The old servant woman in the kitchen began to prepare the table for the morning meal. Lin had been waiting for her daughter to come in for a long time, so she walked to the door of the main room in curiosity and saw her standing under the peach tree in the courtyard with her little head up. She was wearing a pink jacket and her hair had been combed into two buns on top of her head.
Just like a statue, she was staring at the peach blossoms without blinking in a charmingly naive manner.
“An’an, you can look at the flowers after eating.” Lin called out with a smile.
Song Jianing’s neck was almost in pain. Finally, her mother had taken the bait, so she rubbed her neck with satisfaction and ran to her mother happily: “Mother, sister said that all the blossoms on Peach Blossom Island are blooming and are very beautiful. You will take me there too, right?”
Since ancient times, a widow’s right and wrongs have been numerous so after the death of her husband, Lin did not have the mood to socialize, and secondly, she was worried about causing gossip. Thus, they had lived in seclusion all the time and rarely went out all year round. At this time, seeing her daughter acting like a spoiled baby, her first reaction was helplessness. Touching the top of her daughter’s head, she said: “Earlier, when second uncle’s family went to admire flowers, they invited you along, I told you to go, do you regret it now?”
Song Jianing hugged her mother and muttered to herself, “I want to be with my mother. Can mother take me? I haven’t been out for a long time.”
Lin heard her speak and was startled. Her daughter was lively and active, but she had been suffocated during these three years she had kept filial piety for her husband. An’an simply followed Lin’s niece around every day. In the morning, she went play with her cousin who was nearby. She would return for lunch after which she would continue to run out. However, since the first month of January, the little girl had suffered nightmares for several nights. She no longer liked to move and stayed by her side every day.
“An’an tell mother the truth, have you quarreled with your sister?” Lin took her daughter into the house, sat, embraced her shoulders and asked.
Song Jianing shook her head blankly: “no, why is mother asking this question?”
From her daughter’s expression she did not seem to be faking so Lin was even more confused and asked, “then why don’t you want to play with her?”
Song Jianing had made up her mind to alienate second uncle’s family. She had been waiting for an opportunity to remind her mother that second uncle’s family was unbearable. At this moment, she lowered her head, clasped her small hands together and said: “Sister doesn’t like me. I went to see her that day and I heard second aunt advising her not to bully me, but elder sister was not happy. Second aunt said that our family is rich so elder sister should be kind to me so mother will be willing to give second aunt more money. She also said that when our family’s money is used up, then elder sister can bully me.”
Lin’s face changed abruptly. Her daughter was only ten years old. She only knew how to eat, drink, play and sleep, and she would definitely not lie. This younger sister-in-law …
“Mother, second aunt would allow my sister bully me. Does she not like me either?” Song Jianing raised her head and asked with red eyes. She had really been wronged by the harsh treatment of her uncle and aunt in her past life.
Her daughter was ignorant and pitiful. Lin’s eyes reddened, and she was suddenly full of guilt. She had always felt that her life was bitter. Her parents, who were as precious to her as jewels, had passed away in old age. Her elder brother, who was once deeply affectionate to her, had been instigated by her sister-in-law to gradually alienate her and marry her off to Jiangnan. After a few years of love her husband had also died of illness. For the past three years, she had been immersed in misery all day long and had forgotten that her daughter had a more miserable life than her. She had lost her father at a young age and the aunt and cousin whom she really liked, seem to be kind, but in truth, had hidden plans.
“How could that happen? My darling An’an is the best and most sensible. Everyone likes An’an.” Holding back tears, Lin caressed her daughter’s forehead and said gently.
Big tears fell down from Song Jianing’s eyes. It was good to have a mother. It was good to be coaxed by her mother.
Seeing her daughter cry, Lin panicked. Knowing that her daughter wanted to see the peach blossoms, she immediately coaxed: “An’an, don’t cry, mother promises to take you out to play, if you cry your eyes will swell and we can’t go out.”
Song Jianing burst into laughter suddenly through her tears.
