Xianggong, Please Divorce Me!

Ch. 14: A Lot of People and Little Money Spells Trouble

TL’ed by snowflake_obsidian

Edited by Xia

Translator’s comments:

  1. There was a mistake in translating Song Shi An’s salary in the previous chapter which has been corrected.
  2. I’m unfamiliar with bookkeeping so hopefully the phrasing for those things makes sense.

[1] The arithmetic was odd but it does come to about 20 servants per person.

[2] 文钱; money with letters imprinted, or copper coins.

[3] 走出去都不敢跟同行打招呼; The meaning came to me after the chapter was published, so the text has been changed.

[4] 拨浪鼓; drum shaped rattle.

[5] 姑爷 ; Gu ye, an address for a man (Song Shi An) which is used by his wife’s family.

[6] 通房丫鬟; Tong fang yatou. A maid servant whom, generally with the permission of her mistress, is given to the master to be used as a sexual play toy. A 通房丫鬟 has a very low status, lower than a concubine.

[7] 落花有意流水无情; The falling flower has its’ own ideas (but) the water flows on without feeling. The image is the river water continues to flow onward without regard for the flower petals falling into it. This conveys that the woman is willing while the man ignores her.

Ch 14 – A Lot of People and Little Money Spells Trouble

Su Tang put down last month’s revenue account book and picked up the expense account book, with her face bearing a puzzled look. Ordinarily these two are close to 1,300 taels, how can the account total only have that little? She rummaged through a few more pages. The more she looked, the more confused she became. “Why are there expenditures for this many people?”

Uncle Song was a person who was in the habit of carefully observing people’s words, expressions, and body language. Seeing Su Tang tightly frown more and more, he thought deeply and explained, “These things you’re looking at are the monies drawn by shao ye’s military underlings.”

“Why, don’t officers and men in the armed forces have imperial government issued salaries?

“It’s this way shao furen, these last years the state of affairs was tense. As the chaos of war continued, quite a lot of officers and men were either wounded or dead. The royal court granted money showing consideration, though finally that was utterly inadequate. Shao ye was benevolent. He took in these disabled officers and men who live in difficult circumstances and don’t have a family. He supported and took care of them in an outside village. They then had a family to belong to and every month were paid enough money. Moreover, shao ye gave preferential treatment to these tenants. The rent and taxes are all extremely low. You can see that every month the sum of money is such a small amount, which compared with other manors really falls far short. What’s more, even though we receive these rents, everywhere we also use more. Every month we exactly balance. Occasionally there is some money left over which goes into the manor’s account.”

Su Tang’s head nodded, also having previously heard that Song Shi An received the love and esteem of the armed forces commanders and fighters. In particular, he single-handedly established the black riders. Each and every one is loyal, brave, and with integrity. They follow him regardless of life or death. Now it seems it also is actually not unreasonable. Not every general would be able to take one’s own silver to cover daily needs and expenses for his underlings, to say nothing of 10 years yet as one day without any change.

Su Tang soothed her forehead using her hand. Since the land rent and duties received from outside were all given to the life and death brothers, then the expenses inside this general’s manor were only able to depend on that small government salary. As if that was enough!

Although 52 silvers is also not a small number and a medium sized family of 5-6 persons would be able to live frugally for 2 years on that, but when all is said and done this is the general’s manor, and such a big residence. There are additionally a lot of family retainers, page boys, older maid servants, and young bun haired girls. Su Tang hasn’t even been here yet two days and has seen countless people going back and forth. Just afraid that the courtyard alone that she lives in likely has 20 servants, and really don’t know how many this entire general’s manor has. Just afraid that all the monthly allowances given to the family’s servants are not a small amount.

Su Tang had the aim to find the account book for the servant’s monthly allowance. Although she had prepared her heart, when seeing that total she still was astonished. 118 taels! As much as twofold of cold noodles’ monthly salary!

Unable to stop, Su Tang asked, “How many people does this manor have all together?”

Uncle Song answered, “Replying to shao furen, the servants inside the manor total to 121 people. Outside the manor in the village, there are 31 people.”

