Where’s the Money? Where’s the Money?
Once these words were said, everyone turned around and saw a man wearing blue robes come out of the crowd. He looked to be in his 40s, and his skin was dark. His body was slightly hunched, and his face was dark. His complexion looked to be a little poor.
Some of the citizens recognized him, saying: “Isn’t this the shopkeeper of the Shengcai Shop on the Eastern street? I heard that elder madam Feng’s coffin was ordered from there.”
Shengcai Shop was a coffin shop. The reason behind its name was because of a homonym.1 That place was the most famous coffin shop in the capital. The reason for its fame was the materials used by this shop were all of the highest quality. All of the coffins were made by the old man, and the prices were extremely high. Only high-ranking officials and noble people were able to afford such things. Also, they had to be of the upper echelon. Just a little bit of money would not be enough.
Upon hearing the identity of this person, Feng Yu Heng immediately thought of the coffin that contained the matriarch today. She did not put too much thought into the materials. In the 21st century, she knew that many of the private clubs would have high-quality tables and chairs, and she had also seen ones made with gold thread. She knew about them, but she had never asked about the price. Moreover, even if she had asked about it, that would have been the price seen in the 21st century. There would be no way to compare it to the present.
The person from the coffin shop stood in front of Feng Jin Yuan and asked him with a stoic expression: “Lord Feng said for us to bring the coffin over before the elder madam was carried out, but the clerk said that the Feng family was in a rush to leave and did not have a chance to prepare the money. Normally speaking, our Shengcai Shop does not sell on credit. This is something that the entire capital knows. Also, there is not a person that would buy a coffin on credit for a person that has already passed away. But since we are in this business, we must not do something that neglects good deeds. The elder madam was waiting here to be placed in a coffin, and we cannot stop her from being placed in one because of a little thing like money. That’s why Shengcai Shop was willing to set aside this amount of money. Now that lord Feng has returned to the manor, shouldn’t this debt be handled?”
In the time that he spoke with Feng Jin Yuan, Feng Yu Heng turned her head and quietly asked Wang Chuan: “What is the rough price of the coffin used by the elder madam this morning?”
Wang Chuan pondered for a while then said: “This servant is unable to provide too accurate of an estimate, but it must be at least 200 taels because Shengcai Shop does not have any cheap good. They all have a starting price of 200 taels.”
Huang Quan picked up on this: “200 taels would not be enough. That sort of gold thread is quite expensive. I figure it must be 500 taels.”
Feng Yu Heng furrowed her brow. 500 taels was not much. She trusted that Feng Jin Yuan had done this out of his filial feelings. He wanted the matriarch to have a better place to lie after passing away. After all, the matriarch loved money while she was still alive, thus he could not allow her to rest in something shabby after she passed.
But if there was anything to blame, it would be the fact that the Feng manor was almost completely out of funds. The madams, concubine mothers and young misses all needed to look out for themselves. Aside from Han shi, who was pregnant and needed supplements, the communal funds did not provide anyone else with a single cent. Even the monthly allowance that was sent to her and Zi Rui in Tong Sheng pavilion had stopped being sent a couple months ago. She knew the Feng manor’s situation and did not want to argue over that little bit of money, thus she never asked for it.
Feng Jin Yuan clearly knew the family’s situation, so where did he get the courage to ask for such an expensive coffin from Shengcai Shop?
At this time, Xiang Rong had moved closer to her and quietly expressed her own thoughts: “Second sister, father won’t come up with the idea of pushing this debt on you, right?”
She recalled the moments after the matriarch had passed. She felt a little embarrassed in her heart. After all, if she had not incited that mob into attacking her, she would not have given Jin Zhen the opportunity to take action. That was why she provided Feng Jin yuan with 200 taels to conduct this funeral.
After that, she saw that the matriarch looked very shabby. Granny Zhao, who had also been beaten, found some strength and went into the warehouse to search, but she was unable to find anything nice. Apparently, they had all been taken by Feng Jin Yuan and sold. Thus she spent some money to buy jewelry and clothes for the matriarch. She also found some jade bracelets from her own side for the matriarch. Even the shattered silver found some use. Just in terms of silver, roughly 300 taels were spent.
The Feng family’s funeral was quite shabby, and it probably cost less than 50 taels. Thinking like this, if Feng Jin Yuan had counted the remaining 200 taels, and he had used that idea to buy the coffin for the matriarch, she would be benevolent for one last time and foot the remaining few hundred taels. Even if it meant that the matriarch was living a lavish and peaceful life in the underworld, it would be best if she did not climb through her window in Tong Sheng pavilion on the seventh day after her death or on the seventh day of the seventh month.
As she was thinking this, she heard Feng Jin Yuan say in a loud voice: “How could this official owe you money for this coffin! The person that was buried today was not just this official’s mother, she was also imperial daughter Ji An’s own grandmother. Imperial daughter Ji An is the Feng family’s daughter of the first wife, and her grandmother was always intimate with her. That coffin inlaid with gold thread was gifted by imperial daughter to her grandmother.”
Upon hearing that it was a gift from imperial daughter Ji An, the coffin-maker let out a sigh of relief then looked toward Feng Yu Heng: “If it was gifted by imperial daughter Ji An, I am at ease.” He feared that Feng Jin Yuan would refuse to pay, but he did not fear that Feng Yu Heng would do the same because Feng Yu Heng had a good character, and she would not miss a few silver.
Feng Yu Heng was quite kind. She did not say anything to Feng Jin Yuan, only asking the middle-aged man: “May I ask how much the coffin cost?”