Lin also smiled, personally wiped her daughter’s face, reapplied face cream on her face, and then took her to eat.
Breakfast was very simple. Each person was served a bowl of shrimp noodle soup, and a dish of four meat and gravy filled dumplings was placed in the middle. This was the taste of childhood that Song Jianing had deeply missed. Just smelling the aroma of rice made her mouth water, so she immediately sat down on the mahogany stool, picked up a dumpling, dipped it in vinegar, and ate happily.
After eating a dumpling, Song Jianing began to eat the noodles. She ate two mouthfuls of noodles, then ate some shrimp, meat and vegetables with relish.
Lin’s appetite had been poor over the past three years, but today, it was unknown whether she had been infected by her daughter’s gluttonous behavior, or whether she had simply figured things out and had resolved to improve her health in order to take good care of her daughter for a lifetime. Seeing her daughter eat so well, her appetite actually improved. She usually only ate a few mouthfuls of noodles but this morning, she had eaten all her noodles and also had a dumpling.
Song Jianing was overjoyed when she saw this. She picked up the last dumpling to offer to her mother: “Mother, eat one more.”
Lin shook her head and laughed: “An’an should eat it, mother is full.”
Song Jianing glanced at her mother’s slender willow waist and wrongly guessed that perhaps her mother was afraid of gaining too much weight, so she ate it by herself.
After the meal, Lin asked the servant girl to inform the coachman to prepare the mule cart and went back to the inner room to change her attire. She replaced her spring jacket which was embroidered with orchids with a plain pea-green twill jacket and paired it with a white skirt underneath. This was simple and elegant and would not stand out on the street. After her attire was changed, Lin replaced the Jade hairpin on her head with a wooden hairpin. The only thing that could not be changed was her was fair and beautiful face which was one in a million.
Looking at herself in the mirror, Lin gave birth to a trace of sadness. When peach blossoms are in bloom there would be people to appreciate it, unlike her who despite being beautiful had no husband to appreciate her, for he had long left this world.
“Madame”, the servant girl, Qiuyue, came over with a white veil and called out softly.
Lin came back to herself and smiled faintly.
After getting dressed, Lin took her daughter’s little chubby hand, and accompanied by Qiuyue, walked out of the courtyard of the main house, only to run into sister in law Hu who appeared to be in a hurry. Because of her daughter’s words, in her heart, Lin did not like this woman, but surface etiquette still had to be maintained, so she temporarily removed her veiled hat and asked Hu politely: “Younger sister-in-law is in a hurry, what has happened?”
Hu secretly looked at Song Jianing and her mother up and down and said with a dry smile, “I had nothing to do so when I heard you were going out, I came over to have a look.”
Lin looked down at her daughter and said with a smile: “An’an wants to see the peach blossoms. I think the weather is good so I’m taking her to the peach blossom island.”
Hu was secretly delighted, so she said: “it’s a good time to go have a look. Sister-in-law stays stuffed up in the room every day. It’s good for your health to go out and breathe freely. You should go quickly. There would not be many people boarding at the dock right now, but it will be crowded later.” Then she politely made room.
Lin nodded and led her daughter away.
Hu smiled and sent Lin to the door. After watching the mule cart leave with her own eyes, she immediately called her daughter and returned to her family’s home in the name of visiting relatives. Their two county towns were adjacent to each other, but Lin was traveling slowly in a mule cart, if her younger brother rode a donkey to chase after her, maybe he could even get to the shores of Tai Lake ahead of Lin.
The mule cart moved slowly and steadily. Lin’s spring outing with her daughter was meant for relaxation so she was not in a hurry.
Springtime, south of the Yangtze River was beautiful, and there was scenery on both sides of ordinary official roads. Shimmering paddy fields, green willows swaying in the wind, and two or three peach and plum trees often came into view, accompanied by the crisp and sweet chirping of birds. It was quiet and serene, just like a timeless scroll painting of Jiangnan.
“Mother, look at the sky!” Song Jianing was looking out the window, and suddenly called out to her mother excitedly.
