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56 The Maid Explains Herself

    News of a potential suspect for the numerous missing items in the villa quickly spread throughout the household, bringing many spectators. Out of all of them, only the main young misses and madam of the household were supposed to be present, so while they were seated along the sides of the Old Master, everyone else only watched from the sidelines, outside of the main room of the household.

    All of this would be excellent gossip amongst all the servants for the following days and weeks.

    The Old Master was seated at the very front of the room, to the left. On his other side sat Madam Zhang, holding herself a cup of steaming tea a servant girl poured for her a few moments ago. The expression on the Old Master's face was evidently angry- he must've lost quite a few valuable things from the incidents. Meanwhile, Madam Zhang's expression was unreadable, both a mixture of multiple things, and most of all, a curious intent to see how everything would play out.

    At the chairs that were extended out towards the front of the room from the main seat of the Old Master, Yang Xiaoyi and Yang Qingxia sat there. These were usually seats for guests. Both of them chose to sit to the side of Madam Zhang, carefully watching the scenario too.

    To the front of them, both Hui'er and Manyu were bowing on the floor, while Steward Liu was the only one standing, his hands clasped respectfully towards the front.

    The Old Master took a deep breath, struggling to contain his anger.

    For the past two weeks, numerous valuable things began to disappear in the household without explanation. He first noticed the disappearance of an antique vase passed down from generations in the Yang household. At first, since the vase was on public display, he assumed that it was just a one-time thievery from a thief outside the household. He was angry about it then, but nothing much could be done to find it.

    Then, after that, only more and more antiques began to disappear slowly, becoming more and more evident that there was something going on.

    It seemed like every day, they would be missing at least one item from the household, be it a tea set made of delicate jade from his study or a stunning golden bracelet from the madam's jewelry box.

    He assumed that it was all the work of a reappearing thief, so he ordered for the security in the household to be enforced even more in front of some of the more important places. However, when that didn't do anything and more and more things began to go missing, he decided that this was something he needed to look further into.

    The Old Master looked into the recorded transactions and the storage count that Steward Liu provided him. After looking at the amount of money he owned along with the amount of storage in the storage room, he discovered that the accounts didn't match up. Entire sacks of the spices that he had shipped in and were ready to ship out disappeared into thin air. Some silver he owned went missing too, over the span of the previous year, totaling up to a number of exactly one-hundred taels when he counted all of it.

    This put Steward Liu in an unpleasant situation.

    He was the one who was documenting everything, so it was his responsibility if things went missing. Originally, he noticed the disappearance of some items as well, but this sort of thing happened in every household, where mishaps during shipment or other accidents led to small inconsistencies. Because these numbers were very small each time, such as an unexplained decrease of ten taels each month, he didn't feel the need to report it to the Old Master, thinking that he could solve it by his own.

    Yet now, the Old Master's number one suspect who caused these vanishing objects was him, decreasing the amount of trust he owned in the household. The Old Master ordered for him to go find the cause for all these disappearances, and if he wasn't able to, he was told that the culprit would be automatically determined as him.

    Hearing this was obviously not pleasing. It was difficult working his way to steward of the household, and he wanted to keep the power to himself.

    Steward Liu was sure that there was certainly someone doing all of this behind the scenes. He knew that it definitely wasn't him.

    So, when he discovered Hui'er with a suspicious box of exactly one hundred taels upon walking in on the scene, he determined that luck was finally shining on him, bringing her to the Old Master as soon as possible.

    The Old Master, upon hearing from a servant Steward Liu sent ahead to act as a messenger that a thief was discovered, was undeniably ready to unleash his fury on whoever it was.

    It didn't matter who it would be. As long as the person was the one behind all the disappearances, he would gladly remove them from the household.

    Before the Old Master jumped to any conclusions though, he carefully examined the servant girl. She looked familiar, but he couldn't exactly remember her name. For a few moments, he looked at her, and once finished with his first judgement, he directed his attention to Steward Liu.

