Chapter 14: Harvesting Grain in Advance
Shen Yu’an originally wanted to see how the how to spread news was like here, so she came with Grandma Shen. He overheard many people in the crowd pointing their fingers at her father.
Grandma Shen also heard the slanderous remarks about Shen Rong and immediately shouted out loud, “What’s wrong? Did my son force you to harvest your grain with a knife at your neck or something?”
The old lady who was criticized by Grandma Shen’s outburst had a change in her expression. She was of the same generation as Grandma Shen and wasn’t afraid of getting into arguments.
She placed her hands on her waist and retorted, “Who allowed your son to spread rumors about a locust plague? We’ve lived peacefully here all our lives and have never heard of such a thing happening before.”
Shen Yu’an remained calm, without much emotion stirring within her. However, the Shen family decided to disclose this information out of consideration for the villagers, and she could not let them spread rumors.
She spoke up, “We can only speculate about this matter, and we cannot provide any guarantee to the villagers. However, we are willing to share what we know out of neighborly goodwill. That being said, let me be clear that if a disaster were to actually occur and someone comes to us for help borrowing grain but we refuse, do not accuse us of being cold-blooded and disregarding community ties.”
Shen Lizheng had originally intended to sit back and let the villagers blame Shen Rong. He didn’t expect that Grandma Shen and Shen Yu’an would also show up.
He could only awkwardly add, “The Shen family girl is right. We’re just informing everyone about this matter. It’s up to you whether you want to believe it or not. We won’t force anyone.”
Shen Yu’an gave him a cold glance, knowing full well that he was trying to shift the blame onto their family. The words that were just spoken were clearly meant to divert attention to them.
The crowd fell silent for a moment, and then someone spoke up, “The Shen family girl is right. Shen Rong informed us about this matter out of goodwill. Whether we choose to believe it or not is our own business.”
Some people thought this was reasonable and quickly agreed.
Ma Shi and Lin Chunyan stood at the edge of the crowd, feeling very unhappy as they heard everyone praising Shen Rong. Because of the incident that happened a few days ago, the villagers had avoided them like snakes and scorpions, and they had grown to hate them.
Ma said, “If we harvest the grain in advance, should we distribute it evenly to everyone to cover the potential losses?”
This statement resonated with most people, who were hesitant about whether or not to harvest the grain. They feared that if they didn’t harvest it, there might be a locust plague, but if they did, there might not be one. If Ma’s suggestion was adopted, they could avoid such a dilemma.
Immediately, several people agreed with Ma’s proposal. However, Wu Cuihua could not tolerate those who suggested that the Shen family should compensate for the losses. She pointed at them and said, “It’s said that shameless people are invincible, but you guys have no shame or decency. How can you say such things? Why should others compensate for your grain?”
“Whether you want to harvest or not, my family will definitely participate. If a disaster really comes, you’ll regret it,” Wu Cuihua said.
She then walked over to Grandma Shen, took her hand, and they both left the crowd. Wu Cuihua planned to inquire about when the Shen family would be harvesting the grain so she could follow suit.
Wu Cuihua’s son, Shen Nian, also studied with Shen Rong at the local school. Every time he came back, he praised Shen Rong’s teaching skills. Wu Cuihua was also on good terms with Song Shi. So, when Wu Cuihua heard what was said earlier, she believed about 60-70% of it.
The sisters-in-law from the Shen family went back to their parents’ home to discuss this matter. Shen Yun had already gone with Xiaozhang to Zhangjia village early in the morning.
Things went smoothly with Song Shi and Xiaozhang; they were willing to take a gamble and follow the Shen family’s lead. However, Zhao Shi was not having a good time at her parents’ home.
As for Zhao Shi’s parents…
“Coming back after 800 years and bringing only these things.” Li Jinhua said with a sarcastic tone as she snatched the basket carried by Zhao Shi. She opened it and saw several eggs and dozens of fruits that she couldn’t recognize. Still unsatisfied, she continued to complain.
