Minglan bent over and spit out the last bit of bile on the edge of the carriage, then turned over and fell on the soft cushion. Old Madam caressed her small face. Only after a few days, Minglan’s perennial baby fat disappeared drastically. Though Old Madam Sheng had never doubted that her chubby granddaughter would become slim, she never had predicted how Minglan could do this.
Little Minglan went through a really bad motion sickness, which triggered a ghosting. She called Mother Fang Grandmother, asked old Zhang, who was driving the carriage, “Mother Cui, why do you get a beard?” Old Madam is very distressed, and she kept Minglan sleeping on her lap all the way.
After that day in Yu family, Minglan was grounded by Old Madam Sheng once she went back home. Besides, Minglan had to transcribe the Buddhist scriptures as punishment. Old Madam Sheng asked her if she knew her fault? Minglan nodded very honestly: “I know, I’m sorry that I made it widely known.”
Minglan kept transcribing those scriptures until the day of departure, so Minglan didn’t had the chance to see Yanran again. Yu family kept silent and didn’t let any news. The outside only knew that Yanran had “a serious illness” and the marriage with Gu family was suspended.
Looking at Grandmother’s face as black as the bottom of the pot, Minglan dared not defend. But seeing that Old Madam was distressed and softened a lot by her motion sickness, she started to defend herself: “…Grandmother, think about it, how could your granddaughter be that stupid?”
Once her immediate boss the old female judge, who had been throwing people into dark cellar for many years, draw a very mysterious conclusion: Some things looks very safe, but they are very dangerous. Some things looks very dangerous, but they are very safe.
First of all, she did not leave a name for good deeds. As long as the Yu family’s servants and maids wouldn’t speak out, Manniang couldn’t know who the person scolded her was. What’s more, this wasn’t a glorious issue for Yu family, so they would definitely keep it secret. Either Minglan’s acts, or Manniang’s performance, no servant would leak that out. Besides, Sheng family would immediately move away, and the Imperial Secretary Yu’s family was going to retire and go to Dengzhou. When they arrive the capital city or transfer to another place with Sheng Hong, nothing would matter.
Old Madam Sheng’s expression remained the same: “Why did you come forward? After all, that’s Yu family’s business!”
This sentence was sharp, Minglan’s skinny and innocent face suddenly showed a sense of solemn, and she was speechless. After a mile, she sighed slowly like a little adult: “Being a female, one has to be careful in her whole life, not causing any gossip, but …… What fun in this kind of life? To take a step, to say a word, you have to obey the rules. From opening your eyes to lying down and sleeping, you have to think about benefits and relationships all the time. I really don’t like this life, in which we live like a puppet, and I just want that occasionally… or once in a while, I can do what I want to do, say what I want to say… Grandmother, I am really sorry about this time.”
Minglan was in the arms of Grandmother, and her mood was very low. It was not so much that she came forward out of impulse. It was better to say that it was out of sympathy. Yanran’s grandfather was still alive, but her father should even disregard his daughter’s happiness in order to be rich and wealthy. What about herself? If one day, Minglan’s father would need to sacrifice their Minglan’s marriage in exchange for benefits, then could Old Madam Sheng stand out for her? In this world, the fate of the girls is really like duckweed. However, in order to live a life of wealth and dignity, do you really have to sacrifice all your disposition and principles to forbear, flatter, sham and be vicious?
Old Madam Sheng became silent, caressing Minglan’s loose coiled bun (hairstyle) which was as soft as a crow’s feather. In fact, Old Madam Yu had expressed her thanks afterward when she paid a visit to Sheng Mansion personally. She spoke highly of Minglan’s behavior, said that Minglan was anxious to help those in grave danger and was a sentimental girl who had a chivalrous style. Old Madam Yu also said that it was a blessing for Yanran to have such a sister in her life; Old Madam Sheng also knew nothing serious, she just wanted to chasten Minglan’s temperament, so that it won’t be too sharp to hurt herself in the future.
