Casting Nets to Catch a Husband

Chapter 114: A Courtesy

From Changfeng Town to Anyi County, a convoy of twelve mule carts traveled along the road. Leading them was a gallant young man on horseback, drawing considerable attention. Upon entering the county, musicians played their instruments. After passing Anyi County and arriving at Xifeng Town, they continued a bit further. When Lin Jiuniang indicated that Yanshan Village was about two miles away, Uncle Chen had the convoy stop.

The matchmaker, musicians, and young men carrying the betrothal gifts all disembarked. They rearranged the procession and, with much fanfare, continued toward Yanshan Village.

At the Liu household, this was a significant day. Family members and relatives were all present, with young boys from the clan waiting at the village entrance, craning their necks in anticipation. Naturally, they first heard the sound of the musicians. The boys erupted in excitement and one of the clever ones ran back to the Liu house to announce, “They’re here, they’re here!”

Those eager for a good spectacle stretched their necks to see the grand sight of a tall horse and a procession of over sixty people. The entire village came out to watch, with villagers lining the streets, faces beaming with joy.

Liu Yanan dashed out for a quick look and hurried back home. Before reaching the door, he heard firecrackers from the village entrance. “Quick, quick, brother, light the firecrackers!”

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Liu Yanqing didn’t need the reminder. The fire basin was already prepared outside the main gate. Hearing the firecrackers from the groom’s procession, he threw a string of ninety-nine firecrackers into the fire basin, which erupted with a lively crackle, adding to the excitement.

In the Liu family’s courtyard, several borrowed tables were set up. The clan leader and some male relatives were there to help entertain guests.

Wei Shi couldn’t help but go out to the main gate, accompanied by the clan leader’s wife, Tian Shi, and Cui Erniang, who had arrived by boat early that morning. Everyone’s faces showed their excitement.

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Inside the courtyard, snacks and sunflower seeds were already set out on each table. However, Uncle Chen didn’t hurry to sit down. Checking the time, he reminded Lu Chengxiao, “It’s time.”

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Lu Chengxiao understood, took out a red silk betrothal letter embroidered with golden double happiness symbols from his sleeve, and handed it to Wei Shi.

Wei Shi received it, glanced at it to confirm everything was correct, then quickly closed it and put it away.

With the betrothal letter accepted, the formal presentation of gifts began. Uncle Chen held the list and began to recite loudly, “For the betrothal of Lu Xun’s youngest son, Lu Chengxiao, to Liu Huaiyu’s eldest daughter, Miss Liu, of Yanshan Village, the following gifts are presented:

“Betrothal silver: two hundred taels.”

Before he finished speaking, the second uncle had already placed a red lacquer box with two layers in front of Wei Shi. Opening it revealed forty silver ingots, each weighing five taels, neatly stacked, totaling two hundred taels.

This single item left the villagers gasping. Two hundred taels of silver—many had never seen such an amount in their lifetimes. The previously noisy hall fell silent, and one could hear a pin drop.

The second uncle closed the box and handed it to Liu Yanqing and Liu Yanping to carry away.

The silver chest was carried away, but many hadn’t yet recovered from their amazement. Uncle Chen continued, “Two carts of betrothal cakes.”

“A pair of chickens.”

“Two pigs.”

“Two sheep.”

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As he announced each item, relatives from the Lu family brought them forward for the Liu family to inspect. The Liu family accepted each item and placed them in the courtyard’s eastern area. There were all kinds of dried and fresh fruits, tea, wine, and sugar, each brought in pairs.

There were twenty bolts of fine cloth, twenty bolts of silk, and the most dazzling was a set of six gold jewelry pieces. The ceremony lasted for two quarters of an hour. After presenting all the gifts, Uncle Chen handed the gift list to Wei Shi.

Wei Shi accepted the list, and seeing this, Tian Shi called out to the women, who carried tea trays out. After the gift presentation, it was time for the families to formally meet.

At Wei Shi’s signal, the musicians started playing again, filling the courtyard with joy.

Two aunts of Lu Chengxiao approached Wei Shi, indicating they needed to measure Liu Yu for her wedding garments. This was part of the tradition in Yuanzhou; the bride’s attire for all seasons would be provided by the groom’s family, though the bride’s family could make them with the groom’s family covering the cost.

Wei Shi led the two aunts to the west wing. Upon seeing Liu Yu, the two women were impressed by her appearance and understood why the betrothal gift was so generous. They had heard that the Lu family had split, and Lu Chengxiao had used his own money to increase the betrothal gift.

Such a girl was indeed worth it.

Liu Yu greeted Lu Chengxiao’s two aunts politely. Impressed by her manners, they were even more delighted, realizing they had found an excellent daughter-in-law.

After taking her measurements and noting the details, they left the west wing, smiling and chatting. When they returned to the main gathering, they couldn’t stop praising Liu Yu’s beauty, sparking curiosity among the Lu family members.

With the betrothal settled, the families had a grand lunch, filling several tables with food. The festivities continued into the afternoon, with Tian Shi and Wei Shi busy preparing return gifts. It wasn’t until later in the day that the guests finally departed.

On this day, with so many people around, Lu Chengxiao couldn’t see Liu Yu. However, Uncle Chen and Second Uncle Chen, while chatting with the Liu family, inquired about their situation. They learned that this year, many in Yanshan Village sold their summer cloth at thirty coins per bolt above market price on credit to the Liu brothers, who made a significant profit. Many families in their village also made a small fortune.

