The imperial examination held in spring usually took place in mid-February. This year, due to the poor health of the emperor, it was delayed until the beginning of March. Changbai and Qi Heng set off in mid-February. After Changbai left, Lady Wang burned the incense, worshipped the Buddha, and visited the Taoist temple every day. The room was full of smoke, and the outsider almost brought in a fire fighting team as they thought Sheng Mansion had caught fire. Every time Minglan went to pay respects to Lady Wang, her eyes would be smoked to red. Sheng Hong complained in the beginning, “Confucius never talked about odd, puissance, turmoil and deity “, but according to reliable information, he worshipped the Buddha several times secretly.
This examination lasted for three day, and each part was a torture. Even if you passed it, you would have an arduous time. Qi Heng was carried home by the servant of Qi Guo Gong Mansion once he came out. Changbai struggled up the carriage, and then Chang Wu, who was a trainer in Jingwei martial arts, took Changbai back to rest. The good news was one step ahead of the candidates arriving home, and Changbai ranked the fifth in Scholars section.
Lady Wang was overjoyed and immediately wanted to put out the firecrackers and offer money and foods to the poor, but Sheng Hong rushed to stop her – Qi Heng failed.
Lord Qi was still fine, as he knew that candidates who could pass in just one go like Changbai are few after all. Most of the candidates would succeed in the second and third times, and some even strived for this examination more than ten years, but Ping Ning Infanta was quite unsatisfied with the result.
The Qi got a lot of contacts, so they had the chance to find the reason of Qi Heng’s failure. The old Qi Guo Gong consulted the chief examiner, and the latter said: most candidates simplified their lives for the imperial examination in spring. From the imperial examination held in autumn, they would lock themselves in and study wholeheartedly. But the Qi even rushed back to the capital city to celebrate the New Year for fear that Deng State was not lively enough, leaving Qi Heng spending an extravagant and overwhelming time for about two months. Finally, Qi Heng only got less than one month to prepare for the examination, how could he get passed?
Ping Ning Infanta regretted it a lot, and Lord Qi suddenly realized that, no wonder Sheng Mansion was extremely quiet during the New Year celebration and he should have Qi Heng in Dengzhou during the celebration. Sheng Hong was really a very experienced person; after all, he was a candidate once himself.
After another few days, the Imperial Academy held the subsequent exam by which Changbai was selected as the Imperial Bachelor, and was assigned with editing works. He would take office after the festival was over. Along with this news, Changbai’s brother was engaged with the second daughter of the first wife in Jiang Ninghai’s Mansion. The Jiang was a scholarly family, full of wealth, and both the father and brothers were imperial officers. But for these two things, the responses of Sheng Hong and Lady Wang were radically different.
“It’s rare for Boy Bai to obtain such results, why not let he be an external officer, but go to suffer in the desolate Imperial Academy!” Lady Wang cried, and complained of Sheng Hong, “You master have said that several old friends of you had led Boy Bai to visit and lubricate the relationships, but only got a low-grade Imperial Bachelor!”
“Shortsighted women opinion! What do you know, how the Imperial Hanlin Academy is so enviable, Boy Bai is still young, he is degraded to the work of low order instead if he is sent to be a local official!” Sheng Hong was as mad as a wet hen since his own efforts were devalued by Lady Wang.
Didn’t know how superior is the Hanlin Academy, Lady Wang only knew it’s true that the Hanlin Academician was impoverished and plain. But she also knew that in this respect, Sheng Hong had his head screwed on the right way than her, so she argued no longer. There was one more thing, however, was more worrying.
“Let it go, as a woman, I don’t understand the official ranking and titular honors. But Boy Bai is my biological son, after all, I can always make the decision on his marriage. You invited Uncle Geng to act as the matchmaker without talking with me, and I didn’t know who was my daughter-in-law until now. You expose me to an innocent situation.” Lady Wang felt more wronged and lowered her head wiping tears all the time.
Sat on the side of the bed, Sheng Hong carried a been green bottom painting pastel Chenghua kiln made tea bowl and drank some tea, he sneered, “Do you think I’m blind? You have taken fancy to the niece of your eldest sister’s house, I am afraid that you will ask the niece to come over and live with us for this month if I didn’t strike first and gain the advantage!”
Being point out frankly by his words, Lady Wang just simply threw her handkerchief on the bed and glared eyes, “What’s wrong with Yun Er? She is educated and reasonable, pretty and intelligent, and also has the kinship with Boy Bai. It couldn’t be better that they know each other’s background”
“Sure! Knowing through and through!” Sheng Hong laid the tea bowl on the side table heavily: “Let alone other things, the eldest brother-in-law lives in such a good family, but now his official post is still under mine. And he went so far as to make several children when he was in mourning for his father’s death, then the Censor impeached that he took a concubine during the filial period, so that he was dismissed from office. He did not consider how to lobby the governor and returned to the court to fill the gap, however, enjoyed the air and the moon to write sentimental verses with literary friends day after day and even commented on the political affairs! Could it be said that you want such in-laws ?”