Su Tang listened to this reply, looked at the books, and inwardly wondered. In the general’s manor’s she is the third master, afraid she had to add on Xi Yuan’s 4, then that’s 7 people. Yet there are 128 servants, so each person has approximately 20 people serving them [1].

Looking again at these peoples’ monthly salaries, the highest inside and outside (the manor) are the 2 stewards…. Jin Xiu and Uncle Song, that was 2-3 silvers in January. The other young bun haired girls and page boys get 500 copper coins. The monthly allowances aren’t a lot, but (they) cannot sustain these many people!

Is really too wasteful.

“Does the manor need this many people?” Su Tang closed the book in her hand, laid it down and picked up (another) one again.

Uncle Song raised his eyelids and saw her only concerned with looking at the book in her hand. Her tone again was indifferent. Listening, he couldn’t make anything out. He couldn’t help but turn his around head at full speed, deeply deliberating, when all is said and done should these words be said or not. Thinking lao furen called to his attention that shao furen is not simple, regardless of everything, he made up his mind and opened his mouth to respond. “As a matter of fact, are unnecessary.”

“Oh? Why do (you) say this?” Su Tang’s interest was perked.

Uncle Song’s head hang low and neither urgent nor relaxed, said, “Among the manor’s 100 bearers, there were 10 younger maids, 2 older maid servants, and 10 page boys when the emperor bestowed the residence. Afterwards lao furen came and brought with 6 older maid servants, 8 young maid servants, and 8 page boys. Shao ye had 8 personal guards at his side and afterwards allocated 20 from the enlisted men as bodyguards….”

This is only 72 people. In addition to grandmother Song, grandson along with Uncle Song, the 4 in Xi Yuan, herself and Xi Que, that’s just 81 people. Then how did 30 more people get added?

“These, actually are already sufficient. Though in the past 3 years, one after another, the emperor and every cabinet minister again conferred a reward or gave a present of some servant girls and page boys.

Su Tang said, “Since the emperor granted them, in that case then okay. What good are the ministers’ gifts? The manor doesn’t lack people.”

Uncle Song’s eyes swept all around. Seeing there were no people in the vicinity, he lowered his voice and replied, “Cabinet ministers exchanging maid servants and page boys is a common matter. Many of these people are placed in various residences and courtyards as plants. You also know, shao ye is a minister of the royal court. There is someone attentively watching each and every move.”

“Since it’s known that these people are spys then why were they accepted?” Su Tang asked.

Uncle Song kept moving his lips (but not saying anything). It was evident that there was some hidden trouble which was difficult to mention.

“There’s no harm in saying what you think.” Su Tang was straightforward.

Shao ye consented to all these.”

Eh? Could it be that cold noodles wanted the surveillance?

Shao ye said his conduct must be fair, reasonable, and must be honest. (So he was) indifferent to being spied upon.”

Immediately Su Tang was able to just imagine that arrogant loud manner of cold noodles when he said this. She couldn’t help but disdainfully snort. “The pocket money is not sufficient to support the family, and in addition this vain gesture!”

Uncle Song blushed in shame. This shao furen also doesn’t mince words! However (that) actually declared his inner thoughts. Heaven knows every month he threw all his energy in and to what extent he toiled to break even, it was mentally and physically exhausting!

“I want to say, sending these people back will work!” Su Tang was very frank.

Uncle Song’s portly face couldn’t stand it, “Cannot!”

“Why?” Su Tang’s eyebrows raised.

Uncle Song became aware of his bowed head, his cautious and respectful state, “All these persons were given and accepted. We also don’t have a reason to return them!”

Su Tang thought and thought, and also realized the same thing.

“Forget about it. First, put these people aside. The next time a servant is given as a present, immediately thank them and politely refuse!”

“Ah? Then what should (this) old servant say?” Uncle Song was somewhat awkward.

Su Tang spread out her two hands, “That still is not simple. The general’s household doesn’t have surplus grain!”