Since Minglan had already admitted her guilt with a good attitude and been punished, Old Madam Sheng lifted the policy of blockade:
Yanran’s awesome marriages turned and returned. The Imperial Secretary Yu was always suffering from sputum disease, after the strife of that day, however, he spat out a pool of gore mixed with thick sputum and thus he got good out of misfortune. Recovering his health, the Imperial Secretary Yu quickly went into work and arranged a new marriage for Yanran at lightning speed. The bridegroom’s side was the son of his old friend, so the marriage was not as good as Hualan but was not as bad as marrying to childe Gu.
The old friend was in Dali (Yunnan), far away from the capital city, who was a local influential family (Duan Family). The bridegroom was one of the legal grandsons who was much older than Yanran, it’s said that he possessed an excellent character. And it was because of his leg problems (he broke legs when he was young) that he cannot engage in politics, so he didn’t make a good match hitherto.
This time, the Imperial Secretary Yu was determined in his effort, so he quickly asked his son to send the silver to prepare the dowry. And if his son argued again, then he will open the ancestral hall and drive his son out of the family. It’s the day that Yu Family engaged with Duan Family when Minglan left for Youyang.
“…it may not be a bad idea.” Minglan tried hard to think it better. “Even if he can’t engage in politics, he can practice medicine and go into business as well. There are many things he can do! It’s the most important to treat sister Yanran well.” Thinking about that Yanran finally get rid of the trouble, Minglan was happy again, patted her hand: “This time, the Marquis of Ningyuan has to find a match all around, and the business of Bianjing’s matchmaker is booming!”
“Nope.” Old Madam Sheng said gloomily, “Master Yu betrothed Yanran’s young sister to them, they will marry her when she reaches marriageable age.”
Minglan was shocked, instinctively felt indignant and wished she could clench her fists to the outside to run about madly, or curse the God cruelly. But after a while, she was dizzy and disgusted, so she turned her head and held an empty spittoon to vomit.
All the way to the south, the felloe were rolling, the air in the late August north was cool, the blue sky was high and wide as well, but the motion sickness of Minglan was very stubborn and always accompanied with. In order to divert Minglan from boredom, or perhaps everyone felt relaxed after leaving home, Mother Fang started to tell the old story to Minglan: “Girl, don’t blame the Old Madam for punishing you, she did it all for your own good. It’s really a scrupulous business for women to live a good life.”
When the Old Madam rested in another carriage, Mother Fang sat in the carriage to look after Minglan and hummed about while she was smoothing the rug and soften the pillow pad
Mother Fang was not good at bringing out the facts and reasons, but it’s really an advantage that she had heard and witnessed a lot of cases in the past few decades. According to her experience, the quality of a woman’s life is closely bound up with three facts that are destiny, fortune, and talent. Any two of them can make you a successful life.
In the case of Old Madam Yu, she was born in a learned and famous scholar’s family in Shandong. Her parents were very gentle and kind and the family rules were strict, so she was lucky, and the husband she married to was the Imperial Secretary Yu, who was her father’s favorite pupil. Being appreciated by his respected teacher and married the daughter to him when he was poor, the Imperial Secretary Yu was very grateful and devoted to old Madam Yu the whole life. He put his whole heart into his wife even though when he was fortunate in his official career and was promoted quickly, so Old Madam Yu was in luck.
Just because of that, it didn’t matter even though Old Madam Yu was not good at playing mind games; as it were, the Old Madam Yu had never experienced great matters, incubated like a flower in a greenhouse. Uh, because of what she was and experienced, she couldn’t hold down Yanran’s stepmother, therefore, sometimes Old Mr. Yu, a cabinet member, had to lecture Yanran’s stepmother by himself.
“Ugh – even if she is not capable, so what? Lots of people are still not as good as her, who was born with a high rank and married well!” Mother Fang sighed for that.
Minglan was totally addicted in what Mother Fang said and felt it was more interesting than the stories transmitted by griots.
“It seems that reincarnation is very important! If one was born with good and wealthy parents, he could save more efforts, but get better results!” Minglan sighed out heartfelt words that Old Madam Yu’s parents picked a good son-in-law. While to some extent Mother Fang didn’t agree with it: “It might be wrong. After her birth, it was not long before Young lay Yu lost her own mother and her father didn’t care about Yanran. However, with the protection of her grandparents, she could also get married well. But I was afraid… she followed the personality of Old Madam Yu!”
