Chapter 4 — Died of Illness
Having slept the day away, Yuxi found it hard to fall asleep at night. She looked out the window at the bamboo stalks; they were smooth, vibrant-green, and full of vitality. The third generation Duke of the House loved bamboo, so a hefty amount of money had been expended to nurture a bamboo forest, and then a courtyard was built within the bamboo forest.
That was how the Bamboo Pavilion came to be. However, due to the bamboo forest being in a remote area and the fact that all of the previous residents had died from unnatural causes, the Bamboo Pavilion eventually became known as an ominous place and was thus deserted.
Qiu-shi and her entourage of ten entered the quiet courtyard, and their footsteps sounded especially loud, which alerted Mama Fang. She immediately went to receive them, and the two spoke briefly outside of the courtyard.
Qiu-shi was very pleased and relieved to hear that Yuxi had woken up and was able to eat, plus her fever was down. That meant Yuxi had escaped death.
“Mama Fang, don’t worry. I definitely get the physician here tomorrow.” After urging Mama Fang again and again to take good care of Yuxi, Qiu-shi took her entourage and left. Mama Fang entered Yuxi’s room and told her, “Young Miss, the Head Madam just visited. She was very happy to learn that Young Miss is now awake.”
Yuxi gave a little nod. Although a debt of gratitude was the reason her Great Aunt treated her well, Yuxi was grateful nonetheless.
It took only a day for Qiu Shi to figure out the culprit; Concubine Rong. Qiu Shi’s eyes flashed with resentment as she spat, “That slut.” If asked who she hated the most, the answer would be Concubine Rong.
Concubine Rong was born a servant’s child. At the age of six, she was already tending to the young Han Jingdong and therefore earned his affection. As the matter of fact, not long after Qiu-shi married into the Han family, Concubine Rong had gotten pregnant. If the Old Madam hadn’t hinted that a legitimate child must be born before an illegitimate child and forced Concubine Rong to ingest abortion medicine, the current Concubine Rong would still be bouncing around happily!
Mama Wang didn’t get it.
“Why did Concubine Rong target the Fourth Miss?” The Fourth Miss’s death wouldn’t have done much.
Meanwhile, Maidservant Liuyin was anxious for Mama Wang. The attack toward the Fourth Miss was clearly aimed at the Head Madam. Qiu-shi came from a military family, so she had grown up in a simple environment, without all the scheming and clashes behind the doors.
Ever since she married into the House of Duke Han and encountered the sly Concubine Rong, Qiu-shi had suffered countless loses.
“Leave it for now. Liuyin, go to the storehouse tomorrow and deliver the two new boxes of swallow’s nest to the Bamboo Pavilion.”
Although Mama Wang wasn’t a particularly clever person, what she had said was not untrue. The Old Madam was currently extremely worried about the Third Young Master’s condition, so now was not the time to get into a fight. Moreover, enraging the Old Madam wouldn’t do anyone any good.
On the second morning, the Old Madam’s trusted subordinate, Mama Luo, heard about Yuxi’s awakening. Mama Luo immediately relayed the good news to Old Madam Han.
“The Fourth Miss woke up yesterday morning and reportedly even managed to down two bowls of congee.” To be able to recover without a physician… Mama Luo felt that the Third Miss was truly a fortunate child. Meanwhile, the Third Young Master was still unconscious.
The Old Madam fell silent and focused on turning the prayer beads in her hand for quite some time before saying, “What did Imperial Physician Zhang and Physician Bai say about Hui’er’s condition?”
With some hesitation, Mama Luo answered, “Imperial Physician Zhang and Physician Bai said that if the Third Young Master doesn’t wake up today, then…” She didn’t dare finish what she was going to say.
The beads in the Old Madam’s hands stopped moving, and after a long moment of contemplated, she instructed, “Yuchen shall not know about this.”
Third Miss Yuchen and Third Young Master Jianhui were twins, and when she learned that her brother was down with smallpox, she was so worried that she herself had fallen ill.