“….” Uncle Son was convinced that if shao ye heard these phrases, he certainly would appear extremely embarrassed. His family’s shao ye is a person with an extreme amount of reputation and prestige. If it were not for maintaining that outward image and doggedly accepting that many unneeded people, then (they) would not also be embarrassingly short on money …. this was what he believed from the start and wanted to say, but again all along did not dare to!

One high ranking officer couldn’t even support a servant girl and page boy. What a big joke!

“Huh?” Su Tang again discovered a new problem, “Arranging a wedding consumes a lot of silver. Why isn’t there even one notation on top?” The dowry banquet and so on, all ought to use up money like flowing water.

“Replying to shao furen, one portion of the money for the wedding was allocated by the palace, one portion was from lao furen’s private savings. The account book wasn’t used.”

“Oh! As it turned out my wedding additionally made the emperor and lao furen incur great expenses.” Yet again Su Tang was taken aback, yet again she felt (this was) absurd.

Uncle Song also felt (this was) absurd. The emperor made shao ye get married. Shao ye said he didn’t have money, so with just a stroke of a pen the emperor set aside silver. These betrothal gifts from the groom’s family and what not, all were from the palace…. It showed that this emperor’s cherished desire to have shao ye get married was urgent. Anyway, it didn’t seem to be good to talk with shao furen about this matter.

Uncle Song’s eye peeped at Su Tang. Seeing her lowered head looking at the account book and not asking anything, he couldn’t help but set his heart at ease.

“Then the congratulatory gifts received yesterday and so on?” Su Tang was fairly concerned about this.

Uncle Song’s eyelids twitched and twitched. Right away his eye expression looking at Su Tang was different …. must not underrate shao furen!

“All noted in that yellow book on the side!”

Su Tang detected Uncle Song’s gaze but just dismissed (it) with a smile. After that (she) naturally and gracefully extracted that yellow book on the side, one look and again wanted to spit blood!

The civil and military officials consistently gave 500 copper coins. Some gave writing brush, ink, ink slab, and paper as a present. Still some gave only a calligraphy painting, done by themself! Among the cabinet ministers, Li Cheng Xiang’s present was the thickest, yet also only 800 copper coins plus an ink stone!

“These ministers are also truly stingy!” Su Tang plainly spoke. She recalled when fourth younger sister got married that the congratulatory gift sent by Ping city’s magistrate was rich and generous by comparison! Yet these are all officials with posts in the capital!

Uncle Song rubbed and rubbed the perspiration on his forehead. He truly was somewhat unable to bear this master’s maneuvers. “Actually, actually this customary practice was all set up by shao ye.”

Su Tang was eager to hear. Contrary to what one might expect, she wondered why this Senior General Song established this custom.

Uncle Song deliberated and cautiously spoke. “Several years before, prime minister Li’s grandson got married. Shao ye conferred 500 minted coins [2] as a congratulatory gift. He furthermore said that the war situation was uncertain and (so) ought to be thrifty. The emperor deeply approved. Therefore, afterwards all the cabinet ministers’ households in handling matters regarded 500 minted copper coins as standard.”

As a result, nowadays the times have changed and (the effects) have finally arrived at my own household? Su Tang blushed in shame.

(She) simply finished flipping through the book and again asked some things. Su Tang roughly understood the circumstances of the general’s manors. Now that she was acquainted, she couldn’t help but have a headache…. A lot of people and a little money is a troublesome matter. It’s not good to be in charge of this household!

“These years, you and Aunt Jin Xiu have had a rough time!” To still be able to squeeze out several hundred silver in situations with insufficient income, this wonderful level of strict budgeting and such careful calculations! Su Tang looked towards Uncle Song, again her eye expression was serious, additionally there was esteem.

Uncle Song was almost moved to tears, to now finally meet shao furen who understands. Heaven knows how painful it was every time to report expenses with shao ye …. This master goes through hell for the sake of keeping up appearances, and spends money as if it were water. (He) also is completely unconcerned with how much money the manor really has! And so the butler in commonly managing the manor must for the sake of one copper coin still calculate like crazy. How depressed, how miserable! When leaving (the manor), he didn’t dare greet people with the same livelihood [3]!

