Yan Yan’s words made Xue-shi’s eyes light up. “That’s right. Search the Ziyu Pavilion. You didn’t have anything on you when you married in. Anything extra that turns up was naturally embezzled by you.
She could tell that the third miss was trying to make Concubine Pei suffer. Since their goals aligned, she didn’t mind being the horse in front of the carriage.
This was the downside of being an illegitimate household manager. If things were going well, no one would say anything. Anything that wasn’t going well would be pointed out. If it were Shen Yi Yao managing the household, no one would dare ask to search her residence even if she were suspected of embezzling silver.
Concubine Pei was different. As a concubine, even if she was a noble concubine, her status was much lower. Especially since she didn’t come with a dowry, which was something others could seize upon easily.
Concubine Pei was about to go insane. She cried out hysterically: “What basis do you all have to search my residence?” She then cried to the old madam: “Aunt, aren’t you going to say anything? Are you going to let them bully your niece?”
The old madam hadn’t said anything yet when Yan Yan spoke up again. “Grandmother naturally knows you’re her niece, but for the sake of allaying everyone’s suspicions, she naturally can’t be biased towards you.”
These words directly made the old madam unable to say anything.
She was also very anxious at this moment, but since she was caught out by those words, what could she say? If she said something, wouldn’t it mean she was being biased towards her own niece?
Seeing Xue-shi and Chen-shi looking at her, the old madam sighed: “Yu Jin, you’ve been upright and aboveboard. Don’t be afraid. Old two has treated you pretty well over the years, and has bestowed quite a few things to you. As long as it’s within this limit, no one would accuse you of embezzlement. Your aunt can promise you this.”
The last part was spoken for the others to hear. Even if Concubine Pei was lining her own pockets, it was fine as long as the number wasn’t large. Everyone understood that clear waters didn’t have any fish. These words could be counted as letting Concubine Pei feel at ease.
But how could Concubine Pei feel at ease?
The old madam thought that even if Concubine Pei lined her pockets, there wouldn’t be too much. But the problem was it wasn’t that little! The old madam’s words meant she had implicitly agreed for the Ziyu Pavilion to be searched.
Concubine Pei felt like dying. She could only hope her secret storage wouldn’t be discovered. Luckily it was well hidden, and she was the only one who knew where it was.
Once things were set, all that remained was to have people search the Ziyu Pavilion. The old madam definitely would send some of her own people, and to allay their suspicions, the second and third branch would also send some people. Yan Yan was domineering as always and had Matron Zou go take a look as well.
Concubine Pei hated Yan Yan to death at the moment and gave an excuse that she didn’t have the qualifications to do so as a junior. Yan Yan sneered disdainfully. She said that ever since the Ningxiang Chambers built its small kitchen, the estate hadn’t sent her allowance over. She didn’t mention anything since she wasn’t lacking, but since everyone suspected Concubine Pei of embezzlement, she naturally wondered whether the Ningxiang Chambers’ allowance was also taken for Concubine Pei’s personal use.
Everyone was shocked. The old madam’s eyes contained criticism.
Even she didn’t dare provoke this little ancestor. Where did Concubine Pei get the guts to take away the Ningxiang Chambers’ allowance?!
This matter was due to Yan Yan repeatedly hitting Concubine Pei’s face after returning to the estate. She wasn’t able to swallow her anger, and wanted to vent. Seeing the Ningxiang Chambers construct its own small kitchen and no longer get ingredients from the main kitchen, she took away their food expenses.
Within the estate, every master and mistress got their meals from the main kitchen. If they wanted some dessert or what not, they had their own little kitchens to make it. Overall, the main kitchen was responsible for the meals in the estate.
The allowance was assigned based on the number of people. If they didn’t eat from the main kitchen, they could in theory get ingredients or the silver as compensation. The Ningxiang Chambers didn’t bring it up and the main kitchen played dumb. Concubine Pei thus deducted said expenses.
If Yan Yan had come looking, she could easily blame it on the servants. The servants could also say that they had prepared their ingredients but the Ningxiang Chambers never came for it. Yan Yan would have to swallow the grievance.
Concubine Pei’s thinking was very simple at the time. She wanted to see the arrogant third miss come beg her. Unexpectedly, Yan Yan couldn’t be bothered with her so the matter was left sitting.
Now that Yan Yan brought it up, it was essentially the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Since you dared embezzle the true-blooded miss’s food money, you definitely embezzled a good amount of the estate’s silver!
Everyone looked critical, including the old madam. Concubine Pei naturally blamed the main kitchen, but with everything that had happened prior to this, no one listened to her explanation.
Taking advantage of the chaos, Fang Cui who had been standing in the corner this whole time tried to sneak out. Yan Yan gave Mei Xiang a glance, who rushed over and held her fast.