Old Madam Han had only two sons, one of whom was the Duke Han Jingdong, and the other was Third Lord Han Jingyan, who took three wives.
His main wife, Jiang Shi, was a legitimate Miss from the House of Marquis Qingping. She was also the mother of Yuchen and Jianhui. His second wife, Ning-shi, was Yuxi’s biological mother. Unfortunately, both wives had died during childbirth.
Han Jiangyan met his third and final wife, Wu Shi, while he was on duty. Before they returned to the capital, no one knew anything about her.
When Concubine Rong learned that Yuxi was still alive, she was very angry.
“That despicable girl’s life is quite unyielding, huh?” Not even smallpox could kill her. If it wasn’t an unyielding life, then what was it?
A maidservant who went by the name of A’Juan lowered her voice and said, “Concubine, A’Zhong’s daughter-in-law was dismissed. Concubine, I’m afraid the Head Madam knows about that matter.”
Concubine Rong chuckled lightly, “Even if she knows, so what?” She wasn’t scared of Qiu-shi at all. If it weren’t for the Old Madam, even ten Qiu-shis wouldn’t have been enough to oppose Concubine Rong.
Back inside the Bamboo Pavilion, Mama Fang watched as Yuxi finished drinking a bowl of millet congee topped with red dates and said happily, “If Young Miss continues like this, it wouldn’t take more than two days to fully recover.”
Before Yuxi could open her mouth to respond, she heard the clear call of a bird coming from outside, which immediately improved her mood.
“Mama, it’s a lovely day today. You should open the windows and doors.” Outside, the sun was shining brightly. Opening the windows and doors would also allow her to breathe better.
However, Mama Fang was unwilling.
“The wind outside is strong, Young Miss, you’ve just gotten a bit better. What if I open the windows and cause Young Miss to catch a cold?”
Yuxi didn’t know that while she was sleeping the night before, Mama Fang had entered the room several times to check her forehead for fever and persisted until daybreak. Only then did Mama Fang leave, but it was to go prepare millet congee.
Yuxi was stubborn and refused to yield, “Mama, the room is too stinky, I don’t feel well.” Leaving the windows closed for so many days, the room reeked of medicine. Unable to convince Yuxi otherwise, Mama Fang could only oblige.
When the newly-invited Physician Lu arrived, the windows were still open. Physician Lu didn’t say anything. After he checked her pulse, he concluded, “There are no major complications anymore. Drink the medicine a few more times, and you’ll have fully recovered.”
The child had a weak body constitution, but unexpectedly, she was actually able to survive this disaster.
Yuxi was doing well, but the Third Young Master wasn’t.
Imperial Physician Zhang finished taking the Third Young Master’s pulse and left to inform the Old Madam, “Old Madam, this old one is helpless!” This sentence meant that it was time to let arrange for the funeral affairs.
Physician Bai also already said that he had done his best. The Old Madam held on tightly to her prayer beads and deliberated for a long time before saying, with some difficulty, “Nothing else can be done?”
She had prepared herself for it, but when it happened, it was nonetheless hard to bear. Both physicians expressed that even if Hua Tuo was present, it would still be difficult to save the Third Young Master. Those who were infected by smallpox had to rely on both a physician and their own luck.
Learning that her older brother was gone, Yuchen immediately fainted. The room fell into chaos and didn’t calm down until midnight.
Qiu-shi was the busiest of them all. Since the Third Younger Master died an early death, his funeral couldn’t be conducted inside the manor, but she definitely had to find a monk to come and chant scriptures.
During this period of time, many people in the capital had died, and monks weren’t easy to invite. There was a multitude of tasks to do, and handling all of them was too taxing. When there was a moment of free time, Qiu-shi asked Mama Wang, “How is Yuxi?”
Mama Wang answered, “According to the physician, all is well with the Fourth Miss. A few more bowls of medicine, and she’ll be cured. The precious Third Young Master hadn’t survived, yet the Fourth Miss, who didn’t really have a physician treating her, did. That was fate.
