Mrs. Li said gently: “I understand what you have said. Girl Shu is my flesh and blood. I have been torn with grief since I knew that she suffered. But I … I am afraid of that Pinlan’s marriage could be delayed by Shulan’s affair. Pinlan is old enough to get married, what if no one marries her because of the matter?”
Suddenly, Minglan felt a gust of wind around her. Pinlan couldn’t help it anymore and pushed Minglan to the inner corner. Then she skinned through the compartment quickly, threw back the thick curtain, and said loudly: “I’m not afraid, just let my sister divorce! I would rather remain single for life than make my sister suffer in the Sun Family!”
Minglan groveled on the ground just like a dog was gnawing the muddy. Right now, she only felt that every hair on her head was standing upright, her heart almost stood still with fright, and she was giving Pinlan, the stupid girl, a bollocking over and over in her heart. If she was caught on the spot, well … it seemed nothing would happen to her. Then, Minglan forced herself to stay calm, in a dog-like posture, groveling still.
Fortunately, she hid in the inner corner of the wooden compartment, which was covered by a layer of curtain and tassel. The two madams did not realize that there was still one inside. They were only shocked by the sudden appearance of Pinlan. Mrs. Li burned with a frenzy of rage and scolded Pinlan. Pinlan just replied defiantly and didn’t mention that there was another one inside the compartment. Also, Mrs. Li and the Eldest Madam Sheng never thought that there were two audiences.
Outside, it seemed that Pinlan was slapped a blow, but she had a mighty heart and didn’t cry. Then Pinlan flopped down on her knees, professed loudly: “The fate is made in heaven. If the God blesses me, I won’t be hurt due to my sister’s divorce. But if my sister suffers, I’ll never be happy!” Then she kotowed and begged Mrs. Li again and again.
Minglan panicked and did not hear their conversation clearly. After a while, it seemed that Mrs. Li and Pinlan both cried out.
Until Minglan calmed down, Mrs. Li had left with Pinlan, and they seemed determined to negotiate with the Sun family. Minglan lied on her stomach with sweat on her back. The outside was so quiet that she didn’t dare to make a little noise. Minglan prayed innumerable times, hoping that the Eldest Madame Sheng didn’t want to read the scriptures today and would go back to her room soon so that she could slip away.
After about a quarter of an hour, the Eldest Madame Sheng did not leave. Only hearing the sound of the Eldest Madame Sheng’s rosary, Minglan felt that her knees had been numb. As the sweat gots cold, Minglan felt cold now. When she was secretly complaining, Sheng Yun came.
Both the Eldest Madame Sheng and Sheng Yun were outspoken. After conventional greetings, Sheng Yun said, “Mother, did you negotiate with sister-in-law (Mrs. Li)?”
The Eldest Madame Sheng did not speak. Minglan guessed that she must have nodded. Then Minglan heard Sheng Yun said, “What Mrs. Li considered was wrong. She don’t like to rely on older cousin Sheng Hong. I guess it was because Mrs. Wang has showed her long face several times. But we all know how Mrs. Wang treat others. She even treat her mother-in-law Old Madame Sheng this way. We could understand Mrs. Wang looks down upon our family as we do business. After all, elder cousin Sheng Hong and Old Madame Sheng are always kind to us. Isn’t it good we two families help each other? But Mrs. Li always wants her son or son-in-law to become an official so that she connives Sun family this way… Well, mom, when are you going to deal with the situation?”
The Eldest Madame Sheng sighed and said, “All are ready. I’m going to take action these days. After that, you take Shulan live with you for days. You talk to her patiently, and tell her people always look down on women who is weak! You may also send her to Gui’s husband’s house in Cang country. Gui’s mother-in-law and I are old friends, she’s kind and she won’t embarrass Shulan. Shulan can stay there for relaxation.
Sheng Yun said in a dismissive tone, “Shu’er was bold and forthright when she was a child, she climbed mountains and grazed cattles with Gui. But later on, you asked Shulan to act as a girl from a noble family, which turned out to be useless. Look at my daughter Gui, her husband’s family is honest and kind and treats her well, she’s leading a happy life.”
Sheng Yun ended with proud. The Eldest Madam Sheng smiled and said, “Gui gave birth to three boys in four years after she got married, which was never seen before, and her husband’s family has keeping only one boy a generation for generations. Now she is pregnant again, she will be treated as a god. However you must remind her of being modest and kind, or she may bear hardships later.”
Sheng Yun continued to amuse the Eldest Madam Sheng with some jokes about the eldest daughter, then she turned to ask, “By the way, mom, have you talked with Old Madam Sheng about it?”
The Eldest Madam Sheng replied, “Certainly. I asked her to come. Although Shulan was mischievous, we have been compromising for years. I have made up my mind since that hypocrite found his mistress. Old Madam Sheng will bring a letter from your cousin to the magistrate. She grew up in Jin Ling and have lots of friends there. I’ll see what he can do.”
Sheng Yun said angrily, “The Sun family won’t be able to show off after Shulan leave their house. Old Madam Sheng is nice.”
