Chapter 16: Hua Household
The Hua Family had lived in Fan Hua Town for a long time. The first wives of the past two generations were renowned for their proficiency. Whatever the current madam and the current first wife would find to be profitable, was definitely going to be such. This included the current family’s house and their two acres of fertile land.
The original house of the Hua Family was located in the north-western part of Fan Hua Town. It was a small abode that consisted of a small yard, two main rooms, and one side room. During that time, Hua Xiangyin was head of the House. He had two sons and two daughters. His wife had died when giving birth to the youngest son, Hua Kang. Hua Xiangyin had to act as the mother and father figure for the children since then. Relying on his woodworking skills, he had raised his radishes (kids) all by himself. He had saved up a lot of money for the bride price of his sons’ future wives.
The daughters were only two years apart in age. The two had married early when they were fifteen and thirteen years old. They had wed at the same time to a pair of twins from Luoshui Town. Even now, there were living in bliss.
And so it had happened that Hua Xiangyin had found his eldest son a match. The girl, Liu-shi*, was from Luoshui Town. Her father was in the same woodworking trade. Not too long after Lui-shi* was wed into the Hua House, she decided that the residence was too small for her taste. Taking advantage of the fact that she was about to give birth, she had gone to the family head and asked to be allowed to move out.
(XX-shi, 氏; XX=maiden name)
At first, Hua Xiangyin wasn’t happy. The second son had yet to marry, and here she was trying to split the family! If that were to happen, he would be ridiculed as an old man that couldn’t accommodate other people’s wives! However, Liu-shi had not listened and kept insisting on moving out. Hua Xiangyin was a very honest man who didn’t like to argue with women. In the end, he could only slap his thigh and say that he would give the couple some money to allow them to buy land and settle down on their own.
Liu-shi was very shrewd. She had taken the small amount of money given and bought a plot of land and a house with the best view in town for their new homestead. She had also, after a lot of persuasion, traded the old Hua Family’s parched acres of land for two acres of paddy field in the south side.
The current head of town estate, Sun Youmao, from then on had kept a keen eye on the young Madam Hua. Whenever she came to inquire about anything, he would act dumb and deaf regardless of what she said or asked. Then, after she would leave, he would carefully analyze everything until her intentions became clear, so once she returned, he would be prepared. He was determined to absolutely not fall for her traps again like that time years ago when she had nagged and fussed him until he fell into her trap.
To this point, Sun Youmao fully embodied the proverb: “bitten by a snake, ten years afraid of a rope.”
After Liu-shi had moved out with Hua An, the eldest son, their life had been very prosperous in the following years. Liu-shi’s fertility matched her luck and she would give birth to a child every two years, ending up with three of them. That streak had been broken when Hua An’s younger brother, Hua Kang, had caught the eye of a wealthy lady and was adopted into her family while he was an apprentice in Fan Lou City. Hua Xiangyin had became so infuriated that he had fallen ill. In less than half a year, he had passed away. To show respect and filial piety, the children (including in-laws) had to undergo a period of mourning. (This meant no wearing red; nothing celebrative for a certain amount of time; i.e. childbirth) Therefore, Liu-shi too no longer gave birth to any more children.
Liu-shi had sold off the old Hua family’s house, passing it off as a filial act since her brother-in-law’s surname was no longer Hua and was instead Lu Kang. Naturally, that money was not given to him and it was kept for her three sons’ to help in finding their future wives.
When her eldest son had finally found a wife, Liu-shi had not known that this woman was even more calculative than herself. This time, Liu-shi was forced to taste her own medicine, she was “a mute forced to swallow coptis chinensis” (哑巴吃黄连 to suffer in silence). Even though this daughter-in-law had not tried persuade her son to move out like she had with her husband, her mind was sharp, and so was her sister’s. Within two years, those girls had found a nice residence located in Fan Lou City and, using this opportunity, had attempted to persuade the whole Hua family to move. Their words of persuasion were nice to the ear, saying that mother and father had worked too hard tilling the lands, so why not move to the city and enjoy the rest of life there?