“Is it like that?” Minglan wanted the real examples and didn’t accept any theory without evidence.
Then Mother Fang took herself as an example directly and felt very proud for that.
She was born in a poor farmer family and her father was seriously ill. Under that condition, she did never get a full meal before 7 years old. Without any other choice, her mother resorted to selling her to a human trafficker, then she was sold to the family of the Marquis of Yongyi. Her fate was surely not good.
After she came there, because she worked diligently and honestly, she was quickly selected to serve the young lady of the Marquis of Yongyi. Then she gradually learned writing, calculating, sewing and management skills. With these skills and her loyalty to the young lady, then she was promoted as the first-class maid. Later, she entered Sheng family accompanied with Old Madam Sheng and was married to a steward. After they got rid of the rank as household servants, they went out to earn a living and laid a foundation of substantial. They also had some children, one son of them became one xiucai and opened a private school, one opened several stores, and one purchased some estate and became a landlord.
“What a good fate you have! Good mind, good find.” Minglan was inspired by what Mother Fang said.
Mother Fang smiled and waved her hand: “It isn’t useful if one is just a good person. When I knew that I was destined to be sold, I worked day and night to save money and gave it to that trafficker. Then I begged him to sell me to a wealthy family. Thanks to the kind-hearted trafficker, I entered the family of the Marquis of Yongyi and encountered with Old Madam Sheng. Because I worked hard and was not concerned for personal gains, I was selected by the Marquis’ wife; later, I urged my husband to earn a living outside, then we can live in such a good life. Now I’m serving the old Madam and can relieve her boredom. Till I couldn’t work any more, I will return home to help raise my grandsons!”
After Mother Fang’s children all married, as a widow in the middle age, she was afraid that Old Madam Sheng would feel lonely, then came back to serve her again. Her children were very filial and always asked her to return home to enjoy a ease and comfortable life, but she didn’t accepted.
What a successful model of striving for a better life! Minglan was very surprised with that and showed her a bit worship. Though she experienced a unfortunate childhood, she struggled and succeed. Fortune + Ability = A successful life, too.
Mother Fang was cautious and knew rules well, and usually did not speak much. Since Mother Fang talked with Minglan about many things in these days, Minglan knew that Mother Fang intended to tell her some experience. Minglan knew that she was not born in a family that would provide her happy life. Her father did not like her and the only person who loved her very much, her mother died when she was a kid. What’s more, her mother was not the legitimate wife in the family. However, she was lucky that she was brought up by her grandmother, Old Madame Sheng, who loved her very much. But this was not enough. If Minglan wanted to live a happy life, she must competed for herself.
Minglan’s enthusiasm greatly encouraged Mother Fang. She talked with Minglan about the things she knew everyday. When telling the stories, Mother Fang asked Danju to sit outside the carriage as a gatekeeper so that no one would listen what they said. For some stories, Mother Fang explained in detail and expressed her own opinions. For other stories, Mother Fang just told Minglan what happened and Minglan had to figure out herself.
Under Minglan’s questioning, one day Mother Fang talked her about Old Madame Sheng, “All the people said that our Old Madame is very powerful, and did not allow her husband to accept concubines. But… even though your father was born to be the son of a concubine, he has lived happily, doesn’t he? Old Madame has been known to be intolerant and not kindhearted. In fact, what she did was just arguing with her husband, but she never did anything bad. Being so kind, she did not realize the tricks made by other people. Finally, her son was died for certain reasons… This hurted her very much.”
Talking about the past, Mother Fang was about to cry. She said to Minglan: “Old Madame is angry with what you did in Yu family. You must know that a girl needs to be powerful in the heart, and be kind to others. If you always fight against others, you would never get benefits. What’s more, others would laugh at you. The more powerful a person is, the more kind she would be to others!”
“I really know I am wrong,” Minglan whispered. This time, she really admitted it.