Lady Wang nearly died of shame and anger and answered back sarcastically: “Even if you give Kang’s clan cold shoulder out of their decline, you should not have made a match with the Hai clan. Their family rules decree that the descendants can’t take concubine only if they have no children till forty. Although it couldn’t be better to be their daughter-in-law, the girl of such a family is inappropriate. I heard that after the First Young Miss Hai got married, she was disobedient to her mother-in-law, and she didn’t allow her husband to take a concubine. But the Hais happened to be noble, you will make things more difficult for me to be a mother-in-law if such a Bodhisattva will be invited to come.”
Sheng Hong scolded: “A pile of shit! If this is not the case, how can we claim kinship with the Hai family! As long as you don’t make trouble out of nothing to place concubines in Boy Bai’s family, it will be fine to be your mother-in-law!”
The couple had a big fight and broke up in discord.
Wang was very unwilling, she cried in the face of the Old Madame Sheng and asked the Old Madame to decide for her.
Old Madame Sheng was half lying on the soft couch, her eyes slightly closed. She listened to Lady Wang crying and gently patted her back and sighed: “The master will not talk casually. How is the Kang family now? Although Kang family and our family is also an in-law, but the future of Sheng Changbai is more important. You should be careful.”
Lady Wang knew that Old Madame Sheng seemed to be inconsistent with the world, but she understood it. Lady Wang cried so dizzy, said: “… my brother-in-law is too disappointing, and now my sister has more than a dozen of nieces and nieces. I don’t know how many concubines he has and those concubines gave birth to so many children! They want my sister to take care of them. Boys need bride price while girls need dowry when they are going to marry. My brother-in-law is an official who do not know how to earn more money, and my sister has almost run out of her dowry. If my sister refuses, those uncles in the family, who are all gongoozlers, will say that my sister is not good! Now the Kang family is probably an empty shelf. Fortunately, my sister’s son is still fighting for strength. In the past few years, he became a principal of the Ministry of Rites. I am her sister, so I have to help her. The status of the Kang family will not insult our family.”
Old Madame Sheng looked at a golden scent of smoke on the table and sighed: “You are a kind-hearted person, but in my opinion, no matter how close you are with your sister, she will still be closer with her son Oh, I am your mother-in-law, and I know what you are thinking about – you are afraid that the Hai family’s status is so big that you cannot suppress your daughter-in-law in the future, um-?”
Old Madame Sheng looked at Lady Wang with her sharp eyes, and the latter had a guilty conscience. In fact, Lady Wang’s relationship with her eldest sister was not good. They had many quarrels when they were at home, but later the tradeoff between the Sheng family and the Kang family changed the situation. Her sister often wrote letters of lament and complains and started lobbying for a marriage matching few years ago. She flattered Lady Wang, which made the latter feel very comfortable.
Old Madame Sheng noticed that Lady Wang was uneasy. She gently patted Lady Wang’s shoulder: “At that time, the Xu family also wanted to have a marriage matching with the master, but I refused. Your family and my family have never had any contacts, but I still let you marry the master. At first the master did benefit from your family. You gave birth to two children, and did housework, so I dare to say today: I never regret to let the master marry you! Poor world, mother heart, Sheng Changbai’s future and your comfort, which is more important?”
Lady Wang was said to be flushed, thinking that she was not very competent, but she was embarrassed to take it up and gently squinted her eyes.
Old Madame Sheng said again: “You don’t have to worry about it. Granny Kong once told me that the second daughter of the Hai family was very good. You can get along well with her. The daughter of the Kang family is your niece. Is it possible for you to put on airs, and to squat her hand to teach? Go back to Changbai, and the commander’s title is indispensable to you. Isn’t it better?”
Lady Wang was persuaded, thinking about it too. She remembered the simple and rude communication method of Sheng Hong. She was wronged: “I am not unclear. If the master also said this to me, I will not bother you…but what does Yun’er do? She is seventeen, and my brother-in-law has no official position now, which will prevent her from marrying a good person.”
Old Madame Sheng smiled, and said to Lady Wang, “What do you think about Boy Wu?”
Lady Wang stunned, “What do you mean……”
Old Madame Sheng said coldly, “Several generations of Kang family are officers, but now only your nephew is an officer. When it comes to the wealth of these families, you know more than me. Wei family is not as rich as Kang family, but it is also wealthy. There are only two sons in Wei family. In the future, if Boy Wu does not live with his brother and father, he would still be rich. Moreover, you are also clear about the personality of Boy Wu. In these years, he has been staying in the capital, honest and never doing bad things. If Yun’er married Boy Wu, it would not be better.”