Liu-shi, of course, had been aware of their intentions. Her eldest son had rented a small shop in Fan Luo City and every morning, before the roosters would crow, he would leave for work only to come back at dusk. If weather was bad, raining heavily for example, he would have to use several copper coins to spend the night at an inn. Because of this, he and his wife had been privately making plans to move the whole family to Fan Lou City. Once that happened, they could buy a small shop and abandon their past peasant roots to become real city people.
To live in the city, that idea was very tempting. Sadly, such life would cost a lot of money. And even though her eldest son and daughter-in-law did not lack for funds, they had been claiming the money was put aside to buy a shop with. However, they knew that Liu-shi still had some silver left from selling the old Hua house and had even convinced her two other sons to nag her every day about moving to the city.
Liu-shi had been put in a difficult situation. Although the amount of silver she had was not insignificant, it was only considered plentiful in this town. It was not enough to live in the city ah. And yet, her stupid son actually listened to his wife’s idea of selling their current house.
Oh mother of mine! This girl was truely a genius ai! She did not learn from her father’s simple life and wanted to enjoy a luxurious lifestyle! Liu-shi had reprimanded her daughter-in-law very harshly but could not stop her younger sons from begging incessantly. In the end, because Liu-shi had enough money to do so, her mindset slowly changed under their continuous pestering. Seeing that Lui-shi was reluctantly starting to accede, the daughter-in-law made a deal with the seller’s estate in Fan Lou City. The house would be theirs if they got the money ready in two months. If they could not manage that, then it would be sold to another person.
To get fifty-six tael in two months, ai! Oh mother of mine! In this whole life of hers, she had only managed to save up thirty-six taels, and that included the money from the sale of the old Hua’s house and the two acres of rice paddy, ah! With these thirty-six taels, she could call herself the richest in Fan Hua Town. But now, that amount of money was not even enough to afford a small house in the city ah!
Although the house they were living in now could be considered a bit old, it included three main rooms, two side rooms and even two outhouses. Not only the front, but even the back of the house had its own spacious and orthodox courtyard.
Thus Liu-shi gritted her teeth and set a high price for her house – a whole forty taels. She had calculated that if she could sell it for this much, then not only would it be enough for the small residence in the city but she could save the rest for her young sons’ future wives too. After all, those wives would likely be city ladies. The bride price should always be of more value than less.
But the villagers of this town already had their own homes. And even if some local newlyweds needed to find a new house, they would not spend so much money to buy this aged one. Any wealthy people living outside of the area that might have been interested in purchasing a place in this town were likely not know about her house due to insufficient spread of information.
So when Madam Lao came in asking for news, Liu-shi knew she had caught the fleeting interest of the people in Lou House. Catching this rare opportunity, she praised her house to no end. She hoped that they would be swayed. After all, forty taels was not a small amount.
“In other words, Hua Family was serious about selling their house?!” When Madam Lao finished her report, Shuilian exclaimed happily. She could finally have her own home! She must be do her best!
“But hearing from Madam Hua that it would cost forty taels, no more and no less… That’s not not a small amount ah.” Madam Lao let out a sigh. Her own family, after a year of work and frugal life, could only save about five to six taels ah. That Madam Hua was ruthless ah, for such a shabby house to not budge below forty taels, it was no different from daylight robbery ah! Even if that land location was good, even if it was close to the farmland, it was still not worth that much ah!
For a moment, Madam Lao wanted to say “how about buying our house?” But she reconsidered, since after receiving that twenty tael, where would their family go? They would still need to find a new house, therefore she quickly buried that thought.
“Aunty Lao, sorry to trouble you, but can you lead us to the Hua house? We can think about small details after we see the place.” Su Shuilian knew in her heart that forty taels was a large amount. After all, some of the houses in Fan Lou City were sold for around fifty to sixty taels. But this purchase would also include two acres of fertile farmland. If the house was as good as what Aunty Lao said it to be, then maybe it was worth buying. So she gently prompted Madam Lao to take her to see the owner.
Lin Si Yao did not hesitate as he followed Su Shuilian out of the Lao’s home. When the two bored wolves sitting in the front yard saw their owner come out, they quickly got up to follow. The two caught up fast, fully ready to explore their future territory.