“Where are you off to? Did the mistresses give you permission to leave?”
Yan Yan smiled insincerely, “This is Concubine Pei’s maid Fang Cui, right? Where are you planning to go? For the sake of proving Concubine Pei’s innocence, no one can leave unless ordered.”
After she spoke, everyone who was secretly moving became well-behaved.
Xue-shi picked two of her people that she had brought and Chen-shi picked two as well. Along with Yan Yan’s Matron Zou and the old madam’s Matron Zhao, the group proceeded grandly to the Ziyu Pavilion.
The maids came up and switched out the mistresses’ tea. Yan Yan and Yan Mo were juniors and naturally didn’t have the qualifications to sit and drink tea in front of the old madam. The two went to sit in the side room. Servants brought over tea and various snacks. The two leisurely ate and drank, waiting for the news.
Yan Yan smiled and pinched her little brother’s recently meatier little face. “You bad little thing.”
Ah Mo squinted his eyes bashfully in a smile, and grabbed a pastry from the tray to eat.
This was still within the Rongan Hall and they couldn’t speak too openly. It was fine if the two of them understood each other.
After around half an hour, Matron Zhao led the grand procession back into the hall. They were carrying seven, eight red wooden boxes. Matron Zou held a small, black wooden box.
Along with them came Shen Yi Yao. It turns out when Matron Zhao’s group went to search the Ziyu Pavilion, Concubine Pei’s maids had blocked their path. One of them secretly ran off to ask Shen Yi Yao to mediate. Hearing that it was the old madam who gave the orders, Shen Yi Yao didn’t stop them and came along to see the situation.
Shen Yi Yao got the gist of the matter on the way over, and she looked at Concubine Pei with some criticism when she entered.
When Concubine Pei saw the black painted box, she started trembling all over and fell paralyzed to the floor. Her face was deathly ashen. No one paid any attention to her, their gazes focused on the red wooden boxes.
Those boxes were filled to the brim, and weren’t able to be closed properly. Xue-shi’s people stepped up and opened the lid. Everyone gasped.
Matron Zhao’s expression was solemn as she reported: “Since we didn’t have a target, the people who went suggested we take whatever didn’t look appropriate for a concubine’s status. Everything is here.”
This Matron Zhao was quite the talent. She had led them over, and was ordered to do so, but she still wanted to make sure it had nothing to do with her.
Yan Yan glanced at the pile of things and thought that this time Concubine Pei would hold a grudge not only against Matron Zhao, but even the old madam as well.
Xue-shi’s seemed to have been stimulated, her expression excited. “Mom, you should take a look and see properly just how much Concubine Pei has embezzled.”
These boxes contained all sorts of precious ornaments, calligraphy, jade artifacts, cloth and so on. One of the boxes was filled with various gold and silver jewelry that dazzled the eyes blind. Even Xue-shi and Chen-shi shouldn’t have such things, let alone a mere concubine. This truly was an eyesore.
Matron Zou stepped forward and reported: “This servant brought some others along and found this small wooden box in a hidden compartment under Concubine Pei’s bed. There are over two hundred gold ingots and over five hundred silver taels inside. There’s also a stack of silver banknotes. All in all, there is around ten thousand two hundred taels.”
As her voice fell, the clamor grew even louder.
The old madam’s face was dark as ink. She took a few hurried breaths and slammed the table angrily: “Concubine Pei, explain yourself!”
Great! She had already started scraping the bottom of her barrel, but it turns out the silver had all been taken by her!
Concubine Pei sat on the floor, her face pale. She said in a flustered manner, “Some of this was bestowed to this one by the lord marquis. The silver notes belong to him, and he’s merely stowing it with this one.”
Xue-shi smiled coldly. The old madam looked at Shen Yi Yao hurriedly and scolded angrily: “Your guts are truly large enough to encompass the skies. You actually dare implicate Ting’er? Ting’er’s money has always gone through the accounting office. Where would he get so much silver to store with you? You are my niece, and I’ve always trusted you. From what I see today, you’ve truly disappointed me. Not only have you learned to embezzle, you’ve even learned to frame others.”
Concubine Pei’s face turned rigid. She recalled the implications and turned to her habitual crying without saying anything.
“Mom, don’t be angry. It’s good that we discovered this parasite today.”
Xue-shi and Chen-shi stepped up to comfort her in succession, their words containing some Schadenfreude.
However, Concubine Pei’s words were correct. Some of the ornaments and jewelry were truly bestowed by others. Yan Ting was an example, the old madam was another. Shen Yi Yao as well. But everyone knew it was impossible for everything to have been bestowed. Who would be able to bestow so many things to her? These things added together were sufficient to make up several dowries.
