Old Madam Sheng also smiled and said, “This room is unoccupied for a long time, so it is natural even if it is deserted, and it doesn’t need to be checked. You are trustworthy enough, and your boy, who worked as a manservant for Boy Bai, is also decent.”
Hearing that his grandson was appreciated by the master, the old steward looked very happy, and in a good mood, he welcomed everyone to walk into the main hall to have a seat. One by one, the steward called the servants in the mansion to kowtow to Old Madam Sheng. Having put up with a lot of fair words, Minglan couldn’t stand anymore and it really made her ears ring so that she did not remember who they are, and it’s been a long time that the greeting was finally over.
Old Madam Sheng took Minglan to the cella. They turned a few woodsheds, then bypassed the back of the warehouse, and finally, they came to a secluded house. Mother Fang had already waited there. Seeing her, Old Madam Sheng said, “Are things all taking out?”
Mother Fang bowed and answered YES, and then she went out with the young maids and old female servants including Danju and Cuiwei, such as Cui Weidan, leaving only Minglan and her grandmother in the house.
Minglan was confused by such behaviors. Looking at the mysterious manner of her grandmother, which seemed that the Old Madam Sheng was to hand over something, Minglan saw the old lady sitting on an old wooden chair in the middle house when she looked back. And then Old Madam Sheng pointed to the seven or eight boxes placed neatly on the ground and said to Minglan, “These are all my dowry.” As Old Madam Sheng was speaking, the corners of her mouth curved up, which seemed somewhat ironic, and then she added, “It’s the only remaining.”
Minglan looked at the boxes blankly when Old Madam Sheng told her to open them. Minglan walked over and uncovered the unlocked box, and then a musty smell came out, making Minglan burst a cough. Damn, it must have not been opened for at least 30 years! Without knowing whether she would be infected by any noxious bacteria, Minglan hardly open her eyes, and saw the black dust covered the surface and even spider webs were hanging on some of the dowries, which can only be vaguely figured out that they were some porcelain, bronze wares, antiques and the like. The last two small boxes were wrapped in a tighter manner, and it seemed that there was another iron box was within the heavy redwood box.
It seemed that the boxes filled Old Madam Sheng with nostalgia for the past. She said quietly: “There were dozens of boxes of satin velvet leather and other good fabrics, all of which have been burned by me. I pawned other valuable objects to bribe your father’s colleagues and superior officers to build connections. Without money, your father cannot get along with others in official circles. These boxes are the only dowry left… I will give them to you.”
Minglan just stopped coughing. Hearing that, she almost choked, and quickly replied: “Grandma’s things are going to be passed to elder brothers. Giving me several ounces of silver is enough.” If she accepted them as her dowry, Mrs. Wang would kill her and brother Changbai might also dislike her.
Old Madam Sheng seemed ignore Minglan’s words and continued to say: “In addition to the dowry that your father gave Pinlan, Molan and you, I will also give 1000 ounces of silver to you three. As for boys, I will give 1500 ounces of silver to Changbai since he is the legal son of your father, and 800 ounces of silver to other two considering that they are concubine’s sons. I have stayed in the Sheng family for a lifetime in return for your grandfather’s love of me. But these boxes have nothing to do with the Sheng family.”
Old Madam Sheng said calmly, as if she were making arrangements for her funeral. Minglan was upset. Yu Yanran’s dowry added up to only 1500 ounces of silver, which included Imperial Secretary Yu’s self-savings. Of course, this also reflected that Imperial Secretary Yu was free of corruption, and Mr. Yu was very stingy.
Minglan pulled Old Madam Sheng’s sleeve and gently said: “Grandma, I think it would be better to give them to brother Changbai – he is the eldest and legal son of our family.” Old Madam Sheng took a while to recover from her surprise. She looked at Minglan with a strange look, and then slowly said: “Even if these boxes are not worth a couple of towns together, at least they can assure you a comfortable life without worrying about food or clothing. You really don’t want them?”
Minglan sighed and simply said: “To tell the truth, everyone loves precious things, but they only belong to those who are capable of owning them. If something is destined to be mine, no one can take it away. It’s lavish to put these treasure into my eldest sister’s husband’s house. I don’t think I’m qualified for them. And…” Minglan couldn’t continue with her grandmother’s eyes full of interest, and rashly ended: “In short, I’m young, if I am blessed, I will enjoy a happy life. Forget about these bronze antiques.”
In ancient times, the rich were not the almighty gods. Without the required ability and protection of the family, the rich businessman was easily deceived by the government or the influential figures. Sheng Wei was getting increasingly rich and met merely setbacks, that was due to his cousin’s work, who was an official. Although the seventh rank county magistrate of Fuyang changed several times, they all lived in harmony with the Sheng family, that clearly explained why the Li family asked their son to be an official though they were well wealthy. If Minglan offended Mrs. Wang and Changbai at these precious gifts, it would be little gain and a great loss.
Old Madam Sheng looked at Minglan with a smile: “Who said that these boxes are all for you?”
Minglan stunned and smiled awkwardly, she thought too much. Old Madam Sheng pointed to the last two boxes: “Those are for you, all the jade jewelry I have used. I understand that things only belong to those who are eligible, so you won’t break your rules.” Then she said with a soft voice, “You are kind, bright and not avaricious, I am happy to give them to you, it is worthwhile. Those boxes are not for your eldest brother. They will be useful elsewhere later. You will see the world today, they are all antiquities of the past.”
