The singing of birds awakened the new day . A gentle breeze blew the fresh and delicate smell of the earth upon one’s face . Today, the entire Dongshan Village, contrary to the usual peaceful and quiet mornings, was bustling with noise and excitement due to certain news .
“Did you guys hear about it? The Zhou Family’s factory wants to buy a large quantity of sweet potato flour!” The villagers chatted as they waited in line at the entrance of Yu Xiaocao’s house, where the Yu Family was collecting oysters and spoon worms .
Another villager was surprised and said, “Really? Last fall, my family harvested a lot of sweet potatoes . We were afraid that they couldn’t be kept for too long, so we dried them and stored them in the cellar! After I sell these oysters, I’ll go home and tell my husband to grind them all into flour—but, I wonder what the price would be?”
“The Zhou Family does honest business, unlike those black-hearted merchants who deliberately lower the price . I heard that it will be a little higher than the market price!” The person who spoke was a capable-looking man .
Another simple and honest-looking man with a strong-build looked at the cleaned spoon worms in his own basket and chuckled, “Yes, that’s right! Ever since the Zhou Family started buying oysters and spoon worms at our village, my family’s living conditions have improved a lot . Now, I don’t have to constantly ponder and calculate when my children want to get some fine grain! Yesterday, I bought a catty of meat to satisfy my children’s cravings!”
“Older Brother Dadong, you and your eldest son are experts at digging for spoon worms . You guys can earn a few hundred copper coins every day . Even if you eat meat for every meal, you still won’t spend all the money!” The capable-looking man said with a slightly sour tone .
The honest-looking man, who was called Older Brother Dadong, smiled with embarrassment, “No, that’s not true! My eldest son needs to look for a wife soon, so we have to save some money for his betrothal gifts ah!”
“Older Brother Dadong, our Dongshan Village isn’t the same as before! In the past, our village was poor so the girls from other villages were unwilling to marry over . Now, as long as you have strength, wouldn’t you be able to earn over a hundred copper coins every day? Several of my maternal relatives, who have daughters, have inquired about whether there were any competent young men in our village!” The person who spoke was a matron, who appeared somewhat well-off .
Brother Dadong hastily said, “This auntie, can you help keep an eye out for my eldest son? The girl doesn’t have to be very pretty . It’s fine as long as she has a good personality and is a diligent worker!”
The matron smiled like a flower and said, “Brother Dadong, if you believe me, then just leave it up to me . My maternal niece has a decent appearance and is a diligent worker . She’s definitely capable of managing a household . Go back and discuss with your wife . If she doesn’t object, then I’ll help you talk to them . ”
“Alright, alright! I’ll have to trouble this auntie!!” Brother Dadong smiled so broadly that even the wrinkles on the corner of his eyes had deepened . In the past, he had gotten married at an older age because his family was poor . It seemed like his son wouldn’t share the same fate as him .
As they chatted, Yu Xiaocao came to the front of the line and stood on a tall rock with a paper that was rolled into a paper cone . With the paper cone in front of her mouth, she shouted in her loudest voice, “Everybody, all uncles and aunties! Good morning!!”
“Good! Good! This is Brother Dahai’s daughter . She looks very energetic!”
“Aiyo, Xiaocao, don’t stand so high . Be careful of falling…”
“Brother Dahai’s younger daughter is very clever . Selling braised food and planting watermelons were all her ideas! Look at her . Why don’t my family have a daughter like her?”
“This little girl, I wonder what new ideas she came up with…”
Seeing that she had successfully attracted everyone’s attention, Yu Xiaocao smiled even more sweetly, “Please be quiet everyone!! I have good news that I want to share with my fellow villagers!!”
When the villagers heard that there was good news, they immediately stopped whispering and pricked up their ears to listen to the good news .
Yu Xiaocao nodded with satisfaction and shouted, “The Zhou Family is planning on opening two new factories! They need to recruit a group of workers, both men and women can sign up . After being selected and signing the contract, you will receive a monthly wage that is no less than one tael of silver!”
As soon as Xiaocao finished speaking, the crowd instantly erupted .
“The Zhou Family is opening another new factory? Moreover, they’re recruiting workers from outside? That’s great!! I heard that the Zhou Family’s condiment factory provides excellent treatment for its workers . They get four days off every month, and in addition to their monthly wage, there’s also a bonus at the end of the year! I was just thinking that it was a pity that the Zhou Family only used their own servants in their condiment factory… I wouldn’t have expected that they would recruit outside workers for their new factory! I’ll definitely go try out no matter what!”
“I’ll go too!! Who knows maybe I will get hired! A monthly wage of one tael means that I will be able to bring in a stable income! I will be a fool not to go!”
“Didn’t you hear what Xiaocao said? Both men and women can apply . I have nothing to do at home and I’m not good at digging for spoon worms . Perhaps I should go home and discuss with my husband, and also go apply for the job?”
Seeing that her words had attracted the attention of the villagers, Yu Xiaocao cleared her throat and continued, “Third Young Master Zhou said they will recruit workers from Dongshan Village first! Any families who have extra laborers can all go try! Also, the Zhou Family will have a long-term demand for sweet potato flour, chicken eggs, and duck eggs . So, if your family has extras at home, you can exchange them for money! The registration time is only three days, so please spread the news and don’t delay on applying!”
This news swiftly spread throughout the entire Dongshan Village . Immediately, several families went to the docks together, registered at the Zhou Family’s factory, and waited for their assessment .
Third Young Master Zhou had foresight and specially built several more factory buildings when constructing the condiment factory . When condiment factory first started production, it only occupied fewer than half of the buildings . The rest were separated and used as factories for century eggs and vermicelli respectively .