Although Qiu-shi was dissatisfied with Mama Wang as a person, at least the Mama’s loyalty was doubtless.
“Watch the manor’s affairs carefully, don’t let anyone take advantage of any more loopholes.” The first time was a lesson to be learned from.
Mama Wang became swathed in work. These days, she had the kitchen gather good foods to send over to the Bamboo Pavilion and was afraid another mishap would happen.
The Third Young Master’s passing made its way to Yuxi’s ears. She wasn’t surprised at all because she already knew the result would be like this. She looked at the big, red brocade quilt draped over her body and said, “Mama, change this quilt. Change it into a plain color.”
In her past life, she hadn’t received any criticism for the quilt, but it was still better to be cautious.
The remote location of the Bamboo Pavilion revealed an advantage—the House’s affairs did not affect her, ensuring her a period of peaceful recuperation. Lying in bed for three days straight made her feel as though her bones were about to fall apart.
Yuxi exploited Mama Fang’s absence to change clothes and step outside. As soon as she left the room, she smelled a delicious aroma.
“Mama Fang, you’re making something good?”
Mama Fang was startled, “Young Miss, why did you come out? The wind is so strong, what if you catch a chill?”
“Mama Fang, there’s no wind today, nothing will happen. I wouldn’t put my own life on the line like that,” Yuxi reassured, laughing.
Mama Fang felt that ever since the Young Miss’s episode of illness, the Young Miss had become more clever and sensible, so Mama Fang couldn’t bear to scold her.
“Well, alright… but if the wind picks up, you have to go in.”
Nodding, Yuxi agreed, “Okay. Mama, what’s cooking in the kitchen? What’s that smell?” At that, Mama Fang laughed.
“Today, the main kitchen sent over an aged hen to help replenish Young Miss’s body with. I killed it and put it in the furnace to stew. It’ll be ready soon.”
As the aroma wafted into Yuxi’s nose, her stomach began to growl. Thinking back to the half month she had spent fleeing from calamity and living as a refugee, she felt that her current days were heavenly. However, when the chicken soup slid down her throat, a strange look came across her face.
“Mama, why didn’t you add salt in?”
“Young Miss, you don’t know. Making stew with an aged hen and an aged female duck and not adding salt is the most nourishing way to cook it,” Mama Fang replied with a smile, rousing Yuxi’s interest.
“There’s actually this kind of saying? Who said that?”
“An elder said it. It is definitely without mistake. Young Miss, I’ve already scooped out the oil from the soup, so it’s not greasy. Eat more.”
After watching Yuxi polish off the bowl of chicken soup and chicken meat, Mama Fang was extremely happy and said, “Young Miss, I’ll rub your stomach.”
It wasn’t like Yuxi was really only four years old—how could she let Mama Fang rub her stomach? She refused, “No need. I’ll just go and take a walk.”
Her heart was relaxed, and she was no longer picky. She’d grown a bit taller and was no longer as skinny as a stick of firewood. Yuxi’s change relieved Mama Fang, who would always pray to the deceased Ning-shi.
Compared to Yuxi’s contentment and blissful weight gain, Head Madam Qiu-shi was exhausted and lost a lot of weight. The past few days, aside from handling the House’s affairs, she’d also had to care of the ill.
Imperial Physician Zhang touched on the endlessly worrisome problem of: “Madam can set her mind at rest. The Old Madam is fine now. However, because the Old Madam is of old age, she shouldn’t be too anxious, and neither can she be too happy.” Extreme happiness was actually bad for the body of an elderly.
Hearing the physician say the Old Madam was fine, Qiu-shi heaved a sigh of relief and switched over to ask, “How is the Third Miss?”
A moment of hesitation passed before Imperial Physician Zhang responded, “The Third Miss is distressed. Her illness will be cured when she lets go of her worries.” Distress couldn’t be cured by medicine.
Qiu-shi felt some helplessness when she heard those words. She’d tried many times to console the Third Miss, but to no avail. Now, she could only pin her hopes on the Old Madam.