Fields Of Gold / Fields of Gold Chapter 100

When they exited the city, Yu Hai saw someone selling hot cakes and so he bought some. Everyone in the family had already gotten used to Xiaocao needing a meal at this time. By the time they got home, they would have likely missed the meal time. His daughter was probably dying of hunger now.  

Xiaocao sat on the donkey cart with her back against the bag full of cotton. Her legs dangled down the sides of the cart as she nibbled on the delicious hot cake. She looked leisurely and content.  

“Brother Dahai, Xiaocao!! I saved you two a spot, come quickly!” Outside the town gates, Madam Fang had been waiting on Old Zhang’s ox cart for a while. It looked like business had gone well today for her as the baskets in her hands were completely empty. Both the eggs and live chickens had been sold out. 

Old Zhang gaped in astonishment when he saw Yu Hai leading the donkey cart. He tapped his tobacco pipe on the side of his cart shaft and sad, “Ah, Dahai! Where did this donkey cart come from? Did you guys actually buy it?? It’s not that I’m trying to criticize you but when you’re buying a donkey, you should choose one that is plump and healthy…this donkey, are you sure you can keep it alive?” 

Yu Hai smiled, “Uncle Zhang, although this donkey is on the thin side, it is quite lively. I previously was able to spend several days with a person versed in veterinary medicine, and when I saw that this donkey didn’t have any critical defects, I knew that it will be fine after nursing it for a few days. If the donkey wasn’t skinny, how could I get it for a good, cheap price?”

Old Zhang then asked how much they had spent on the donkey and cart, and Xiaocao told him they had only spent three taels. The old man nodded his head, “Three taels for all of this is not considered expensive. It would probably cost the same amount of money to commission a donkey cart. Even if the donkey is unable to survive, you guys wouldn’t be losing out too much anyway…Brother Dahai, did you buy this donkey cart for…”

Whenever Old Zhang was not hauling firewood to town, he would bring people from the villages to town for a fee. On a good day, he could even make twenty to thirty copper coins. When he saw Yu Hai’s donkey cart, the first thought that came to his mind was, ‘Is Yu Hai trying to cut into my business bringing people to town? After all, a donkey cart is definitely faster than an ox cart.’

Xiaocao smiled and hurriedly dispelled his fears, “Grandpa Zhang, isn’t Shitou studying at school in town now? With a donkey cart, it will be a lot easier to visit him. We have also grown some vegetables in our front and back courtyards. In the future, it’ll be easier to sell those vegetables in town with a cart.” 

When Old Zhang heard the little girl chattering about this and that but not mentioning anything about using the donkey cart to carry people into town, he was able to dispel his worries.  

On the road home, Yu Hai was afraid that making the thin donkey work too hard would cause it to become exhausted, so he adamantly refused to sit on the cart. Despite all her efforts, Xiaocao was unable to convince him. She only managed to make him compromise and had him sit on Old Zhang’s ox cart. The donkey was very perceptive and blindly followed the ox cart from behind. Other than a slight break in the middle to give the animal another drink of the mystic-stone water, contrary to Yu Hai’s fears, the donkey didn’t collapse from exhaustion. 

Xiaocao’s family lived at the foot of the West Mountains, so they had to traverse through more than half of the village when coming back from town. The news that Yu Hai’s family had bought a donkey cart had traveled throughout the village before the two of them had even got home. 

Madam Li teetered on her bound feet as she trotted back home. When she told her mother-in-law what she found out, she also added her own embellishments. After her failure the last time she tried to scheme against the second branch, she had learned her lesson. This time, she decided to make her mother-in-law attack the second branch by stating that her father-in-law was subsidizing them. They had only split off from the main family for a short period of time, so how could they possibly buy a donkey cart?!

When Madam Zhang heard Madam Li’s accusations, her sparse eyebrows immediately snapped together in a frown, “They bought a donkey cart? You’re certain?”