The Eldest Madam Sheng nodded and said: “We should get along with relatives like this. Our own behavior should be justified, so that we can act worthily of Old Madam Sheng who has the utmost courtesy. Relatives should get along well and help each other. Your sister-in-law just doesn’t understand this. Besides, don’t play dumb with me! Do you think I know nothing? The reason Old Madam Sheng agreed to come to Youyang this time is not only because Girl Ming needs to apply for naturalization. What are you hatching? Your sister-in-law (Mr.Li) would be angry!”
Sheng Yun slowly poured a cup of tea, the porcelain giving out a clear sound: “I know what you are thinking; since Boy Wu has been married, he will go far to the capital city, and then only Pinlan is left. She is only twelve years old, so there is no need to find a match for her now. Shulan can take this opportunity to quickly get divorced, and after a few years, everyone will forget about it. By then, you can arrange a marriage for Pinlan without obstacles. Even if not, it won’t matter, because our Taisheng is also one of the matches for Pinlan!”
The Eldest Madam Sheng seemed to be angry, saying loudly: “How dare you speak in such a voice dripping with sarcasm! If Pinlan gets married with Taisheng, it will be a great family affair! Isn’t it good? You don’t want to give Pinlan a thought?” Sheng Yun chortled: “Oh, mom, you got that backwards. It’s my sister-in-law who just looks down her nose at Taisheng!”
The Eldest Madam Sheng held her tongue. Sheng Yun cooled hot tea and said: “In fact, Pinlan is rude and ill-behaved. There are only a few men who are willing to marry her. But after all, she is my niece. Even if she often bosses Taisheng around, I am willing to let her be my daughter-in-law. I will treat her well. But my sister-in-law was picky, and she looks down on my husband for his peasant background. She just wants to have a family match with Boy Yu of the Li family! But the Li family don’t think highly of Pinlan, now she turns back to pick my Taisheng. Humph, sister Li is too partial. Though Taisheng isn’t very outstanding, he still has some fortunes and gets a good personality. In recent years, I have declined so many matchmakers because of Pinlan! While sister Li treats Taisheng as goods on the market, why should I concede to her intention? This time I won’t let her get what she wants! ”
Sheng Yun seemed to be irritated, and she put the teacup heavily on the table.
They remained silent for a while, then the Eldest Madam Sheng said gently: “So you wrote to Old Madam Sheng, and strongly praised your Taisheng.” Sheng Yun simply admitted: “Yes! I know that there are several girls in my cousin’s. I don’t dare to think about the dear girl of Mrs. Wang; but the one who’s raised before the Old Madam Sheng, I guess I can take her into account.”
Minglan listened to them secretly and timidly, and she could not help but reproached Pinlan again in her heart: I told you to be calm as an eavesdropper! Now you have only known the first half of the talk, but missed the second half about your lifelong happiness! You deserved it! I won’t tell you when I go back!
On the other side, the Eldest Madam Sheng said coldly: “What about now? Your sister Li is thrown into a panic, and tries hard to please you every day, you happy now?”
Sheng Yun laughed and said: “Well, to begin with, I thought that Old Madam Sheng could teach a lesson to sister Li; but later… oh, mother, I don’t want to lie to you, as I’m really satisfied with that girl brought up by Old Madam Sheng. She’s well-behaved and graceful, and never act like a pompous girl. Just watching her disposition and acts is an enjoyment; mother, did you observe her when she’s eating and walking? After all, she was taught by Granny Kong. Every move is not only graceful but also decent. What’s more, she treats people kindly and is good at needlework and housekeeping… Mother, don’t look at me like that. If Taisheng were your grandson, rather than your grandson-in-law, which one would you select as his wife?”
Minglan listened to the praising words and then felt quite self-satisfied. As for Taisheng, he was also a good boy, but… Alas! Why were they collateral relative withins three generations? Was Pinlan really going to marry him? It wasn’t good in the aspect of genetics.
The Eldest Madam Sheng seemed to be speechless again for what Mrs. Li said. After a while, the Eldest Madam Sheng sighed and said in a low voice: “What about Pinlan?”
Sheng Yun grinned from ear to ear and said: “Mother, don’t take it serious now. After all, It has not got to the first base; though I like Minglan, we don’t know the thought of the second aunt (Old Madam Sheng) to Taisheng; Eh? Mother, have you found it that Mrs. Zhu (the wife of the brother of Mrs. Li) seems to have some thoughts about Minglan?”
The Eldest Madam Sheng said snappily: “Even you have understood it, let alone anyone else. More than her (Mrs. Zhu), I heard your second aunt seems to be inclined to select the boy of her bosom friend, who is also with a good character.”
Sheng Yun was not angry for the words and said: “Right! So, leave it as it develops. If our Taisheng is blessed, it is good that the second aunt could select him; If the second aunt has other plans, it doesn’t matter. We could also make Pinlan marry Taisheng. Interesting… is it what we often said that fortune’s wheel is ever turning?!”
The Eldest Madam Sheng scolded her: “Now, are you not angry on that your second aunt picks on Taisheng?”
Sheng Yun said leisurely: “It isn’t the same. Considering the favor the second aunt did for me, all depends on her! Only if she doesn’t hurt Taisheng.”