At this moment, a beautiful young woman sitting next to Third Madam chuckled, “Mother, you don’t need to refuse. Brother Sun is with political background. Maybe Mrs. Sun doesn’t even want my sister!”
Sun Zhigao’s mother’s face looked slightly relieved. She snorted and drew out the latter tone deliberately: “Right, Third Madam thought toooo much~~~~!” Third Madam trembled with anger. Huilan stood behind her, looking down and biting her lips, twisting a handkerchief, feeling extremely embarrassed. Huilan glared at the beautiful young woman, but the young woman didn’t care at all, and she didn’t even look at Huilan. Everyone in the room snickered.
There were so many people in the room that Minglan couldn’t recognize all of them. Pinlan explained quickly: “The woman in bright pink and sits next to the third aunt is sister Yuelan. The girl who sits beside her is the good-tempered sister Xiulan.”
“OK.” Minglan replied. So they are a legal wife, her legal daughter, and a concubine’s daughter. Obviously…the saying that “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” didn’t work on Yuelan.
Huilan looked around, as if the womenfolk laughing and pointing were mocking her. She blushed and stomped her feet, finally she couldn’t stand it and ran out of the room. Xiulan saw sister behaved disrespectfully, then she apologized and also followed her out. Yuelan felt sitting next to Third Madam was too boring, so she stood up and walked to Pinlan and Minglan. She touched Minglan’s clothes and hair, as if they were intimate sisters, and smiled: “What a beautiful sister, I like you.”
Minglan had met several womenfolk in Dengzhou, but she had never seen such a rude woman. So she moved away from her. Pinlan looked at Yuelan coldly and said nothing.
Even though Minglan and Pinlan didn’t talk with her, Yuelan wasn’t embarrassed and just kept speaking. Pinlan was annoyed by her and then walked away to have some deserts.
While talking, Yuelan stared straight at Minglan’s flower-shaped hairpin on her buns, which was designed of gold thread and decorated with pearls. This hairpin was delicate and beautiful and the round and crystal-like pearls were apparently very valuable. Yuelan was envious of the hairpin. She touched it and said: “I have never seen such big pearls. The Second Uncle (Sheng Hong) is an official and you must get many things like this. How about lending it to me for a few days? Then I could look more decent in my husband’s family.”
Ming Lan was very surprised. Was she… demanding her for the hairpin?
Minglan thought, in the aspect of playing schemes, Yuelan were no match for Molan. At least, Molan wouldn’t directly ask something from a cousin who she just met. However, before Minglan could reply, Yuelan had took the hairpin from Minglan’s head and observed it satisfiedly. Then she turned back and smiled to Minglan: “Thank you, my sister. I’ll give it back to you next time.” When talking, she was going to wear it on her head, while Minglan was startled for her acts.
At that time, Pinlan just got back with deserts and heard the words of Yuelan. Pinlan felt so angry that she walked to Yuelan’s back and suddenly took the hairpin back by force. Then Pinlan gave it to Minglan and sneered: “Sister Yue, do you want to borrow or grab it? How could you take it directly without Minglan’s agreement?! All said my brother-in-law is a rich man, then why do you covet Minglan’s hairpin? Is there any sister who will do such things like that?”
Seeing that Pinlan took back the hairpin from her hand, Yuelan immediately scowled and scolded: “I am talking with sister Ming, why do you chime in? Pooh, you wicked girl, watch out as you won’t get married off!” Then Yuelan turned back and smiled to Minglan: “Younger sister you don’t know, rich men from the countryside like us are unable to purchase good products even with a lot of money. Just lend this hairpin to me for two days, I know you won’t be so closefisted!”
Pinlan was about to rebuke, but Minglan stopped her. Minglan pacified Pinlan with an eye contact, and then gave a smile to Yuelan, seriously saying: “Sorry, I am indeed closefisted, so I refuse to lend it.”
After saying that, she immediately pulled Pinlan and walked forward, leaving Yuelan startled. At the same time, Pinlan helped Minglan put the hairpin back and went to the old Madam, chatting and laughing. Yuelan dared not to catch up them and ask for the hairpin again, so she could only stomp angrily in her place. Actually, Yuelan often demanded things from others, and she had intended to pull the hairpin out and then hurriedly sat back. Besides, she had been observing Minglan for a while; the latter remained silent and appeared to be a guileless and timid girl, so Yuelan thought that she could take some advantage from Minglan without being noticed. But unexpectedly……
Yuelan went back to the Third Madam with embarrassment, and came to know that the show was going to begin. Most of the womenfolk had went out with Mrs. Li, and Yuelan hurriedly caught up with Third Madam as well. Sheng Yun and two old Madams also wanted to see the show, but Sun Zhigao’s mother kept talking with them, and Mrs. Zhu was also listening to her. Therefore, Pinlan and Minglan found two round stools and sat there talking.