Madam Li nodded her head furiously and replied, “I am absolutely sure. The whole village knows already so they’re only hiding it from us! Mother, just think about it, one donkey costs around five to six taels. When Second Brother-in-law split from the family, his leg was also injured, so how would he be able to earn the money to buy a donkey and cart? Perhaps Father is privately…” 

Madam Li didn’t elaborate further beyond that point but Madam Zhang clearly understood what she was implying. The old woman stated hesitantly, “I’m in charge of all of the money at home! If you said that the old man had around a dozen copper coins in his hand, that would be believable. However, if you’re saying that he has a few taels to subsidize Second Son, then I don’t think that’s possible!” 

When Madam Li saw that her mother-in-law hadn’t flown into a rage as she would like, she started to become anxious, “Mother, if it were not for Father privately subsidizing them, Second Brother-in-law’s family wouldn’t even have enough food to eat. How could they possibly have the money to buy a donkey cart? We’ve been catching fewer fish these days, but what about before? When Second Brother-in-law’s leg was still good, he always gave the money he earned from selling game to Father. If he didn’t give all of it to you and had about eight to ten taels on hand, maybe…” 

“Ah, what!!” When Madam Zhang thought that the old man was sneakily giving money to Second Son’s family behind her back, anger bubbled within her until it exploded. She violently threw her sewing from her hands into the basket and screamed, “I thought it was fishy that Second Son didn’t make a fuss when we were splitting the family! Apparently he had been greasing up that stupid old man on the down low! That’s not okay, they need to spit out whatever they had swallowed earlier!!”  

Madam Zhang stomped furiously towards the road leading to Xiaocao’s family’s home. Madam Li smirked proudly as she wiggled her fat waist from behind. When Old Yu’s eldest brother’s, Yu Lichun, eldest daughter-in-law, Madam Liu [1], saw the expression on the two women’s faces as well as the direction they were headed, she knew they were going to cause trouble for Yu Hai. As she silently cursed in her heart, she hurried back to the village to find Old Yu, who was playing go.

When Madam Zhang and Madam Li arrived at the residence, Xiaocao’s whole family was busily preparing the pig head and pig offal. Madam Liu raised her head and saw Madam Zhang furiously charging in. Her heart squeezed painfully and she hastily got up and timidly said, “Mother, when did you come over?”

Madam Li stared at the wooden basin that was full of the smelly pig intestines and could only remember the last time she had disastrously tried to cause trouble for them, only to have herself fall into trouble instead. When she had gotten home that time, she had washed her feces stained clothes several times. However, no matter how often she washed it, she always felt there was a disgusting stench stuck on the clothing. Madam Li suddenly noticed that a pig intestine was in Xiaocao’s hand, who was facing her with a faint smile on her face. The woman hastily retreated until she was behind Madam Zhang, covered her nose, and said, “When can’t mother come over to visit? Are you telling me that we have to make an appointment just to come over to Second Brother-in-law’s house?” 

Madam Zhang huffily snorted, “I heard that Second Son’s family has hit the jackpot and had recently bought a donkey cart. As his mother, shouldn’t I come over to congratulate you guys?” 

Suddenly the expression on her face twisted, “Second Son’s wife, tell me the truth! How did you guys manage to weasel out so much money from that old man? I was wondering why your branch agreed so easily to splitting the family! Apparently you guys had another trick up your sleeves, eh!!! I’m telling you all, if you guys don’t tell me where that old geezer is hiding money, I swear I’ll make your lives hell!!”

Madam Liu was shocked by the accusation and hastily replied, “Mother, what do you mean? Where would we get money from him? When we split from the family, we only got two taels and we also borrowed some money from my maternal family. All of it was spent on fixing up the house. Father doesn’t have any money in his hands. Other people likely don’t know how much money there is at home, but how could you not know?” 

“Well apparently I don’t know where the money is!! If it were not for that old geezer giving money to you guys on the sly, how could all of you earn enough money in such a short amount of time to buy a donkey cart? Look at you, one’s lame, the other’s sickly, and the rest are tiny children!”

When Madam Zhang found out that a donkey cart cost around five to six taels, she felt like her heart had been scooped out, dripping blood. Every day the old man and her eldest son went out to catch fish, but the amount they caught was less than before. The amount of money they made was barely enough to cover the family’s expenditures. How long ago had the old man secretly been saving those five to six taels?!  