The middle-aged man said: “Normally speaking, it should be 600 taels, but since it is imperial daughter paying, just 500 taels will be fine. This is just the cost of the materials and labor. This lowly one does not dare ask for the shop to profit.”
The price had immediately dropped by 100 taels, and Feng Jin Yuan’s eyes turned slightly red. His second daughter actually had so much face to actually cause Shengcai Shop to take the initiative in lowering its prices, and it was reduced by a full 100 taels!
While he was listening to this in surprise, he heard Feng Yu Heng say: “No need.”
Feng Jin Yuan panicked: “A-Heng, 100 taels is still money!”
Feng Yu Heng rolled her eyes at him and looked at him with a face full of disdain, “Is this a matter to negotiate? Have you ever heard of any family negotiating prices with the coffin makers?”
The people began to discuss, “That’s right! Who would negotiate when buying a coffin!”
The middle-aged man quickly comforted: “That’s not it, that’s not it, it’s not considered negotiating. It’s this lowly one willingly lowering the price.”
Feng Yu Heng, however, continued to say: “No need.”
Feng Jin Yuan snorted, “Fine, either way, it is you that is paying. You can pay however much you want.” After saying this, he raised his foot to step into the manor. He had already reached his goal. He had raised Feng Yu Heng up high in front of all these people. Even if she did not want to spend this amount of money, she would still need to spend it. Otherwise, she would gain a bad reputation.
Seeing that Feng Jin Yuan was about to freely enter the manor, Feng Yu Heng blinked and suddenly realized something. This father had never planned to pay that 200 taels! He was intending to have her pay the full 600 taels.
On what basis?
His mother died, yet he, the son, did not pay for a single thing; however, he had the granddaughter spend banknotes to buy jewelry and clothes worth upwards of 1000 taels. What family adhered to such rules?
She opened her mouth and shouted: “Is father going back to fetch the banknotes?”
“Hm?” Feng Jin yuan stopped and looked at her, asking in a puzzled tone: “What banknotes? The coffin was bought by you for your grandmother. What do you want me to fetch banknotes for?”
Feng Yu Heng thought to herself that this shameless old man really did want to deny this debt. An anger surged in her heart, and she coldly asked Cheng Jun Man: “This imperial daughter brought out 300 taels in banknotes for grandmother’s funeral. Up to today, how much was spent?”
Cheng Jun Man naturally understood what Feng Yu Heng intended. Upon mentioning this matter, she was also filled with anger and immediately said: “A-Heng, you gave us a total of 280 taels in banknotes. Husband only left 80 taels to me. The remaining 200 taels were all taken away. Presently, there are less than 20 taels remaining of the 80 taels that were given to me. I had wanted to speak with you about this matter after returning to the manor.”
In front of the outsiders, Cheng Jun Man did not call her imperial daughter because she knew about the fear that these people could spread. If she called her imperial daughter, it was inevitable that a rumor would spread around the capital saying that imperial daughter Ji An is abusing her own power and looks down on her own family’s head wife.
Feng Yu Heng did not think about such things. She only heard that Feng Jin Yuan only left 80 taels to conduct the funeral. The anger in her chest burned even more fiercely.
Feng Jin Yuan did not think that Feng Yu Heng would count the banknotes that she had given him into this. He expected even less that Cheng Jun Man would actually expose this matter in front of all these people. He felt a little shameful and did not dare look at Feng Yu Heng.
The middle-aged coffin maker stood awkwardly in place. He was a little worried about how he should ask for this money. Shengcai Shop had been opened for a long time, and this was his first time running into this problem.
Fortunately, Feng Yu Heng did not want to trouble his business, thus she retracted her glare from Feng Jin Yuan and pulled out 600 taels worth of banknotes from her sleeve. “This is the money for the coffin. Take care of it.” She handed the banknotes over and finally send the middle-aged person off.
Right before that person left, he cast a very disdainful look at Feng Jin Yuan, causing Feng Jin Yuan to feel even more shameful.
He wanted to return to the manor, but it was very clear that Feng Yu Heng did not want to let him go. Some people did not accept her kindness when offered, thus there was no need for her to continue being kind. Did he not choose to force her to pay for the coffin in front of all these people? Fine, it could be considered her fulfilling her filial duties. That was fine. But to enter the manor now, it would not be so easy.
They then heard Feng Yu Heng coldly ask a question: “Father, what did you do with the 200 taels given to conduct grandmother’s funeral?”
A cold sweat broke out all over Feng Jin Yuan’s body. He stood in place, with leaving and remaining both being bad choices. When Feng Yu Heng spoke, she emphasized: “conduct grandmother’s funeral.” This immediately escalated matters by a great deal. What should he say?
For a while, the atmosphere was very awkward.
It was at this time that Feng Zi Rui, who had been quietly standing beside Feng Yu Heng, suddenly spoke up: “Father might have gone to buy a Su Zhou embroidery. That day, elder sister was in court. I saw father bring an embroidery out. Zi Rui recognized it as a Su Zhou embroidery. It’s very expensive.”
Feng Jin Yuan was startled and looked at Zi Rui with a bit of embarrassment. He never thought that his small actions were actually seen by his son. He felt a little nervous and wildly came up with an excuse: “It was for your grandmother. It was placed inside the coffin.” He then felt some sorrow well up once more: “Your grandmother loved Su Zhou embroideries while she was still alive. No matter how expensive, father had to buy one.”
As he said this, the people felt a little moved. Some of the female citizens spectating even wiped away some tears.
But An shi, who had been standing to the side, said with confusion: “One of the tailors in my tailor shop said that husband went and took a Su Zhou embroidery without paying, two days ago.”
1: I believe that the pun here is a play on the term “to make money”