Sun Zhigao’s mother was waxing lyrical about her son, which was out of line: “…county magistrate insisted to invite Boy Zhi to drink with him, because he wanted Boy Zhi’s calligraphic work which could be used to make a horizontal inscribed board. Zhi’er couldn’t find any excuse to refuse, so he finally agreed. In my opinion, the county magistrate is really lucky enough to get Zhi’er’s calligraphic work…”
Pinlan couldn’t bear it anymore. She leaned forward and whispered in Minglan’s ear, “In fact, my brother-in-law was drunk and insisted to give his calligraphic work to county magistrate. And that time my father had something to say to the county magistrate, but my brother-in-law came uninvited and talked gibberish. As a result, my father had to apologize to county magistrate for my brother-in-law’s impoliteness!”
Minglan was astonished. Sun Zhigao’s mother could apply for CNN!
Sun Zhigao’s mother indulged in self-delusion for a long time and finally thought of Old Madam Sheng: “I heard that the grandson of Old Madam Sheng is also an intellectual. How old was your grandson when he became xiucai?” This was Sun Zhigao’s mother’s favorite topic, and she had never been tired of talking about it. Even if her interlocuter was a Zhuangyuan (top thesis author) who became xiucai at an older age than her son, she would boast about it for a long time.
Old Madam Sheng chuckled: “Fifteen years old.” Sun Zhigao’s mother was smug: “Oh, Zhi’er became xiucai at an earlier age. But your grandson is still a young talent, I think.” Old Madam Sheng was modest: “No, my grandson is barely considered as a talent. That year in Dengzhou, several 11- or 12-year-old boys also became xiucai.”
Sun Zhigao’s mother wore a plastic smile: “It does not signify. Maybe the imperial examination of that year was easy enough. Although they are all xiucai, they are not necessarily talented.”
These words annoyed Mrs. Zhu. She couldn’t help but said sarcastically, “As you mention the examination, I’ve heard that your son has taken the triennial provincial exam a few times since he became Xiucai (an entry-level licentiate who had passed the college exam) at his age of 12. Why haven’t he passed it yet?”
Sun Zhigao’s mother choked back her anger and said, “There are people who have taken the triennial provincial exam for even decades but fail every time. My son is not worth mentioning.” Mrs. Zhu grinned, “What you said is true. There would be someone (referring to Sun Zhigao) who takes the triennial provincial exam for decades but fails every time.”
Sun Zhigao’s mother was furious. She was even angrier when realizing womenfolk of the Sheng family did not help her. She shouted at her daughter-in-law Shulan, “Go to take me a cup of tea! ” Although Shulan was embarrassed after being shouted in public by Sun Zhigao’s mother, she immediately asked the maid to fetch some tea. Seeing how Shulan was bullied by Sun Zhigao’s mother, Pinlan was about to help Shulan. However, she could not speak anything in this situation but clenched her fist. Minglan immediately whispered to Pinlan, “Don’t be impulsive, calm down, your grandmother knows how to handle this situation.”
Old Madame Sheng did not speak, looking at the floating tea leaves in the teacup. Eldest Madame Sheng was angry, but she did not show up, only listening to their conversation quitely.
Looking at Shulan walking away, Sun Zhigao’s mother grinned unsatisfactorily. Then she turned to Eldest Madame Sheng and said, “Eldest Madame Sheng, I did not boast. Only a few boys can be as handsome and excellent as my son. Your family is really blessed that Shulan married my son. However, she has married my son for years, but she haven’t given birth to a child till now. If she had married to another boy, I believe she would have got divorced for this reason.”
Sheng Yun always helped her family. She tried to keep silent but finally she couldn’t help and said, “There are also some girls who give birth to first child after getting married for even ten years. In those years since Shulan married your son, Shulan has arranged marriage for your son with several concubines.”
Mrs. Zhu did the peacemaking and said, “It’s true, the descendants will be blessed by ancestors and Heavens, your son have already married a roomful of concubines. What else do you want?”
Mother Sun sneered: “If she is really virtuous, she should let other people (concubines) enter the room, or they will be desolated and make Shulan the laughingstock of the whole county.”
The Eldest Madam Sheng said in a low tone, “How can you take a dirty woman as your son’s wife?! Your son is also a scholar. How dare you said that, don’t you be afraid to humiliate your ancestors?”
Mother Sun was ill-affected and shouted, “Since your daughter is useless, then she shouldn’t stop her husband from taking concubines. Could it be said that you want my son to die without children?”