Madam Liu had a gentle personality, so she obviously couldn’t argue against Madam Zhang. She was so emotional that tears almost came pouring down her face. She quietly tried to explain, “Mother, the money that we used to buy the donkey was all earned from Xiaocao selling braised pig head meat and pig intestines at the docks. If you don’t believe me, go to the docks and ask around. Everyone knows about our braised meat, which is sold for one copper coin a portion.” 

Xiaocao slapped her forehead and lamented silently, ‘Oh my gosh, Mother! You are seriously too honest, aren’t you? In just a few sentences, you basically sold out our entire family, ah…’ 

“One copper coin for a portion of meat? Second Sister-in-law, who are you trying to pull the wool over, ah? A catty of pork is around twenty copper coins. At that price, how many pieces of meat can you get for one copper coin? Not enough to even get a taste! On the outside you look so honest and sincere, but who would have thought you’d even try to trick Mother!” Madam Li had a self-satisfied expression on her face as she sarcastically remarked on the side. 

“Eldest Sister-in-law, I’m not trying to trick Mother! If you use seasonings to braise pig intestines and the meat from the pig’s head, it actually tastes pretty good. We can earn around twenty to thirty copper coins a day…if it wasn’t for this, our whole family would have starved to death by now…” Madam Liu wasn’t completely naive and didn’t tell them the whole truth: that they actually were earning around two hundred to three hundred copper coins a day.  

However, getting twenty to thirty copper coins per day was enough to make Madam Zhang and Madam Li salivate with envy! Madam Zhang inched a bit closer to the wooden basin full of dirty, disgusting, only fit to feed dogs, pig intestines but was pushed back by their stench. She sneered and said, “What people would buy something so disgusting and smelly? Do you really think this old woman is stupid and easy to cheat? Even if you guys earn around twenty to thirty coins a day and not spend any on food or drink, it’s still not enough to buy a donkey cart after only saving for ten days!” 

Yu Hai had been in the rear courtyard settling the donkey down under the shed. When he heard the commotion, he quickly walked over and quietly said to Madam Zhang, “Mother, we bought a donkey that was so sick that it almost died. The previous owner didn’t want the animal anymore, and we only had to pay enough money to cover the cart. We only spent around three taels total. If you don’t believe me, you can go to the rear courtyard and take a look…” 

At the back of the house, Little Gray was comfortably lying on the ground under the sun after drinking some more mystic-stone water. From Madam Zhang’s angle, she could only see an extremely emaciated donkey that had barely any meat on it listlessly lying down on the ground. She thought it clearly didn’t have any energy to even stand up and, thus, she started to somewhat believe Yu Hai’s words. 

However, she couldn’t just come here without grasping any advantage she could get. Her eyes whirled around as she said, “Second Son, ah. Your family is capable and hardworking to be able to earn twenty to thirty copper coins a day. But you guys don’t even know how to help the rest of the family out. Your mother and father almost don’t have enough food to eat yet you’re throwing money away buying a sick donkey that’s about to die. Are you not afraid of other people accusing you of being unfilial?!” 

Xiaocao wanted to laugh out of rage and was unable to keep her mouth shut as she retorted, “Grandmother, don’t forget that we had already separated families! When we split, we only got three plots of sandy land, two taels, and an old, run-down house that wasn’t even livable. In addition, when we split, we had a contract written out that spells it out very clearly. Each year, we only need to give you five hundred catties of grain or one tael and five hundred coins. Grandmother, we haven’t even planted sweet potatoes yet, how are we supposed to help you?” 

Madam Zhang had greedily kept the three hundred taels Yu Hai had risked his life for but wasn’t a little bit ashamed as she confidently asserted, “Can’t you guys sell pig offal to earn money? Then just give the recipes for the braised pig head meat and pig offal to us. Don’t hide it from us. Even though we already split, we are still one family. It’s better to give us the advantage than to let outsiders find out instead…”  

Xiaocao felt a bit helpless. They were trying to sever their only chance of survival! She was inwardly ecstatic that the weather was on the colder side today as all of the vegetables in the back garden had been covered up with the straw mats. Otherwise, if Madam Zhang and Madam Li had seen them growing, they probably would have wanted to put their grubby hands on them. It was obvious, there was nothing these two women wouldn’t be ashamed to do.

[1] She’s not related to Xiaocao’s mother; their surnames sound the same but are different characters.

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