Chapter 5: Sang Wan’s Teachings
An example would be now. If it were Gu Fangzi asking the questions, the maidservants would have definitely scrambled to answer her questions so as to receive praise. If that were so, Zhide would not attempt to answer as receiving praise was not something she needed. However, the one asking the questions in the chamber wasn’t Gu Fangzi, but Sang Wan, thus no one answered. Being the eldest, Zhide without a choice answered; and her answer was very simple. Who is Li Mama? Where did she go? If Sang Wan did not ask, she had no reason to answer.
“Li Mama?” Sang Wan asked deliberately even though she knew who the housekeeper was. She gently gazed at Zhide, motioning her to answer.
Again, without a choice, Zhide answered, “Li Mama is Sir’s wet nurse, and has always managed the chambers and everything else within the garden. A few days ago, her lower back and legs felt sore so she went home to recuperate. Thus, I’m afraid she won’t be around for the next few days.”
“I see!” Sang Wan smiled and nodded, before chuckling, “Before Li Mama left to recuperate, did she discuss with Sir who will be in charge of the chambers while she is gone?”
Zhide replied, “That would be me! Maidservant Zhide at your service!”
“That’s good. May I trouble you?” Sang Wan smiled and thought for a while, “I would like to have some rest first. When it is lunchtime, do give me a call. Also, I’d like to see all the staff who manages the small garden after lunch. It isn’t much, really, I just want to have a glimpse of their faces that’s all.”
“Yes Ma’am!” Zhide bowed before taking a quick glance at Sang Wan. She was secretly surprised. Never had she imagined that her new Ma’am would be so generous and decent. She may not have come from a wealthy family, but definitely the daughter of a literary family!
“Ma’am, please have some rest, your humble maidservant will do as instructed.” As she thought for a brief moment, Zhide couldn’t help but take the initiative to add an additional sentence, instructing the other maidservants to fetch some water for Sang Wan to wash her face.
The maidservants are accustomed to serving people and their actions were all systematic. One placed a large napkin on her lap; the other folded her sleeves; the third maidservant kneeled and placed a chiseled copper basin in front of her; and the fourth washed her hands at the side, in a basin carried by the fifth maidservant. After washing her hands, she retrieved the soft clean towel soaked in warm water from the chiseled copper basin and gave it a gentle twist before handing it carefully to Sang Wan. Soap, balsam and other facial cleansers were all placed neatly beside her for her to use…
After Sang Wan washed her face, the maidservants continued to get Sang Wan ready for bed. They removed her jewelry and hairpin before helping her change into her nightgown. With that, Sang Wan proceeded to lay on the bed while the maidservants left the chamber. Only Liu Ya was left in the chamber with Sang Wan to answer to further requests.
The room was quiet now. On the circular window, behind the red gauze curtain that hung on the wall, was a bronze tripod incense burner. A thin curl of smoke can be seen, rising from the incense burner and giving the chamber a sweet fragrance. The sapphire blue vase, decorated with jade… almost all the furnishings within the chamber are exquisite and valuable. The wealth of the Shi household is not something the Sang family can easily attain.
With no one else inside the chamber except the two of them, the cramped feeling gradually disappeared and Liu Ya regained her curious nature. Gazing at the interior furnishings of the chamber, Liu Ya’s eyes shone brightly, brightly enough to show how shocked and amazed she was.
She slurped a praise.
“Miss… I mean… Ma’am, the Shi family household really are rich! All these things are definitely worth a great deal of money!” Liu Ya exclaimed while her eyes remained fixed on a two feet tall gold painted statue.
Sang Wan smiled and squinted to look at Liu Ya, “How do you know these stuff are worth a great deal of money?”
Liu Ya explained, “Gee, one look and anyone can tell! They’re so beautiful…definitely very expensive! Ma’am, don’t you think so?”
Seeing Liu Ya’s shiny eyes staring at her, in hopes of receiving a definite answer, Sang Wan couldn’t help but laugh. She nodded and replied, “Yes, of course, they are definitely valuable!”
“Hmm, how much?” Liu Ya’s eyes shone and became even more interested. “How many eggs do I have to sell before I can buy one of these? Two hundred? No, three hundred? Four hundred?”
Sang Wan smiled. Looking around, she pointed at the tripod incense burner and said, “That one is worth around ninety cows! The rest might be worth even more. However, I’m not sure how many eggs they are worth.”
‘Ah! So…so expensive!” Startled, Liu Ya’s eyes widened and her mouth dropped open. Her lady wasn’t kidding! Subconsciously, she clenched her fists and said, “The worth of your humble maidservant isn’t as much as that! Miss…Ma’am, Liu Ya will take a few steps back…a few steps back.”
Depressed, Liu Ya hung her head low and the light in her eyes vanished. The items in the chamber were worth even more than her! If she were to accidentally break one, selling her wouldn’t even be enough to compensate! Due to her having many siblings and her family being poor, her parents were forced to sell her off at a cheap price. With that, she was assigned to serve Sang Wan. Although the life of serving a lady wasn’t rich, her stomach would never be empty; and she had never been reprimanded before. The thought of committing a grave mistake and resulting to her master selling her away made her shudder. To Liu Ya, that would be the most miserable thing that can happen!
She wanted to say that from this day onwards, she would not make any mistakes and serve her Ma’am properly. However, Sang family and Shi family are two different families. Since this morning to when the maidservants were getting her Ma’am ready for bed, she was of no help at all!
