Chapter 319: Gorgeous, Quiet, Talented, Master at Four Arts (III)
Translator: Ning LL
“Go back your home to cry. Don’t you find yourself ruining the festival ambience now?” Minglan’s voice wasn’t loud but her tone was rather stern.
Second Madam Bing got dazed first and then sobbed, “I was only…”
“Everyone knows about what happened to Brother-in-law Tingbing. Everyone is worried for you. Why can’t you choose the right time and place to cry?” Minglan snorted while glimpsing at Old Madam Qin who seemed eager to say something, “What if you say anything you want to say and cry as you wish on Tingcan’s wedding? If you bring bad luck to her wedding day, I, as your sister-in-law, will tear your mouth apart!”
Old Madam Qin relaxed her tightened shoulders with her eyes flickering, saying nothing.
Second Madam Bing didn’t dare to cry anymore and only stayed in a daze with her eyes widely open. Minglan looked at her and said slowly, “When Brother-in-law Tingbing was in prison, Brother-in-law Xuan had been busy running about for him. Brother-in-law Xuan had to bustle around for hours every day at that time and sometimes had to wait outside Yousi Yamen for half a day. He had to smile all the time and flattered others all the time and couldn’t even eat a warm meal. We have all witnessed that. No matter how much Sister-in-law Xuan worried about her husband, she never stopped him. I am young and haven’t married into this family for long, but I was still touched by this. I have thought that I truly have married into a good family where the brothers treasure each other and the members are united. Even so, Second Sister-in-law Bing, you are still not satisfied. Although Brother Tingxuan and Tingbing are blood brothers, I still can’t believe you wouldn’t even say thanks for once.”
As Madam Xuan heard Minglan’s words, her eyes turned red. Seeing that, Tingying walked over and held Madam Xuan’s arm. After that, the sisters-in-law sat next to each other with their heads against each others’.
Second Madam Bing was at a loss after hearing Minglan’s speech with her face turning purple and pale. Fourth Old Madam felt pleasant to see that. Fifth Old Madan glared at Minglan with an angry face, saying, “My niece, you were right, but your Sister-in-law Bing is older than you, how can you scold her with such harsh words? You should at least show some respect to her…”
Before she could finish her words, she was interrupted by Fourth Old Madam, “Gosh, sister-in-law, I have a different opinion with you. I found our niece’s words totally correct. On such a jubilant day, Tingbing’s wife was being too insensitive! No matter how sad she is, she should go back home to cry. Why did she have to cry in front of all the elders and the children! Come on…! Alas, our niece Minglan only said like that because she didn’t treat like us like outsiders!”
Fifth Old Madad was startled and stared at Fourth Old Madam who had never retorted her before in a daze.
Minglan chuckled and turned to Second Madam Bing, “Sorry that I have spoken too harshly. Second Sister-in-law, please forgive me. I only said anything I wanted to say because I consider you as my family.” Second Madam Bing didn’t know whether she should reply and could only put on a weird smile. First Madam Xuan seized this chance to sigh and patted on Second Madam Bing’s hand, “You can rest assured. Tingxuan has already given instructions to the mailmen. Every two to three months, Brother Tingbing will send letters to us to tell us his condition and there are also some people serving him. He should be fine. After a few years, he would be reunited with us again.”
Second Madam Bing sniffled and lowered her head. After that, she never made a single noise. First Madam Xuan raised her head and looked over the top of Second Madam Bing’s head to Minglan’s eyes with a meaningful look. Minglan smiled and turned around to enjoy the performance.
Second Madam Di watched the whole thing carefully. She suddenly remembered that she had heard that Gu Tingxuan’s eldest son, as young as he was, had already been appointed to a great post. Then Second Madam Di sighed secretly, ‘I always thought that I was a clever person, but I couldn’t even choose a side quickly like Madam Xuan, that noisy woman. She must have already got close to Gu Tingye’s family. Alas, people can never be judged by their appearances.’
This time when those people visited Minglan, she had spent a lot of money. Her cousins who hadn’t got married and her nephews and nieces who nearly filled in half of the room all received presents from her. Even if Minglan’s child who would be born in the future could get some presents next year, the loss still outweighed the gain. Even if she spent all her efforts on giving birth to babies, the time when she had lots of children, the boys and girls whom she had just given money to would have their children too. By then, Minglan or her children had to give her grandsons or granddaughters money (If they still visited each other). Gosh, this would be endless. The silvers she gave out would be numerous. – This was such a losing business. Also, for a long time, Minglan’s money wouldn’t be paid back.
