Chapter 10: Drought 2
Chapter 10: Drought (2)
The servants had worked together, but all they could bring were three barrels and several small tubs. Of the three barrels, one had been used for Chen Rong to bathe, the other two had been for the servants.
After traveling for more than ten miles, a body of water appeared in front of them. The Chen servants filled up the three big barrels and several small wooden tubs, and then thoroughly soaked the fabric.
Wang Zhuo frowned as he watched the Chen people running to and from the lake behind him. He contemplated a little and then shouted left and right: “Go and fill a few drums of water, too.”
He took everyone by surprise. A Wang lad exclaimed: “Uncle, why believe a woman’s nonsense?”
Wang Zhuo abruptly barked: “What are the empty carriages for? Why are you so full of opinions? Fill them up!”
Through twenty days, both the Wang and Chen houses had eaten a large amount of food. Now there were several empty carriages, perfect to hold this water.
Nobody dared to say a thing at Wang Zhuo’s shout. They couldn’t but follow behind the Chen house to fill up water. But merely wanting to do a perfunctory job, they only loaded a total of twenty barrels.
As the cavalcade moved forward, three more large lakes appeared in the next ten miles. Looking at those clear rippling waves, the Wangs repeatedly shook their heads. Wang Zhuo glowered again and regretfully thought: She is merely an ignorant girl who pretends to be learned. Why did I listen to her and believe her words? Alas, I’ve made myself a laughingstock!
In the evening, the team settled down next to a water source. Under the ridiculing eyes of the Wang youngsters, Chen Rong quietly told her people to refill the barrels that had spilled during the bumpy travel. Then under Nurse Ping’s care, she chose a clean location at the water source and took a bath.
Not only did she wash, but she also forced her group to wash thoroughly.
Fortunately, those who had followed her here were all loyal retainers in the Chen family. Despite feeling that their lady was making a fuss over nothing, they nonetheless carried out her orders without a word.
This translation belongs to hamster428.
Early next morning, Chen Rong bade everyone to soak the fabric in water again before she began to wash and leave.
Today, the horizon was glaring red the moment the sun rose from the east.
Nurse Ping looked to the sky and called into the carriage: “Miss, it’s going to be a blazing day.”
From the carriage came Chen Rong’s soft hum.
Since yesterday afternoon, Chen Rong had returned to the middle of the queue not wanting to see the looks the Wangs were giving her.
The team continued to drive forward.
By this time, the Wang children were no longer in a playing mood. Under their urging, the group moved at a brisk pace. They covered almost forty miles in only one morning.
By noontime, however, the weather got increasingly stifling.
Everything on the ground was heated by the scorching sun above. As the cavalcade moved along, scattered dust was sent straight to the sky. It appeared this place had not received any rain for some time.
The troop suddenly slowed down in front.
Poking her head out, Nurse Ping was surprised to find smoke whipping high ahead. They turned out to be uniformed men on horsebacks belonging to the Wang house.
Strange, their trip had been peaceful all along. Why had the house of Wang sent explorers to scout the roads?
These men rushed to the Wang patriarch. She did not know what they said. All of a sudden, the Wang children’s griping murmurs flowed into their ears.
“What happened?” Nurse Ping asked in curiosity.
Next to her, Old Shang lowered his voice in reply: “They said there is no water within thirty miles ahead of us. The wells have dried up along the way, and the villagers said it had been a full month without rain here. The water they normally use is from the east side of the mountain, but that Qishan mountain range is twenty miles from here. Going there and back will take at least one day.”
At this point, Old Shang looked into the carriage where Chen Rong sat. Shock was evident in his eyes, as it was in Nurse Ping’s. She looked to the fluttering curtain in astonishment while uttering: “Our lady seems to have known about this.”
This translation belongs to hamster428.
The cavalcade came to a stop at this time.
Nurse Ping noticed that the Wang servants were taking a few barrels of water from the carriage and began to feed the horses.
With the clear water in plain sight, a girl suddenly demanded: “Uncle, why give water to these animals? It’s such a sweltering day, and I still hadn’t taken a bath.”
Another Wang lad also cried out: “Father, let us take a bath and then give what’s left to these animals.”
The rest quieted down for Wang Zhuo’s reply that shortly came: “Silence. Before we can find a well, we shan’t waste a single bucket of water.”
“Uncle, we’ll only wash lightly. As long as we don’t make a splash, it would be all right.”
“Aye, aye, it’s so wasteful to let these animals drink such clean water.”
Wang Zhuo briefly paused before his commanding voice rose again: “I’m only giving eight barrels of water to the horses. With so many of you, to whom should the eight barrels be given? Stop making a ruckus. No one is allowed to use the available water to bathe.”
“We will speed up after the horses have their water,” he began to placate them at this point. “We shall have to find sufficient water as soon as possible. By then, there would be plenty for you to bathe and play.”
This time, the Wang children stopped their clamor, but the low mutters and complaints remained.
Nurse Ping had just recovered her attention by the time Chen Rong’s voice came to her from the carriage: “Nurse, let our horses chew on the wet fabric.”
After all the horses had been fed, the team started up again. This time, they quieted down and began to go at full speed.
Both houses of Wang and Chen had thoroughly planned for the journey south. It could be said that this team was primarily composed of carriages. In addition to four pulling horses, there were two backup horses for every carriage.
Under the present situation, the thirty-mile road took an hour to travel.
The sun in the sky nonetheless remained scorching. Fields on both sides of the road were still covered in dry cracks. Dust filled the air as they drove along, not a drop of water was found in the wells. Thick clumps of weed told them that this place had been arid for a long time.
This time, the Wang children had a vague feeling that things weren’t so good. Their grumbling soon turned into worried questions and curses.
The cavalcade continued to rush forward.
Another hour passed by.
The sun was descending to the west, and the air current was not so stifling anymore.
Nonetheless, the team was shrouded under a dreadful unease. The more south they went, the more they discovered in dismay that the conditions of the fields were getting worse and worse.
Everyone now felt his throat to be parched. Even the dashing horses began to feel anemic.
And yet in front of them was still an empty vastness. It was only early autumn, but everything in sight was barren and dry!
Panic and anxiety seized the group. Only horses of the Chen house were still full of energy for having chewed on soaked fabric.
Amid restless eyes, Wang Zhuo gave an order: “Wang You, give the horses enough to drink and go scout the area. Report back once you see water!”
After a pause, Wang Zhuo’s tired voice spoke again: “Call Ah Rong of the Chen house over.”
The order had scarcely been accepted before a Wang child hastily said, “Father, don’t. You must not do that.” He lowered his voice and nervously added under the questioning eyes of Wang Zhuo: “Father, you are the patriarch of the Wang house. But in just a short distance you have twice asked for advice from a concubine-born daughter of the Chen house. Isn’t this the same as handing your reputation to Chen Rong?”