After Uncle Song walked out, the atmosphere inside the room was perfectly quiet and hushed. Supporting her chin in her hand, Su Tang listened to the sweet and agreeable chirps of the birds outside. Watching the smoke from the incense burner rising in spirals, her brow lightly wrinkled with incomparable distress.

Xi Que saw this appearance of her family’s young miss and knew she also needed to complain. Sure enough, after sighing, Su Tang soon began to mutter.

“Xiao Xi Que, life is treating your family’s miss harshly. Wail! When in my mother’s household, I still had to look after the family shop, married, I still have to tidy up this awful mess! You take a look, take a look, so little money and so many people. And each one cannot be provoked. Alas, this is the pits!” Su Tang said looking miserable, and switched again to an air of happiness. “Fortunately, your young miss has foresight. Early on I had cold noodles divorce….”

“What!” Xi Que eyeballs rapidly quickly swung around!

Su Tang was puzzled, “Could it be I didn’t tell you?”

Xi Que’s head shook as if it were a drum shaped rattle [4].

“Oh. Then I’m telling you now.”

Seeing young miss walk towards the room, Xi Que hurriedly caught up. She anxiously asked, “Why! Why do you want to let gu ye [5] divorce you! Miss why are you this way, without rhyme or reason permitting a divorce! This is really bad!” She just knew her young miss was unlikely to stop.

Su Tan’s footsteps abruptly stopped. Xi Que nearly ran into her.

Su Tang said in ridicule, “Your family’s gu ye and your family’s young miss are both considered fed up, and therefore want to get divorced. Understand?”

“Don’t understand!” Seething, Xi Que mumbled to herself and said, “Miss, you’ve just been married 2 days. What talk about both being fed up. I just feel that gu ye is very good! Miss, you must not make a commotion!”

“Ah, only these 2 days and you’re favoring outsiders!” Su Tang said poking Xi Que’s forehead.

“Xi Que is not partial towards gu ye. It’s you young miss, you go too far!” Xi Que uttered righteously.

A crafty smile flashed in Su Tang’s eyes. She moved to the front, close to Xi Que’s ear and said, “You are my dowry. You want to like that pan of cold noodles. When the time comes I will present you as a gift to be a tong fang yatou [6]. You can give birth to children, more boys than girls would be better, and still be able to assist a concubine!”

Su Tang was joking, but hearing (this) Xi Que was repulsed. Overwhelmed with shame and vexation, she stomped her feet, “Miss you are rotten to the core!”

Su Tang was very innocent, “Me being bad, is again not a 1-2 day thing. You knowing me is also not a 1-2 day thing. Finding out now for the first time is too late, ha!”

Xi Que realized (this) was merely glib talk and didn’t get tangled again. Her mind switched and (she) again spoke. “Miss, could it be that you don’t like gu ye even a little bit?”

Su Tang sighed. Appearing to be true but not true and appearing to be false but not false, she said, “Liking is liking. What’s to be done. Your family’s gu ye dislikes us. What is called the falling flowers yearn for love but the heartless brook babbles on [7]. Ai yo, as a matter of fact your family’s young miss’s heart is quite aggrieved!” Saying this, Su Tang again wrinkled her brows and angrily glared which added to her beautiful appearance.

Who would have expected that Xi Que looked but didn’t see her. Xi Que merely looked behind Su Tang, the color of her face greatly changed, “Gen….general!”

Surprised, Su Tang turned around. Song Shi An was at the doorway wearing a suit of black clothes, his bearing tall and straight, only this facial expression…. didn’t look too good.

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13 thoughts on “Ch. 14: A Lot of People and Little Money Spells Trouble

  1. Her thoughts liven up the story while his blackened face adds to the entertainment. But why is he aggrieved? He should be touched she is voicing her good opinion of him, though she feels it will not be reciprocated.
    These Chinese idioms are all so delightful. .

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Poor ST having too manages a nearly bankrupt household and having to be married to Cold Noodles who does not have a concept of managing his income properly….Thank you for this chapter.

    Liked by 1 person

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