Not because she was lazy, but because she does not know how to. A maidservant, innocent of the knowledge on how to serve! There were many equipment she had never seen before; and even if she did, she does not know what they are used for!
The uneasiness she hid gushed out all at once from the bottom of her heart, lashing at her tiny heart violently.
Among all the maidservants, she is neither clever nor capable. With so many maidservants to serve her Ma’am, will her Ma’am still need someone as useless as her?
Liu Ya’s face turned pale and a shiver ran down her spine.
‘Peng!’ She kneeled beside Sang Wan.
“Ma’am! Ma’am! Liu Ya will learn! Liu Ya will learn diligently and learn everything! Ma’am, please do not sell Liu Ya! Liu Ya is more than willing to serve Ma’am for a lifetime!” With tears flowing down her cheeks, Liu Ya jerked her head up to look at Sang Wan.
“Liu Ya! Stand up!” Sang Wan dragged herself to sit on the bed before extending her hands in an attempt to help Liu Ya up. Thinking about all the bad experiences she had in her past, Sang Wan couldn’t help but pity the maidservant.
“Liu Ya, do not worry! I will not sell you. Even if the Shi family were to sell you, I will stand by you and protect you so long as you are obedient! You…”
“I will! I will! Liu Ya will listen! Liu Ya will listen to everything Ma’am says!” Liu Ya nodded vigorously, like a chicken pecking the rice on the floor before asking Sang Wan pitifully, “Really?”
“Of course!” Sang Wan sighed. “In this house, we are like family. To survive in this house, we’ll have to depend on each other! You have an impulsive behavior and easily bickers with others. In the future, that is not acceptable!”
“I’ll change! I’ll definitely change! Even if others were to beat me up or scold me, Liu Ya will not return the favor!” Hearing that Sang Wan still has need of her, Liu Ya’s heart was fixed firmly to serve Sang Wan.
“Good. Another thing, you’ll only have to serve me. When I’m not around, you’ll stay near the chamber to do needlework. Whoever asks you to do something has to go through me first. Of course, with the exception of Sir, Li Mama, and Zhide.”
“Yes, Ma’am! Liu Ya will keep that in mind!”
“More work and less talk, especially about our background; do not tell anybody. Listen to others only when you have to and ask only those that are relevant. Our Sang family is nothing compared to the Shi family. The less they know about our family, the less they will talk about us.”
“Don’t presume. If you are unsure, ask your colleagues. Do not feel shy or embarrassed.”
“Manners are also important. After all, this is Shi family and not our Sang family!”
“Be polite, especially to Li Mama, Zhide, and the rest. They may not sell you if you offended them, but suffering under them would be unavoidable. When that happens, I will not be able to help you and you will have to suffer in vain.”
“Yes, Ma’am! Your maidservant, Liu Ya, remembers them all! Liu Ya will not do anything to get into trouble and cause Ma’am to be humiliated!” Liu Ya’s bright expression slowly returned as she agreed to each of Sang Wan’s teachings.
Sang Wan smiled before reaching out her hands again to help Liu Ya up, “Why are you still kneeling? Quickly, get up.”
“Ai, Ma’am!” Liu Ya rubbed her eyes and stood up before giving Sang Wan a big grin.
Seeing her smile, Sang Wan followed suit and her gaze swept gently around the chamber. Looking at the exquisite and elegant furnishings, she asked, “Afraid?”
Liu Ya thought for a while before nodding and replied timidly, “a little. I’m a little nervous I think.”
Sang Wan nodded slightly. The transition from the countryside to the city for a naive person is too difficult to bare, what’s more to enter the richest family in Qingzhou! The her in the past was the same. The more she fears, the more others will look down on her; even the elders too. In the end, many people bullied her and slowly, she fell into despair in a cold abandoned corner.
In this world, never shall she want to suffer such a fate again!
“Do not be afraid and learn slowly. No one will eat you up, so what is there to fear?” Sang Wan rubbed her wrist and gave an encouraging smile.
“You’re right Ma’am. At most, they’ll only laugh at me!” Liu Ya giggled when she heard Sang Wan’s encouragement and her eyes sparkled.
With the master and servant both seeing eye to eye with each other, they each made a resolve.
After exiting the small garden, Shi Fengju hurriedly went to the study room.
“Fang’er!” Shi Fengju burst into the study room through the door. Seeing Gu Fangzi slowly flipping an account book one page at a time, a sense of pity welled up inside him.
“Elder cousin!” Gu Fangzi’s eyes and face lit up but immediately dulled. Putting the account book aside, she forced a smile at Shi Fengju.
“Fang’er…” Unable to restrain his emotions, Shi Fengju moved towards Gu Fangzi and embraced her. Gently, he patted her on the back. Not knowing what to say to her, no words came out from his mouth.
Likewise, Gu Fangzi remained silent but gently wrapped both her arms around his waist.
“Unlike us who are filthy, my cousin-in-law is dignified; beautiful; sensible, and has a good personality. Needless to say, her temperament. Nothing less from a scholar’s daughter.” Soon after breaking free from Shi Fengju’s arms, Gu Fangzi said it softly with a smile.
Clearly, she was jealous and forcing herself to say such generous praise. The jealous side of her was not a side she would easily show to others and seeing it made his heart flutter. Raising his eyebrows, Shi Fengju joked, “Really? Is that how you truly feel?” As he continued, he rubbed his chin, “Well, hearing you say that, it does seem true!”