Chapter 91: Doing a ‘Favor’
“That is correct. That’s why the old madame fixed the accounts a little.” He took a careful look at his surroundings, the meaning of his action very clear.
“Xiao Shi, don’t mention this matter to the prince. Understood?” Bai Xiangxiu wasn’t very clear on the circumstances surrounding the Long family’s old estate either. So all she could do was suppress the matter and keep it to herself. Since both the old madame and Long Shuting wanted to keep the truth hidden, it wasn’t necessary for her to bring the truth to light.
After looking through the books, she learned that the estate has businesses in two other prefectures other than the capital. Their accounting books would be delivered to the prince’s estate every month for the stewards to inspect, and then return back to their respective locations.
These accounting books had already been inspected once by Long Shuting. Every issue with the accounts had also been annotated. Bai Xiangxiu had gone through it as well, and there wasn’t anything more to add to it. Long Shuting was exactly as described in the novel – an altogether very capable man.
“I will leave everything else to you then. Only, how will you handle the issue of the tavern in the Yue province?”
It had been denoted as a profitable venture in the books, but its profit hovered around 100 taels everyday without much variation. Didn’t this seem like too much of a coincidence? Other businesses all pulled in more than 200 taels a day. Logically speaking, the tavern should’ve been one of the most profitable businesses.
Long Shuting nodded his head and said, “I’m afraid the shopkeeper there will not be keeping his job there anymore. I will personally handle the matter.”
“Very good. Then that should be all for bookkeeping. Are there any other matters of the estate to handle?” Bai Xiangxiu’s back was aching from reading through so many accounting books. She really wished that she could rest for the remainder of the day.
However, Long Shuting’s unforgiving voice shattered her hopes, “There are no other important matters at the moment, but the lady cousin’s birthday is coming up soon. May I know what present I should prepare for her?”
Bai Xiangxiu felt irked as all hell as soon as the female cousin was mentioned. Although it’d only been a few days since she’d come back, her animosity towards the female cousin still hadn’t declined. Although she didn’t have the best feelings towards her, sending her a gift was still a bit difficult.
For one, she didn’t know what the female cousin liked. For another, even if Bai Xiangxiu did know what the other liked, she feared the other party would still dislike it all the same because it came from her.
Bai Xiangxiu looked at Long Shuting who was sitting casually outside and smiling, “The chief steward has made many contributions towards the estate. Even the prince often mentions this to me!”
Contribution, what does this have to do with anything? Long Shuting only treated the words as a compliment, because he didn’t realize why it would come up at this moment. “You flatter me.”
“Then the matter of sending a gift to that lass shouldn’t be too difficult for the chief steward, hmm? Why don’t you be in charge of it!” Bai Xiangxiu blinked her eyes shrewdly. It’s not like he could see her mischievous expression anyways.
Long Shuting almost spat out his tea. Was she distracting him with candy first and then pushing off all the troublesome stuff to him?
He hadn’t expected that a lass over ten years younger than him would try to use such a scheme on him. His first instinct was to reject her, but then he remembered that the relationship between the two of them was indeed a little complicated. So he responded, “If it is Fourth Madame’s instruction, then it is a responsibility I cannot relinquish. However, the matter of finding someone to replace the kitchen steward is keeping me busy. How about…”
Bai Xiangxiu ground her teeth. This slimy old fox. “Fine. I will handle that particular matter!”
Long Shuting smiled and said, “It will be as you say. In that case, I will take my leave now.” After speaking, he stood up, bowed to her and left the study room.
When Bai Xiangxiu walked out of the room, all she was able to glimpse was his back. This man had a gaunt figure, different from Long Heng’s muscular and fit build. His body may have been average, but he had a scholastic air to him. Even the way he walked held some of the elegance that only a scholar could have. He would’ve looked better if he packed on a little more meat on his bones. He must be too tired out from scheming to gain any weight.
She pouted gently. She was unexpectedly reluctant to work with a calculating person like him. She felt that she had always been too straight-laced of a person. If she worked with someone like him, she was afraid that she would still be busy counting money for them even after they’d sold her off.
Xiao Shi has always been worried about her mistress. Why was it that there were always so many matters for her to attend to? She couldn’t just live an easy life like the other madames who had nothing better to do.
“Let’s go and have a look!”
“The kitchen, obviously!”
Indeed, the kitchen steward needed to be replaced and choosing a right candidate was really tricky. One had to know that a kitchen steward was a very cushy job, and therefore saw a lot of competition! And so, both master and servant arrived at the kitchen in a small carriage.
Although the estate was newly built, it was built on old territory bestowed by the emperor and combined lands that had been later reclaimed. This made even a trip to the kitchen a journey in its own right. Of course, only the main kitchen would be that far. There were smaller kitchens in each of the separate residences. Otherwise, wouldn’t the dishes have long gone cold by the time it was served?
The main kitchen was mostly used by the stewards, or when the estate had some large functions happening. Most of the basic ingredients were stored there. As soon as Bai Xiangxiu arrived at the kitchen, everyone inside the kitchen came out to greet her. Seeing that both the old madame and the prince had left the estate, they were enjoying a moment of laziness.
But the fourth madame was different, because she was here as the keeper of the house. They had just received news that even the matter of replacing the kitchen steward had been left for her to settle. Therefore, all of these people had their own hidden motives. Even those that looked down on this mere concubine would still come out to meet her.
Bai Xiangxiu had a very amiable exterior attitude, but was very uncomfortable inside as she entered the main room of the kitchen with them. There was a heated brick platform inside and also an old-fashioned square table that fit eight people. The moment she entered the room, she was invited to take a seat next to the platform. Given a soft pad to sit on, she felt warm and comfortable.
Bai Xiangxiu wanted to build such a platform in her Winter Garden as well. Otherwise, even medicine to ward off the cold would just barely let her get through the coming winter.
There were quite a few kitchen stewards present as well. Because she was here today with a goal in mind, everyone sat around the table without caring about gender.
Firstly, the previous steward handed over her keys to Bai Xiangxiu. She had to stop working in the kitchen because she was sick with a skin disease. However, she couldn’t help but feel a bit of sadness for losing such a cushy job in the end.
Bai Xiangxiu saw that her face was slightly red, a layer of skin flaking off. Looking down, gloves covered her hands and if she wasn’t mistaken, there was something growing there as well. No wonder she had to give up her job. It was impossible to hide her illness even if she wanted to.
Bai Xiangxiu remained as gentle as she usually was and said, “Granny Liu, thank you for all the hard work during these past years.”
Granny Liu did not expect her to say something like that, and she couldn’t help but shed tears. On one hand, she didn’t want to give up her job, but on the other, she felt that she had indeed worked very hard for the past few years.
Bai Xiangxiu then said, “Xiao Shi, take out 20 taels and hand it over to Granny Liu. Treat it as a private gift of gratitude from me!”
What private gift of gratitude. Doesn’t that just sound nice now? The old madame had left Bai Xiangxiu with some ‘activity funds’ before she’d set off, funds that could be used as a reward or anything else.
Originally, these things should’ve come from her own pockets, because she would have the opportunity to skim a little here and there when managing a house. Yet, it so happens that Bai Xiangxiu didn’t have the word greed in her personality. So, she knew that she didn’t have much money in her hands. Therefore, the old madame had left some money behind for that purpose.
But what the old madame didn’t know was that her son had also given Bai Xiangxiu quite a lot of money in private as well. Except, Bai Xiangxiu would never spend that money. Bai Xiangxiu had her own thoughts. In case she couldn’t return back to modern times and could no longer stand living in the estate, she would sneak out in secret. It was a plan that would require quite a lot of money to realize.