As Minglan understood what Old Madame had done for her, Mother Fang got happy again. She was very excited to tell Minglan what a perfect lady should be, “A lady I know, oh… she gets old now. She is not good-looking, and her family is not that rich. Her husband is not as talented as your grandfather. Her husband used to have romantic relationship with many ladies, but she managed to persuade her husband and no concubine in her family gives birth to a child. I heard that the concubines in her family all left as her husband gets old, and she lives with her husband very happily now. ”
After hearing what Mother Fang said, Minglan couldn’t wait to meet this old madame. After a few days, Minglan accidently met the perfect madame that she knew from Mother Fang.
When the group of Sheng family reached to the ferry of Bianjing, they were going to take the boat to south. At this time, they happened to meet people from He family who were going to take the boat to Jinling. When Old Madame He opened the curtain and looked at the mark of the carriage from Sheng family, she asked someone to confirm. When people from the two families talked, they immediately recognized each other. The two old madames who had not seen each other for decades had screamed in tears.
Old Madame He had black hair, healthy and energetic. Although her face was covered with wrinkles, most of them were caused by smiling. She smiled to everyone and was outgoing all the time. When she saw how beautiful and lovely Minglan was, she couldn’t help to kiss Minglan for several times. Then she presented Minglan a pouch, which contained much gold and a pair fine jade.
Minglan was stunned at the time. She thought that Old Madame He should be like the mother of Baoyu (Baoyu, the MC of Dream of the Red Chamber). She didn’t expect her to be a happy old madame. It was said that she was only two years younger than Old Madame Sheng, but she looked like ten years younger than Old Madame Sheng.
“You must be kidding. She looks not quite like what I expected.” Minglan grasped her pouch and whispered. Mother Fang, with a beaming smile, whispered back: “If one only pretend to be generous, but with despicable heart, the one would never touch the real happiness. Just learn from this old madam. She understands the true meaning of life. She lives a cheerful and positive life. Nearly no one could piss her off. So she’s the winner in her life.”
Old Madam He was a humorous person. As soon as Old Madam Sheng met her, the two old sisters talked funny and laughed a lot. Then they decided to take the same boat.
“Old sister, I was right here waiting for your order! I was in a hurry and hadn’t booked a boat yet.” Old Madam He said, as if she was very lucky. Then she turned to her maid:”Go to summon Childe He. We find a boat now. Just tell him that it’s all his grandmother’s credit to find an old sister with a luxury boat!”
Minglan just stopped throwing up and felt much better. She leant on Old Madam Sheng obediently and listened to their conversation. Seeing that Old Madam Sheng was so happy, she also made fun: “Once Grandma appears, better than two heros.”
Old Madam He laughed loudly and leant back, she hugged Minglan, kissed her cheeks and said to Old Madam Sheng:”This girl is so cute. She talks as funny as me, as if she’s my granddaughter. Not like my grandson. He’s just as fake demure as you!”
While they were talking, one of the maids of He family came in and reported with respect:”Childe Seven is coming.” Old Madam He urged:”Come in.” A tall and thin young man lifted the curtain and stepped in. He bowed modestly as soon as he came in. Old Madam Sheng immediately asked her servants to help Childe He stand up. Until he stood there and raised his head, Minglan finally saw his appearance.
This was an elegant young man at the age of around fifteen. He’s with fair skin and long eyebrows. His eyes were bright and attractive. Although he’s not as handsome as Qi Heng, he has a unique feature of scholarliness and calm. Most people from the He family dressed luxury, while he was only wearing a plain neat fine satin robe without any decorations except a jade pendant tied around his waist. After both families introduced each other, they all sat down and started chatting.
“This is little Mingya from Sheng family.” Old Madam He introduced Minglan with the nickname that Old Madam Sheng usually called her. “And this is my grandson, Hong’er. He’s three years older than you.”
He Hongwen saw a beautiful little girl sat beside Old Madam Sheng. She’s as beautiful and delicate as a porcelain doll, with sweet smile in her eyes. However, she looked rather weak. Hongwen couldn’t help saying:”Little Sister Ming, don’t eat too many plums. Plums are not good for your stomach.”
Suddenly heard someone is calling her, for an instant Minglan froze. She looked at the box of plum in her hands, turned her head and looked at her grandma, and then looked at the young man. At that moment, it seems like there’s a light smell of herbs in the air. “This is for you to refresh yourself… Well, you’d better not to eat it then.” Minglan said, sounding stunned.