Grandma Shen thought that Song Shi, Zhao Shi, and Xiaozhang Shi, her daughters-in-law, have not returned home for a long time, so she took an equal amount of eggs and loquats to send along as gifts.
Song Shi and Xiaozhang Shi’s families received the gifts and were pleased to see that their daughters were doing well in their husband’s home. Only Li Jinhua, who treated her daughter like a commodity, would complain about the gifts being too few.
Despite her words, Li Jinhua still allowed Zhao Shi to enter the house with the gifts. Li Jinhua followed behind, asking, “Why did you come back?”
“I came back to tell you that my husband’s brother is worried about a locust plague because of the long drought, so he asked me to come and tell you,” Zhao Shi replied indifferently.
If it weren’t for the slight sense of obligation, she wouldn’t have come back at all. When she married into the Shen family, she was essentially sold off and forced to sign a contract even selling herself, just to get a few more silver coins.
However, later on, Zhao Shi was grateful for the existence of the contract of selling herself, as Li Jinhua, her mother, would often come to their house to demand money.
The family of Shen used the contract as a strong reason to refuse her demands, but eventually, they had to pay her ten taels of silver, which was almost all they had left. Likewise, her second sister, who was sold to a wealthy family in town, was also sold for thirteen taels of silver.
Zhao Shi knew that her marriage to Shen almost depleted their family’s resources, and Shen Rong’s failure in the examination and missing the opportunity to take it again also contributed to their financial troubles. Therefore, part of her kindness to Shen Yu’an was to compensate the main family.
“Are you out of your mind? Talking about locusts? Why not say that money will fall from the sky?” Li Jinhua sneered.
Seeing that Zhao Shi had nothing else to say, Li Jinhua started to shoo her away. “Alright, you can leave now. It’s a waste of food to have lunch here. Remember to bring more eggs next time. Your younger brother likes them.”
Zhao Shi’s eyes turned red with anger. She clenched her fists and rushed to Li Jinhua, snatching the basket from her hand. She didn’t care if the eggs inside would break, when the basket dropped on the ground.
“If he likes eggs so much, let your good son earn them himself,” she retorted, and then stormed out of the courtyard with the basket in hand.
Li Jinhua didn’t expect that Zhao, who used to take her verbal and physical abuse without resistance, would dare to come and snatch the basket from her.
She was caught off guard that’s why Zhao easily took the basket from her hands. At first, Li Jinhua wanted to beat her up as she used to do in the past, but when she saw the broken eggs on the ground, she quickly squatted down to gather them while cursing and swearing. In the meantime, Zhao took the opportunity to leave the courtyard.
“You damn b*tch, just wait until next time, I will beat you to death. I should have suffocated you when you were born,” shouted Li Jinhua as Zhao Shi walked out of the courtyard, her voice echoing in her ears even when she was already far away.
Zhao Shi felt that she had used up all her good luck in her life by meeting the large family of the Shen family. Fortunately, her mother-in-law was rational at that time and upon hearing about her mother’s reputation always asking for so much silver, she decisively cut off the relationship with the Zhao family and even wrote a contract of selling herself to make it clear.
Unfortunately, her second sister was taken to the wealthy family and died not long after. When Li Jinhua heard the news, she only thought about how she had missed out on making more profits.
Not wanting to dwell on it, Zhao Shi wiped away her tears and left in anger, deciding to forget about her mother.
In the Shen family village, after Wu Cuihua and Old Lady Shen left, the crowd gradually dispersed.
Some people rushed home in a panic to discuss the matter, while others scorned the idea and thought it was impossible.
The Shen family didn’t care about the opinions of the crowd and rolled up their sleeves to start harvesting. By the time Zhao returned to the Shen village, she had already adjusted her mood, she then picked up a sickle and joined in to help.
With everyone working together, they worked with great enthusiasm. The onlookers couldn’t sit still and noticed that even the Li family had started harvesting. Many people also ran back home to grab sickles.