Chapter 39: Like a spring breeze blowing across the lake of my heart (1)
One of the nannies from Xia Qinglian’s room accepted the two boxes brought over by Zhou Xiaoxiao and saw the small boxes that were filled with pastries. While keeping them away, the nanny said, “This rice cake is light and not at all greasy. The madam will love it. This puff pastry is sweet but contains a delicious savory filling, Second Master will enjoy this. It is truly too kind of you, Miss Zhou.”
Xia Qinglian nodded. “Nanny Zhang, if you are free, go and speak with Steward Li. In the future, all the pastries served in our residence from now on will be December Pastries’ offerings.”
Zhou Xiaoxiao stood up and bowed in thanks.
Xia Qinglian took her hand and waved. “This can hardly be considered anything, it is sister’s pastries that are exquisitely crafted. Customers will surely come in the future, then I’m afraid we would not be able to buy any even if we had to queue.”
Then, she had a servant brew two more pots of Miyun Dragon tea to enjoy with Zhou Xiaoxiao.
After they were done with tea, Xia Qinglian said, “The flower festival will be held on the twelfth of this month. I plan to invite some guests this spring, many renown guests will be there. Teatime snacks must certainly be decent during then, so I will have to trouble sister for your efforts that day.”
Zhou Xiaoxiao brought her hands together and said, “My, sister really treats me well. This amount of work will not bother me at all, sister.”
Xia Qinglian found Zhou Xiaoxiao appearing unable to sit still despite assuring her it was no bother. Her round eyes were looking at her as if she were waiting for her to continue on speaking.
She sighed in her heart. She was so young, and yet her heart was already so wise. Thus, she had no choice but to draw the letter from her sleeve.
“Brother-in-law sent a letter a few days ago, and she asked me to pass it to you.”
She avoided Zhou Xiaoxiao’s eyes and mentioned lightly, “Our family has been arranging for Fifth Brother-in-law recently. We may hear good news from them soon. When that time comes, I hope…”
Xia Qinglian was a woman aloof to politics or other worldly matters, so such remarks were against her convictions. She merely coughed to conceal the awkwardness of the conversation and did not continue.
Zhou Xiaoxiao accepted the letter. Her fingers ground against the corners of the letter for a moment, and she just smiled. Without any other words, she straightened her clothes and excused herself.
Later that day, when Yu Xingyi returned to the residence, he saw a plate of round golden baked goods on the table. He just happened to be feeling hungry so he took one and took a bite. The crispy crust was fragrant and the bean filling was sweet, with a delicious flowing savory custard in the center. Yu Xingyi was fond of sweet foods, so when compounded with his daily physical exertions, sweet and oily foods were one of his favorites. He could not help but eat several at one go. When he saw his wife, Xia Qinglian, enter, he even pushed the plate to her and said, “Ah Lian, these biscuits are delicious. Come and try some.”
“These are the pastries made my Miss Zhou. She has a mind to open a bakery so she tried her hand at a few treats, and sent these to us this morning.”
“Hm. She has a decent hand at this. I can say they taste quite comparable to those from a known chef.”
“She has already memorized your taste preferences after only staying here for a few days. She truly is a very thoughtful girl. It’s a shame mother does not like her.” Xia Qinglan accepted the freshly brewed cup of jasmine tea from the servant girl and passed it over to him.
Yu Xingyi accepted it and took a sip.
“Have you given her the letter from Fifth Brother?”
“Naturally. I have also passed on mother’s word. I am not good at talking, so I may not have handled it too well. Though Sister Zhou did not say anything, I can tell she feels bad about it.”
“There is nothing we can do even if she may feel unhappy for this moment. There are good men all over in Fengxiang, just watch out for her and we can leave it at that.”
But when Zhou Xiaoxiao returned home, she first went over to her shop in Qingshi Street to take a look.
All the decorations are already nearing completion.
The materials are all there, and the craftsmen have all been paid. The rest of the crude lacquer work and final repairs can be done by the carpenters.
The staff she hired to watch over the shop had also come to familiarize themselves with things. When they saw Zhou Xiaoxiao, they all came to greet her.