at the entrance of the town, they lifted Xiyu onto the carriage, and Li Qinghe went around from the other side of the carriage. As she turned around, she suddenly saw a person squatting in front of her. She was startled. She instinctively covered her chest and once she saw the person clearly, she was somewhat speechless. "Brother, why are you still here?"
The person squatting behind the carriage was none other than eldest brother Zhou. The two buckets of tofu next to him were still full, untouched.
"I..." Eldest brother Zhou tugged at his hair. "I dare not go over there."
Zhou Chengkang reached out to pull him. "Actually, you're overthinking it. There aren't that many people who recognize you." He picked up the tofu and led him to the entrance of the town. At this time, many people were heading home, and there were quite a few people passing by. When they saw the tofu, they crowded around and in just a few moments, half a bucket was sold.
Someone noticed it was eldest brother Zhou and asked him with a smile, "Are you okay now? They say there are no beds in prison. Is that true?"
It was just out of curiosity, with no ill intent.
Eldest brother Zhou felt a little relieved in his heart. Besides, he learned from doing business that he should always greet people with a smile and not look unfriendly. He forced a smile and said, "There are no beds, so we sleep on hay."
Hearing this, people around him shook their heads, "That must be unbearable. It's fortunate it's summer. If it were winter, wouldn't people freeze to death?"
Zhou Chengkang only helped him for a few moments and then went back home with his wife and child.
In the following days, eldest brother Zhou went there every day, from being embarrassed at first to being at ease later on. After a while, he realized his mother's words were right. People kept asking him questions out of curiosity, but once their curiosity was satisfied, they stopped asking.
In the middle of July, the villagers began to dig sweet potatoes. It was indeed a filling food, but it was also hard work to dig them out of the soil one by one. The advantage was that the dug-up soil was turned over.
Li Qinghe still hired people because the two of them couldn't do much on their own.
Busy with work, the autumn harvest was completed. Everyone's cellars and warehouses were full. With sweet potatoes, no family in the village went hungry. Even in the neighboring town or county, people could fill their stomachs during hard times with sweet potatoes.
Farmers work hard all year round just to fill their stomachs.
On an autumn night, Mrs. Xu's carriage arrived.
It had been a few years and Mrs. Xu had gained a few more wrinkles around her eyes, while Bin'er had grown taller and seemed unchanged.
They arrived in the night and entered the door under the moonlight. Mrs. Xu sent away the coachman, leaving behind an old woman and Bin'er's book boy*.
*Book boy is not an official English term. It is a translation of 书童 (shū tóng), which describes a boy who assists in a scholar's study or works in a literary household.
She asked Mrs. Chen to prepare hot water for them to wash up and then go to the kitchen to cook for them.
After washing up, Mrs. Xu leaned against the kitchen door in her muslin clothes, smiling as she watched Li Qinghe cook. "Qinghe, I'm sorry."
Li Qinghe was startled and couldn't help but laugh. "Mother, why would you say that?"
Mrs. Xu didn't answer and just smiled. "Luckily, it seems you're doing well, and I'm relieved."
There was no answer to these words. The mother and daughter were close despite not seeing each other for several years. Li Qinghe changed the subject and asked with a smile, "How long do you plan to stay?"
"Why? Are you trying to drive me away as soon as I arrive?" Mrs. Xu chuckled and then became serious. "In the future, I might settle down in the village instead of going back to the county town."
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