Lady Wang hesitated: “But… after all… their family are merchants… “
Old Madame Sheng looked at Lady Wang. She wanted to satirize her, but held back. Old Madame Sheng said: “Boy Wu has been recommended to be the officer of the Zhongweiwei County, and will soon be in office. He has both good career and personal qualities, and his family is also rich. If he does not have bad luck in marriage, my sister-in-law will not ask me to help. If you do not want Yun’er marry him, then forget it. I will look for some girl else.”
Lady Wang listened these words, and said anxiously: “Please do not be angry, I will write to my sister. This is really a very good marriage. I believe my sister will understand.”
After a while, Lady Wang left. Looking at the back of Lady Wang, Old Madame Sheng sighed. Suddenly she heard the sound of the curtain behind. Old Madame Sheng did not return and said, “You little thing have been listening for a long time, come out!”
Minglan squinted. Her little face was particularly cute, and there was a faint pillow print on her cheek. Wearing a piece of silk and embroidered jade orchid pink scorpion, Minglan smashed out of the inner room, and plunged into the Old Madame Sheng’s arms, like a chubby squirrel. Old Madame Sheng reached out and took the little granddaughter in her arms, and said, “I’ve told you to go back to take a nap, but you insist stay. No wonder you would be woken up by our conversation.”
Minglan glared at her grandmother’s neck and said sweetly, “Grandma, am I going to have a new sister-in-law?”
“Didn’t you hear it? Why ask me again?” Old Madame Sheng took a heavy shot on Minglan’s back.
Minglan blinked, “Grandma, actually, it is you who want Brother Changbai marry Miss Hai?”
Old Madame Sheng glanced at Minglan, and then her eyes swept through the doors and windows. Cuiping suddenly understood her intentions and turned around and went on a tour to make sure there was no one listening. Old Madame Sheng caressed Minglan’s hair, “It’s definitely because of your father. It is supposed to be Lady Wang to select a daughter-in-law for her son Changbai, but your father bothered your grandmother me. After all, it is about Changbai, the first son of the first wife in the family. We should think carefully about his marriage.”
Minglan looked up and smiled, pure and innocent, “My father and mother are harmonious and respect each other very much now. They must be very satisfied with grandmother’s decision.”
Old Madame Sheng put on a stern face and wanted to teach Minglan, but couldn’t help laughing out first. Then she only gave gentle pinches on her granddaughter and shook her own head, “This time, the situation of your older brother is much better than your father’s. Now he has a father who just is promoted as a ranked five official, a brother-in-law of the Count of Zhongqin, and a decent maternal uncle. Even if the other side is the family with a literary reputation like Hai family, all those make them not to look down on us.”
Actually, at first, the Hai family didn’t prefer Changbai because they felt his background, Sheng family, was a little weak. However, Old Madame Sheng was very confident. At that time, the Wang family had hesitated on the marriage of Shenghong, but when the old lady had a visit on Wang family with Sheng Hong, Old Mrs. Wang saw the handsome gentleman and immediately agreed on the marriage.
Old Madame Sheng is very experienced in operation. This time, she also asked the aunt of Geng family to take Changbai to pay a visit. Once Mrs. Hai saw Changbai tall and with the straight and upright temperament, she nearly agreed on the marriage. Miss Hai may have peeked through the curtain on him. If she did, she’ll also be attracted.
Of course, Minglan did not know that. Mrs. Sheng continued to say: “Miss Hai is mentioned by Granny Kong a few years ago. She is good in virtues, the manner of speech, appearance, and sewing (the required qualities of women in feudal society). The men of the Hai family don’t take a concubine and raise their daughters with the idea, leading to that these daughters couldn’t tolerate their husband to take any concubine. This makes those girls hard to marry. But your big brother doesn’t need to worry about this. In these years, he only has a maid (maid in name, concubine in reality). What’s her name? “
“Yanghao.” Minglan told her.
Old Madame Sheng slightly smiled, “The name is not bad. How your brother thought of other bad names! He should name those pretty girls pig, wolf, chicken or mouse. Yanghao is just a common person but honesty. It doesn’t matter whether to leave or sent out”
Knowing that Old Madame Sheng determined the destiny of a girl with only a few words, Minglan’s expression was gradually falling down in her eyes. Like Yanghao who had been used by the host but didn’t get status, the future was actually limited. Their best ending is to be raised as a concubine by the host. After the primary wife gives birth, if the male owner still dotes on her, she can have a child. If host and hostess are harmony, she can slowly dry up her youth like the decoration; if the hostess can’t bear it, she will be sent out, or let go, or married.
But what good people can she marry? A servant in the house, a rogue, a coward, or a farmer. Only if a man has the ability to have a family, he will not want a woman who is not a virgin.
But sometimes one couldn’t tolerate them blindly. Minglan knew that the tragedy of Old Madame Sheng was caused by concubines to large extent. They are more familiar with other people in the house and their status is always stable because of the deep relationship with young hosts before a hostess comes. Sometimes they even the make some traps to the new coming hostess.
Minglan asked herself in her mind: at that time, could she deal with the opponent without any hesitation?