Minglan rubbed against Old Madam Sheng flatteringly and said in a low voice: “How could I understand that, grandma you explain it to me~”
Old Madam stared at her, and then took her little granddaughter with resignation to the front of these boxes, respectively illustrate these things’ names as well as their origins, When listening, Minglan suddenly proposed: “How about grandma keeping these two boxes yourself?”
Old Madam was really amazed this time, and she took a glance at her granddaughter. Minglan hesitated for a while, but finally spoke out: “Father and mother, brothers and sisters are naturally very filial! But grandma, you still have to keep some egg money, as foods in hand, no panic in mind…”
In fact, what she wanted to say was that thousands of children were not as good as silver in hands, not to mention that you were not their birth mother or immediate grandmother. These words were spoken from the heart of a small clerk (Minglan herself) who used to work in a civil court.
Old Madam was moved and said gently: “Good girl, you can rest assured as your grandmother’s nest egg is large.”
There were a lot of maidservants in the house who followed Old Madam Sheng to her husband’s house before, and she wanted to have some talks to them. But old Madam was afraid that Minglan would get bored, so she sent her to the garden to take a walk. Minglan pouted: “I don’t like walking around the garden.” She wanted to go shopping actually.
Old Madam Sheng then gave her a small abacus, unsmiling: “Go to practice it, you cannot even use it to count to one hundred now. If you get married, be careful not to dissipate a family fortune.” Minglan resentfully looked at her grandmother and thought for a while, finally whined: “Then I prefer to go to the garden.”
As a matter of fact, Minglan used to took Mathematical Olympiad classes before reincarnation, and the basic skill she required was mental arithmetic.
Minglan walked around the half lake without interest, then sat on a white stone under a withered willow, holding her cheeks with hands and staring blankly at the lake. Lakes in Jinling were very clear, which were quite different from those in Shandong, reflecting Minglan’s wrinkled face full of bitterness. All of a sudden, Minglan behaved like a naughty kid, as she picked up a handful of pebbles and threw one by one into the lake casually.
Even the dowry was ready. It seemed that Old Madame Sheng had planned Minglan’s marriage very well in her heart. However, Old Madame Sheng didn’t tell Minglan about that even when Minglan coaxed her extremely happy. And Old Madame Sheng didn’t also allow Minglan to participate in the discussion of Minglan’s marriage, no matter how much she loved Minglan. It was said that Old Madame Sheng’s marriage was the idea of her own. Decades ago… when Old Madame Sheng secretly saw the candidate who came third in the Han-lin examination at a social gathering and then heard of his two poems, she fell in love with him at once and decided to marry the boy of Sheng family, even which violated her parents’ willings. However, after a few years when their love fainted, the couple turned against each other.
It sounded like a story but it was true. As the proverb goes, art originates from life. But as a rational legal worker, Minglan wouldn’t fall in love at first sight and then get married casually! Minglan was a little sad and continued to throw pebbles. She really wanted to know who her あなた (Japanese pronunciation: anasa, meaning: husband) is in the future.
“Younger Sister Minglan.” A clear young voice sounded.
Minglan raised her head without focus and then looked around. At last, she found a handsome boy by the lake walking toward her. He saw the dull expression of Minglan and then smiled as walking: “Have you forgot me?”
With a bright smile, Minglan stood up and greeted him with a bow mischievously: “Brother Hongwen, here is my salute to you!”
He Hongwen walked and stopped three steps away from Minglan. Then he saluted with joined hands and said: “Today, it is impolite that my grandmother with me paid a sudden visit.”
Minglan saw He Hongwen who wore the mourning clothes and then assumed a serious expression: “My grandmother and I wanted to attend the funeral of your great-grandfather, but…”
He Hongwen quickly waved his hand and smiled gently: “Since you have come to attend the wedding and are living in your uncle’s home, it’s not good to attend a wedding and a funeral at the same time. It is right that you didn’t come.”
Minglan said with a low voice: “Old Madam He must be sorrowful about that.”
He Hongwen came over, staring at Minglan, and then said gently, “My grandmother is open-minded. She often says that everyone who lives in this world would die someday. My great-grandfather was long-lived. He passed away in his dream with no pain, which really made us relieved. People passing away calmly should not have any fear.”
Minglan stunned and nodded, “What Old Madame He said is true. I’m not afraid of death. What I’m afraid of is that I’ll not live happily.”
Hearing that, He Hongwen said with a smile, “I’m not afraid of death, either. What I’m afraid of is that I’ll not live long.”
Minglan finally smiled. When He Hongwen saw her smile, he asked: “Why did you frown just now? Didn’t you receive a red envelope at your cousin’s wedding ceremony?”
Minglan shook her head and said with a bitter face, “I don’t know how to use an abacus (a kind of calculator in ancient China). My grandmother said that I’ll lose the family property.” Since Minglan couldn’t say that she was worried about blind marriage, she had to make a reason like this.
He Hongwen laughed, “It doesn’t matter. When I was a kid, I took a lot of ginseng cream to feed the goldfish, and the goldfish finally died. My father chased after me and said that I’ll lose the family property.” Thinking of his dead father, Hongwen became depressed now.
Minglan shook her head and said, “What your father said was wrong. You’ll not lose family property, but you’ll be a charlatan in medication. Our mistakes are completely different. Please don’t regard me the same as you.”
He Hongwen couldn’t help but smiled, pointing to Minglan and shaking his head. The boy was kind and calm, smiling gently. Surrounding with lakes and mountains, and the autumn wind blowing with a smell of grassy leaves, Minglan was in a good mood.