Moreover, they heard that Lu Chengxiao was involved in this cloth trading with his nephew. On their way back to the Lu family home in the evening, Uncle Chen, Second Uncle Chen, and the two aunts grew interested. Upon arrival, they seized the chance to ask Lu Chengxiao two key questions: First, was it true that selling cloth on credit earned three hundred extra coins per bolt? Second, was Lu Chengxiao planning another trading trip in August?

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Liu Yanping’s upcoming trip to Liangzhe in August had been discussed with Lu Chengxiao, Lin Huaigeng, and Liu Zhang earlier, and all had agreed to participate. Thus, the plan was set.

Hearing their relatives’ inquiries, Lu Chengxiao smiled and asked, “Are you considering selling cloth on credit to me as well?”

Everyone nodded. Not only were the three uncles and two aunts interested, but other Chen family relatives also started asking questions.

After a detailed explanation from Uncle Liu, the enthusiasm grew. “Can we sell our cloth to you in August?” they asked eagerly.

Lu Chengxiao didn’t commit immediately. “Last time, we sourced from a weaving workshop. However, receiving cloth directly is also feasible. We don’t bring small quantities on such trips to justify the travel costs. If only a few families participate, it might be inconvenient. Why don’t you tally how much cloth you can offer by early August, and if you’re comfortable selling on credit, I’ll come to collect it.”

This reassured everyone. “We trust you completely,” they said, confident in Lu Chengxiao’s business acumen and the favorable terms.

Second Uncle Chen laughed, “I’ll check with our clan too. We found out from Yanshan Village that only well-woven cloth is accepted. I’ll see what we have that meets the standards.”

Lu Chengxiao nodded, “I didn’t consider this last time. Please inquire, and I’ll visit at the end of July.”

Several cousins chimed in, “We’ll ask around too. Our family is willing, but we need to check with the clan.”

At this point, Lu Chengxiao welcomed the opportunity, thanking his uncles and aunts for their support. The Lu family was also in high spirits.

Lin Huaigeng and Liu Zhang, who had been listening, approached Lu Chengxiao afterward. Lin Huaigeng whispered, “I’m thrilled about your engagement. Good news—my aunt is now open to my proposal. This next trip will help me earn enough to propose to her properly.”

Lu Chengxiao’s eyes lit up, “That’s great news. Congratulations in advance!”

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Lin Huaigeng thanked him, “Thanks to your help.”

Lu Chengxiao replied, “No need for formalities between brothers.”

Liu Zhang, also pleased, felt optimistic about earning enough to find a good match.

The three discussed their plans for Liangzhe before Lin Huaigeng and Liu Zhang excused themselves, acknowledging that Lu Chengxiao had many relatives to entertain.

When Lu Xun heard, he insisted they stay for dinner. They thanked him but declined, taking some snacks and red envelopes from the Chen Shi before leaving.

That evening, the Lu family entertained their relatives. Chen Shi lavishly praised Liu Yu’s beauty, setting high expectations among the family, who hadn’t yet met her. Everyone congratulated Lu Xun and his wife, Chen Shi, and teased Lu Chengxiao.

After a lively dinner, the Chen family members didn’t stay overnight. They left with snacks and red envelopes, and the bustling Lu household finally quieted down. However, there was still much to clean up. The family worked together, and by the late evening, they finished.

Exhausted but happy, Chen Shi, who had been busy for days, finally relaxed. Sitting down, she felt worn out. Lu Xun poured her tea and massaged her shoulders, thanking her for all her hard work.

Chen Shi smiled, “It’s such a joy to marry off our son. The compliments from my two cousins today about Yu’er were worth all the effort. I’m thrilled.”

Lu Xun, equally pleased, listened as Chen remembered something important. She had meant to tell him what Wei Shi had mentioned on the day of the betrothal ceremony, but due to his busy schedule, she had forgotten.

She recounted Wei Shi’s words, and Lu Xun pondered, “Marrying into a family like the Liu’s is indeed a blessing.”

“Exactly,” Chen agreed. “Wei Shi said it’s not final yet, so I haven’t told anyone. I’m just sharing it with you.”

Chen couldn’t help but sigh with satisfaction. “This marriage is truly perfect. Chengxiao gets along well with the Liu children. It’s a great match.”

The couple chatted, and Lu Xun suddenly remembered something. “I wonder if Brother Cunyi has returned to Yuanzhou. We should inform him of Chengxiao’s engagement; he is, after all, the godfather.”

Though the families didn’t see each other often, Lu Xun made an annual visit with gifts. However, Li Cunyi was rarely home, and their visits were brief. The Li family seldom came to Anyi County, usually sending servants with holiday gifts. Li Cunyi and his wife had only visited twice—once to collect the recovering Li Cunyi, and once for the Yuanzhou Academy placement.

Despite the infrequent visits, not notifying them about the engagement would be impolite. Lu Xun, thinking aloud, went to his desk to write a letter to Li Cunyi.

Unaware of the events at the Li household during Lu Chengxiao’s recent visit, the couple happily wrote a letter sharing the joyful news. Once the ink dried, they sealed the letter, planning to send it the next day via the post office when returning to Anyi County.


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