Lin leaned over, raised her head, and saw a wedge of geese flying in line, heading all the way north.
Touched by the scene, Lin suddenly missed her home in the capital. When her husband passed away, her elder brother came to offer condolences and had asked her quietly if she wanted to remarry. Lin didn’t want to, and she also didn’t want to affect her brother’s relationship. If she really wanted to remarry, she would have to go back to her natal family first, but her sister-in-law didn’t like her, and definitely would have been cold and disparaging on meeting.
Touching her daughter’s head, Lin sat upright again.
The mule cart traveled for half an hour and finally arrived at the edge of Tai Lake. The sky was clear, and the lake was vast. The island closest to the shore was Peach Blossom Island. Every spring, the peach blossoms on the island were quite famous in the local area. When the flowering season came, people from far and near, including wealthy businessmen, and government officials, will pick a good day to go to the island and enjoy the flowers.
The mother and daughter duo had arrived early and there was no one on the shore. There were three small boats on the lake. One Wu Peng boat had just set off, while another Wu Peng boat was docked beside a third simple and crude boat, that was popular with ordinary people who were short of money. Lin’s dowry was generous and well-off so after getting off the cart, the maid Qiuyue went directly to the Wu Peng boat to ask for the cost.
“To charter is five silver coins, and if ten people board, a ride will cost 50 cents per person.” The boatman said in the local dialect.
Qiuyue directly took out five silver coins and handed it to the boatman: “my madam has chartered the boat.”
The boatman smiled and said hello, put away the silver and graciously prepared the boat deck.
Lin clasped her daughter’s little hand, and the two of them boarded the boat together.
The master and servant sat down. As soon as the boatman was about to set out, there was the rapid sound of horse’s hooves on the shore. Someone called out: “wait a minute!”
The voice was loud, and the boatman raised his head. Two black-headed horses were already in front of him. The leader was wearing a gray robe, with thick eyebrows and big eyes. Seeing that the boat was no longer moving, the thick-browed man slowed down and let the person behind him line up ahead of him.
The boatman looked over and was stunned at a glance. The newcomer, appeared to be in his early thirties, and was wearing a black round-necked robe, with a white jade pendant hanging around his waist. It glowed in the sun with a tempting light. At first glance, it was clear he was born in a wealthy family. Looking at this man’s face again. His eyebrows were like green peaks, his eyes like cold stars, and his face was colder than a general on a majestic stage.
The boatman was in a daze and could not tell when the other party had gotten off his horse. Before the boatman could respond, the cold faced man had already stepped on the boat.
The boatman was in a dilemma. He was just about to explain that the boat had been chartered when the man who’s back was facing him suddenly threw something. The boatman instinctively caught it and looked down. Good man, it was a silver ingot. The boatman tossed the ingot in his palm with a grin. He didn’t move and listened to what was going on in the boat. If the three women stayed silent, he would pull the boat away and make two pieces of money.
Qiuyue looked indignant and questioned the master with her eyes. As long as madam gave the order, she would immediately go to the boatman for an explanation.
Lin, who was wearing a veiled hat, glanced at the two men quickly through the veil, and shook her head at Qiuyue silently.
Qiuyue also saw that the two new men were not to be easily provoked, so she lowered her head sensibly, not looking at what shouldn’t be looked at, so as to not cause trouble.
On the side of the Lin family, Song Jianing had wanted to take a look but then retracted her gaze,. She did not know why but the more she looked at the man in black, the more familiar he seemed. The more familiar he seemed, the more she couldn’t help staring at him while trying to remember where she had seen him before. As a result, she was too engrossed and the man in black suddenly glanced at her, his eyes sharp as a knife.
Song Jianing was flustered and hurriedly hid. In the short moment when she had met the man’s eyes, Song Jianing suddenly remembered. She had never met the man in black, but she had spent seven whole years with the son of an aristocratic family that looked very similar to him. That person was the famous Shi zi of the Weiguo Gongfu in the capital
Saoxing Wupeng boat
Since they were going for the more expensive boat it may have looked more like this, with a bigger awning