In the capital, a dowry worth twenty to thirty thousand silver taels was on the higher side for a major household. Some were only worth several thousand taels. Xue-shi’s dowry was only five thousand taels when she married in. Seeing Concubine Pei have such a large “stash”, her eyes turned red.
At this time, Matron Zou pulled out an accounting ledger. “When we got the accounting ledger, this servant took a look. Everything listed inside is part of the Ziyu Pavilion. It should be Concubine Pei’s personal ledger. However, it only lists a few of the things, without mentioning the rest. The rest were all inside this ledger—-”
She pulled out another accounting ledger. This ledger was Concubine Pei’s true record, and it was used to record everything that wasn’t appropriate to be listed.
What wasn’t appropriate to be listed? Definitely everything that others couldn’t know about! She had learned to keep two ledgers! Xue-shi glared resentfully at Concubine Pei.
The have-nots would naturally resent the haves. Especially since some of the things here belonged to the eldest branch!
Yan Yan revealed a praising smile. Matron Zou stepped forward to offer the ledger up. When she passed by Xue-shi, she accidentally allowed Xue-shi to suddenly grab the ledger.
She seemed to freeze before bowing and stepping back.
Xue-shi was resentful as she waved the ledger in her hands. “All this was embezzled from everyone here. Let’s tally it all up right now. I have to see just how much silver this Concubine Pei embezzled over the years.”
Xue-shi’s angry actions messed up the old madam’s plan.
Even Chen-shi was curious, let alone Xue-shi. The two of them minded their own business as they chose several grannies to start calculating. They also found a few literate maids to keep a record as they started tallying things up on the spot.
Because everything needed to be appraised, this would take quite a while. But since they were confiscating things belonging to someone else, no one felt bored. They were all keenly interested. The old madam’s expression was obscure, her eyes half shut. It wasn’t clear what she was thinking.
Yan Yan looked on leisurely as though watching a show.
Suddenly, her eyes flashed as she abruptly stood up. Her actions were too sudden and made everyone look at her. She didn’t care about anything as she quickly stepped forward and pushed a granny aside. She grabbed a dangling ornament from the pile of jewelry.
This ornament was extremely eye-catching. It was a resplendent piece of jade with a vivid ruby. What was most impressive was that the piece of ruby held within the Luan’s mouth was only the size of a thumbnail. The carving was also extremely exquisite and lifelike.
This was a twin Luan ornament made of ruby and jade inlaid with golden threads!
Yan Yan’s expression was extremely weird. She actually started laughing coldly. Her expression which had been dull this entire time suddenly became severe.
“Great, truly great!”
Hehe, some readers are wondering why Shen Yi Yao’s dowry wasn’t embezzled.
A woman’s dowry usually consists of jewelry, furniture and precious ornaments. Other things include businesses, stores and residences. Even if Concubine Pei wanted to, she wouldn’t dare be too obvious about it. Yan Ting is also a sanctimonious one. Lusting after his wife’s dowry would be too obvious. It was fine if she was taken advantage of every now and then.
Since Shen Yi Yao is so generous, she was naturally taken advantage of a lot. Otherwise, Concubine Pei wouldn’t have viewed her as a piece of meat. However, there were limits on everything and she wouldn’t be too obvious. Xue-shi is a greedy one, but only dares make little moves and have Shen Yi Yao gift her things. None of them are fools.
As for why Concubine Pei’s family didn’t have time to prepare a dowry, cough cough, everyone please consider Yan Qian and Yan Yan’s ages. Furthermore, a concubine’s dowry was small to begin with. They would at most bring their own clothes and jewelry. It was already a miracle if they had some silver. The Pei household definitely stuffed Concubine Pei some silver back then, but who would have seen it? This wasn’t like when the principal wife married in and every carriage containing the dowry would be exposed.
Now that others had her backed into a corner, saying she didn’t come with any dowry, who could say otherwise? Concubine Pei’s words couldn’t be trusted and the old madam would seem biased if she spoke up. The first impression is always the strongest.
Even if the old madam was biased, she couldn’t be so obvious about it.
As for why Concubine Pei dared live so extravagantly when she didn’t even have a dowry? She was the household manager and the favored concubine. She was also the old madam’s niece. Even of everyone had some suspicions in their hearts, which household manager didn’t embezzle? It was just a question of degree. But since there wasn’t any proof, no one would bring it up and go against Concubine Pei. Even Yan Yan who hated her enough had never mentioned this.
Overall, Concubine Pei could be said to have been implicated by the old madam and Yan Ting. The estate lacked money and needed to cut down on expenses, which angered the masses. This was the fuse. How could things have turned out this way without any reason? Even though we are aware the money was all used up by Yan Ting, no one else knew about it. Along with things being guided, whether voluntarily or not, Concubine Pei was thus screwed over.