Wine Shop Incident, part 2

Not finding enough excitement from small prey, he yearned for larger game. “Let's go a bit deeper into the woods, and see what we can find,” he exclaimed eagerly. 

     Escort Shi thought to himself, “If we go too deep into the woods, as the Young Master wishes, he probably won’t quit until after dark. Surely, the Madam will complain when we get back. That won’t be good.” 

      So he replied, “It is quite late already. There are lots of sharp rocks around that might damage the hooves of your white horse. Why don’t we try our luck again early tomorrow morning?” 

He knew that it would be very hard to dissuade the stubborn Young Master, but Lin Pingzhi loved his white horse so much that he wouldn’t risk any chance of injuring his precious pet. The colt had been given to Lin Pingzhi as a present on his seventeenth birthday two years ago. It had come from a foreign country, and had cost his grandmother in Luoyang, a fair amount of gold. Just as Shi had expected, his suggestion worked.

    “My Snow Dragon is clever enough to not step on sharp rocks, but I am not so sure about your horses. Alright, let’s head back then. We wouldn’t want Henchman Chen to crack his bottom somewhere on those sharp rocks, would we?” grinned Lin Pingzhi, patting his horse on the neck.

Howling with laughter, all five turned around and started to head back home. Lin Pingzhi rode ahead of everyone else, but did not take the same route by which they had come. Instead, he turned north and sprinted forward. Feeling satisfied after some rapid riding, he finally reined in the horse and let it trot slowly.  The sign of a wine shop emerged from one side of the road, not far ahead.

Old Sa served Lin Pingzhi and his escorts
Old Sa served Lin Pingzhi and his escorts

     “Young Master, how about a drink here? The fresh rabbits and pheasants we’ve got would go perfectly with some good wine,” Escort Zheng suggested.

     “So, you didn’t come out for hunting, but rather for drinking, did you? I suppose if I don’t bribe you with some drinks, you wouldn’t want to come out again tomorrow.” Lin Pingzhi grinned as he dismounted and started walking toward the wine shop.

Normally, the owner of the wine shop, Old Cai, would have hurried out to take the reins and flattered Lin with some praise. “Well lookee thar, the Young Master’s gotten so much game today! Ain’t he great! There ain’t many who can match his skills,” Old Cai would exclaim.

But today, when they came to the door, they were greeted with complete silence. A girl, dressed in green, stood by the wine vat with her hair done up in two buns, and with a wooden hairpin holding each in place; she appeared to be busy fussing with it. Her back was towards them and she seemed to have no intention of turning around.

     “Where is Old Cai? Get out and tether our horses,” Escort Zheng yelled impatiently.

Henchmen Bai and Chen pulled out a bench, brushed off the dust with their sleeves, and let Lin Pingzhi sit down. The two escorts sat with Lin Pingzhi while the two henchmen sat down at another table.

Coughing sounds floated out from the backroom, and moments later, a gray-haired old man walked out. “Welcome, sirs. Can I bring you some wine?” the old man greeted the group of five in a distinctly northern accent.

     “Do we look like we are here for tea?” Escort Zheng retorted. “Of course we want wine. Get us three jugs of Bamboo Green. Where’s Old Cai? What’s going on? Are you the new owner here?”

     “Yes, sir! Coming right up!..... Wan’er, bring three jugs of Bamboo Green,” the old man called out at the girl. “To be frank with you misters, my name is Sa. I was born in this town, but I left to be a trader when I was young. Recently, my son and my daughter-in-law both passed away. I figured that no matter how tall a tree is, its leaves will always fall to the roots, so I brought my granddaughter back to my hometown. But since I’ve been gone for over forty some years, my relatives and my friends had either passed away or left town. Luckily, the previous owner of this wine shop, Old Cai, happened to want out, so he sold it to me for thirty taels of silver. I am finally back now. I feel happy just listening to the hometown dialect. But it’s so embarrassing that I’ve totally forgotten the dialect myself.”

The girl in the green robe came back with a wooden tray. She set down the bowls and chopsticks, and then placed three jugs of wine on the table. When she finished, she walked away with her head down, never even sneaked a peek at the customers all the while.  (To be continued)

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