Beyond endurance, Pinlan couldn’t bear to listen any longer, she turned and left. Minglan followed and chased her in hurry. Being energetic but ill-tempered, without a break, Pinlan ran eight hundred meters at a time. Almost running to die, Minglan caught up with Pinlan under a willow. Minglan held Pinlan’s arm and merely gasped, she would rather die than let Pinlan go.
Pinlan slammed into the willow with her foot and cursed with anger: “Damn! My elder sister is such a good girl, how come this kind of thing happens to her! Why? Why?!”
Minglan caressed her chest and gasped heavily. Only waiting for Pinlan’s energy ran out, Minglan slowly pulled Pinlan down to a well-shaded rockery and chose a clean stone to sit down with Pinlan. Minglan did not know how to offer advice on this matter. But if she was still a small clerk in modern times, she would definitely shout ‘divorce’, but now, alas…, the two girls sat quietly for a long time, and suddenly a hurried footfall and voice came from the back side of the rockery.
“…Young Sister, please don’t go and hear me out!”
“I am going to watch the opera, you don’t have to say it and I don’t want to hear it.”
— It was Xiulan and Huilan who were speaking! Discovering that, Pinlan and Minglan looked at each other quickly.
As an experienced eavesdropper, Minglan’s first reaction was to cover Pinlan’s mouth. But what never occurred to Minglan was that Pinlan, who reacted faster than her, pressed Minglan’s mouth with her hand at once and sat there still, listening in on what they (Xiulan & Huilan) were talking about in concentration. Watching Pinlan’s free-flowing and skilled movements, Minglan could not help but doubt that — could it be that Pinlan had the common hobby with her?
At this moment, Xiulan spoke — “For our girls, the marriage is as important as reincarnation. You must be prudent and cannot jump to a conclusion! I have heard of the young master, although he is rich, he is a randy man who had a lot of favored girls when he was a teenager.”
“Then what can I do? My aunt has been keeping me out like a thief. I can’t see the face of my Cousin Brother Taisheng at all. Now I am at the age for marriage, I can only find another way now.” Huilan said with resentment.
“Taisheng? Oh well… never think about that. There are some things you don’t know. When aunt (Sheng Yun) wanted to marry uncle (Hu Erniu) in those years, our grandfather (Sheng Zhou’s father) urged the eldest uncle (Sheng Yun’s father) to betroth aunt Sheng Yun to another family and he almost killed uncle (Hu Erniu). I heard that it’s the Second Old Madam (Old Madam Sheng) came forward to promise the marriage. So even if aunt had forgotten that she would not think much of us.” Xiulan’s tone was so upset.
Pinlan and Minglan looked at each other and thought, it’s unbelievable that there was such a thing? Pinlan’s eyes were full of excitement, and Minglan was also interested in that – it turned out to be that Uncle Niu and Aunt Yun’s marriage was decided by their own.
With a ponderous sound, which seemed that someone was stomping, Huilan’s voice passed over the rockery: “…Sister, look at their families’ ostentation today and then look at the clothes and the headgears of the two girls (Pinlan & Minglan). One of their pieces of jewelry is worth all my belongings! I don’t want to live a hard life, I have to marry a rich man!”
“Don’t be stupid, it may not be good to marry a rich man. Look at me, although my husband’s family is poor, he treats me sincerely and his mother is also a kind person. Accompanying him and a pair of children, nothing can satisfy me more than that! You should know that although Yuelan married a rich man, her husband is so roguish that he goes about in the hope of finding girls every day and abuses Yuelan when he is in bad mood. Besides, his concubines no matter who have children also look down on Yuelan. Are you willing to live this kind of life? You’d better implore aunt’s (Mrs. Li) help, she will decide for you.” Xiulan was doing her best to convince Huilan.
It seemed that Huilan was sneering, “You are favored by fortune. But look at Elder Sister Shulan, both of you are married in the same year, however, how is her marriage? Her husband is also a poor family’s Xiucai (a distinguished talent), but he is not as kind as your husband! Occupying his wife’s dowry, and always bosses his wife around. And it’s also true that Shulan is coward! Oh, come on, it’s more reliable to marry a rich man …”
After that, a heavy footfall sounded, which seemed that Huilan was leaving and left Xiulan alone, and then Xiulan followed Huilan in hurry, their voice faded away.
Pinlan slowly released her hand from Minglan’s mouth, and it seemed she was smiling, then Pinlan said slowly: “Younger Sister Ming, I suddenly feel angry no more. In fact, my elder sister Shulan hasn’t been abused even a little yet.”