Three days later, the Zhou Family’s century eggs factory and vermicelli factory were already all set to go . Except for the ‘mud’ wrapped on the outside, there was hardly any technical skills needed when making century eggs . Xiaocao taught Third Young Master Zhou’s trusted subordinate the formula for making the ‘mud’ . The workers would make century eggs with the mud that he prepared every day . Thus, the staff of the century eggs factory could began working after a simple training!
The century eggs factory didn’t need a lot of people . After the interviews and examination, they only accepted several matrons who were quick and diligent workers . However, it was more difficult to enter the vermicelli factory . No matter if it was kneading the sweet potato flour, tapping the straining basin, scooping out the vermicelli, or drying the vermicelli, they all required a lot of technical skills and rigorous training .
Moreover, workers admitted into the vermicelli factory all had to sign a confidentiality contract . Anyone who leaked the formula would have to compensate the factory one thousand taels for their loss, and they would also be arrested and sent to jail .
Many people wanted to back out after hearing the first clause . However, when they heard that the factory provided a high wage, excellent treatment, and an annual bonus, most people were still willing to sign the contract after careful deliberation . As long as they didn’t have any malicious intents and didn’t leak the formula, there wouldn’t be any problems at all!
The task of kneading the sweet potato flour was mostly assigned to neat and agile young maidens and young wives . The times had changed, and the perspective of the villagers of Dongshan Village were also changing . It was no longer considered shameful for young maidens and married women to make money to support their families!
Young and strong men were responsible for tapping the straining basin and extruding the vermicelli . They would change shift and take a break every hour because this was a job that depended entirely on strength . If they worked from morning till night, it would be a wonder if their arms weren’t crippled .
As for the task of scooping up vermicelli and drying them, they chose matrons who worked meticulously and patiently . As a result, more than half of the employees in these two factories owned by Zhou Family were women .
For example, in the past, when the young women and matrons of Dongshan Village were free and idle, they would just gather in groups to chat and gossip . Since the Zhou Family’s factories began operating, the village had become a lot more quiet . Except for the elderly, women would be rarely seen under the old elm tree at the mouth of the village .
Of course, except for Madam Xiong and Madam Li! These two were the typical case of lazy and gluttonous people, who couldn’t do anything . Thus, the factory definitely wouldn’t accept them . The two of them had also went to apply for a job, but when they saw Madam Li’s sloppy appearance, she was eliminated in the first round . The reason was that the Zhou Family’s factories were producing food . If the worker’s personal hygiene was bad, how could they ensure the hygiene of the food?
Madam Xiong was also eliminated in the second round because of her clumsiness . Madam Xiong was extremely bitter to see that several of the women, who she didn’t get along with, had passed the examination . So she incited Madam Li to get Yu Hai’s family to pull strings for them .
Madam Li was the same as her mother-in-law, who bullied the weak and feared the strong . She didn’t dare to look for Yu Xiaocao, who had a backing, and talked to Madam Liu in private, forcing her to help put in a good word for her in front of Third Young Master Zhou . However, Yu Xiaocao, who had kept an eye on her as soon as she entered the gates, overheard her words .
“Eldest Aunt! The century eggs factory and vermicelli factory don’t belong to my mother, so what’s the use of looking for my mother? My mother seldom speaks to Third Young Master Zhou, yet you’re asking her to ask him for a favor . Are you sure you’re not looking for the wrong person?! Let me be frank with you! Third Young Master Zhou won’t listen to anyone in my family except for me! It’s useless for you to look for someone else!!”
With her arms crossed in front of her chest, Yu Xiaocao inwardly scorned Madam Li’s bullying the weak and fearing the strong behavior . Did she really think that her mother was still so easily bullied? Dream on!
Madam Li looked around and noticed that Xiaocao’s godfather, who was a high-ranking official, wasn’t around, so she hastily bent down and smiled flatteringly, “Xiaocao! You see, no matter what we’re still relatives . What are relatives? Aren’t relatives supposed to take care of each other? Eldest Aunt has never asked you for anything, so please just help Eldest Aunt once!”
Yu Xiaocao’s eyes shifted as she pondered and said, “It’s not that I can’t help you put in a few good words! But all the work at the vermicelli factory are heavy and tiring, so with Eldest Aunt’s ‘pampered lifestyle’, you definitely can’t do it . Then… go to the century eggs factory! However, they go by a piece-rate-pay system there! Those who work faster will be paid more and receives a higher monthly wage, while people who work slower will certainly get less money . Eldest Aunt, what do you think?”
Madam Li still knew herself very well . Whether it was before she got married or after she married into the Yu Family, she had hardly done any work . If she received a monthly wage based on piecework pay, then…”
Madam Li smiled flatteringly and said, “Xiaocao, can you see if there’s any other job…”
“It’s not that I’m looking down on you, Eldest Aunt, but you won’t be able to do any of the other work! If you don’t think that you’re suitable for the job, then just keep digging for spoon worms . As long as you’re willing to work hard, you will definitely be able to get a lot of money every month!” Yu Xiaocao waved her hands and spoke in a somewhat impatient tone .
Madam Li knew that Xiaoaco wasn’t someone who was easy to deal with . She had the support of her high-ranking official godfather, so she couldn’t beat or scold her . Although she had a tummy full of dissatisfaction, she still accepted the job . Well, so be it! Even if she worked slow, she would still get money for each one she made .
She was the most satisfied with the fact that Madam Zhang wouldn’t be around when she worked . Her mother-in-law wouldn’t know how much her salary was, which made it more convenient for her to deduct some money from it and keep it as private savings…