    \"Explain what happened.\"

    Quickly, Steward Liu answered, \"I was investigating the disappearances recently and just came back to the villa. That was when I saw this servant here, Huiyu, a personal maid of the Fourth Miss, with a box of silver taels spilled out. She was with the other servant here, Manyu, but both argue that they were not thieves. Neither of them admit to be behind the crime, but Huiyu says that the silver belonged to the Fourth Miss.\"

    \"Oh? So she does claim to know of the silver?\" The Old Master raised an eyebrow.

    He looked at the silver lying on the ground in front of both of them. It wasn't a shallow box, and there definitely wasn't a chance that the Fourth Miss would even touch her hands on such a large amount of taels.

    He looked back at Steward Liu. \"Then, how many taels are there?\"

    \"One-hundred.\"

    Instantly, the Old Master slammed his hand on the table, the noise loud and shocking. Manyu flinched, and Hui'er only continued to keep her eyes cast downward.

    Now was not the time to show fear. Fear meant guilt, and if she knew that she was not a thief, why would she be afraid?

    To the Old Master, on the other hand, with all of this explanation said and done, it was obvious to him that this maid was a thief.

    First of all, it was perfectly impossible for the Fourth Miss to own a hundred taels. She was only given ten taels every six months as allowance. It was also impossible for her to save all of it up too to get the number she had now. The Fourth Miss was given barely anything in the household, and if she wanted to do anything to entertain herself, it would have to come from that allowance. The Old Master also heard that going to the market was a frequent event for her. Knowing the filial person she was to her birthmother, whatever taels she had left must've been given any leftover taels to that woman too.

    Secondly, the amount of taels he lost was exactly one-hundred taels. The maid carried a box of one-hundred taels. When the two numbers matched up so perfectly, wasn't it direct evidence that this maid was guilty?

    He didn't want to think too much about it. All he had in his mind at the moment was to persecute the thief that was behind all of this. After all, the most despicable thing in any household would be a thieving servant.

    Yet before he could say anything to determine the fate of the servant, she spoke up for herself.

    \"Old Master, may I explain my perspective?'

    He stared at her for a long moment, then nodded. He still wanted to get rid of her, but he would allow her to try to explain her way out if it, in case there was the rare chance that she truly was innocent. \"Go ahead.\"

    Huiyu kept her gaze calm while she explained. The calmer she was, the better. That was something she continuously reminded herself on the inside.

    \"Old Master, may I ask when the hundred taels vanished from your account?\"

    Steward Liu answered for her. \"Over the course of ten months, around ten each month.\"

    \"Then, may I ask, how likely do you think that this servant would steal ten taels every month and keep the evidence on me until I reached such a high number of one hundred? Isn't that just something that would directly increase the chance of the discovery of my possession of this money?\"

    This question struck the Old Master.

    He didn't think of it like such. Now that the servant mentioned a point like this, he realized that her words did make sense. Besides, her calm demeanor only made him further believe that the quick assumption he made previously was all entirely wrong.

    Madam Zhang cut into the conversation, her eyes slightly narrowed at Hui'er. \"Not necessarily. Perhaps a servant like you had a debt to pay off, or perhaps your family may have a debt as well. Or, you were involved in something that required a large amount of money at once. It would make sense for you to only steal ten taels a month to avoid detection, and when you reached the number you needed, you would be able to take it out and pay off anything you may need to at once.\"

    Hui'er shook her head, looking with caution at Madam Zhang.

    This was the woman that she had a long past with, the woman who caused her to end her relationship with the First Miss. She never acted upon her word, but Hui'er didn't expect Madam Zhang to speak against her either after owing so much to her.

    A few moments of hesitation passed before Hui'er decided the right thing to say. \"As I said before, this money entirely belongs to the Fourth Miss. She will prove my innocence.\"

    \"How so?\" The Old Master didn't wait for her to answer before continuing, \"Where is the Fourth Miss in the first place? Such an event has occurred, but is she not even coming to check in on her own maid?\"

    Yang Xiaoyi spoke up. \"Father, you should send for older sister. I don't think that she knows of something like this yet, or else she wouldn't be unpresent.\"

    The Old Master nodded and waved. \"Then call for the Fourth Miss to come here. I want to know what she has to say.\"
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