At night, when Minglan came back to her room, she, heart bleeding, told the miserable future to her husband with a bitter look on her face. In this pathetic age, the primary productive force was no doubt the fertility. After Gu Tingye heard her words, he fell onto the bed and burst into laughter, feeling himself half sobered up. He took a look at Minglan’s belly and then went to the outer study. After he had read two books, he suddenly remembered that someone had used to whisper to his eyes ‘The land of tenderness is the tomb for men.’ Then he ordered the servants to drag Sir Gongsun off his bed.
After six or seven days, Gu Tingye’s colleagues and friends came to visit in succession.
Thanks to Sir Gongsun’s early warning, Gu Zijin didn’t make his house too crowded and bustling in order to prevent the imperial censors from criticizing him. However, there were still lots of people coming to giving New Year’s presents to him. Gu Zijin greeted the visitors in the outer yard and instructed the gatekeeper to let in only the ones who were worth making friends with or familiar to him. Minglan wore a gentle and decorous smiling face in the inner yard while saying to the women whom she didn’t know, ‘The courtesy is really not necessary.’ and to the kids, ‘Come over, the ground is cold.’ After that, she also praised, “Such a nice kid.” or “Good kid.”
Fortunately, Minglan had had a plan to deal with this situation. Before, she had already ordered the craftsmen in the gold shop to carve some auspicious words onto the gold and silver ingots. This year was the Monkey year, thus Minglan had also asked them to forge dozens of gold monkeys, which though very small but looked quite vivid, making it the best choice for the festival presents to those kids.
Minglan treated all the guests, no matter eloquent or silent, very gently and politely, without being prejudiced. The strict training Old Madam Sheng had given to Minglan now took effect. Now, Minglan sat in perfect profile, looking elegant and gentle, which was easy to fool others. She didn’t talk too much but was very amiable. After a few days, her good character and kind behaviors were widely spread.
Minglan was very complacent about that. The public do have sharp eyes.
Although the social intercourse was quite tedious, Minglan loved the process of receiving the gifts. People in the political circle were very sensitive. Except for some of Gu Tingye’s truly trustable subordinates, no one had brought a whole box of silvers or bank notes which had stamp on it to bond with him.
There were white and round large pearls from Southern Fujian which filled a whole box, half-foot high jade statue of Guan Yin which felt very warm, Saturn Peach bonsais which was made of agate with gold and silver branches, looking exactly like the real one, the black fox, the purple sheep, the lynx, the whole piece of marten which felt inconceivably soft and thick as well as the precious bear gall, keel and snow ginseng…
“Is there, really no problem about this?” Minglan, excited and scared, was now thinking like a bumpkin, not knowing if receiving all those gifts was legal.
Sir Gongsun said calmly, “If we reject all these things, we will bring us problems instead.”
If Minglan could visit the Empress’s brother’s mansion, she wouldn’t be so excited. The officials who worked in the borders had no idea of the emperor’s preference or the trends in the imperial court. Now was their only chance to make some efforts in their career. Also, the gifts had been through a screening process already and most of them had been presented to Gu Tingye for a reason.
The situation lasted until the tenth day of the January.
Comparing to the bustling Cheng Manor where even the youngest servant in the gate house had been wearing a radiant face because of the money he had earned, Marquis Ningyuan’s mansion seemed very quiet. The stewards and the servants all wished that Minglan could start to handle the family affairs of Marquis Ningyuan’s family right away so that their treatment would be improved too.
Minglan had been too busy lately and was afraid that Rong’s study would fall behind because of that. Then, at Minglan’s straight request, Shao shi began to watch both Xian and Rong studying and doing the needle work. Strange as it might sound, although Minglan always asked Shao shi to do her a favor, the latter only felt comfortable about that. Though Shao shi spent more time with Old Madam Qin and Zhu shi every day, she liked Minglan more.
As Shao shi saw the two girls building snowman in the yard and running around and the maids laughing and playing around them as well as the redness of the girls’ faces, she felt her sadness also faded away.
“Call the two girls back, they have been playing out there for almost half and hour.” Shao shi ordered the servant next to her.
A sharp-eyed maid saw a familiar small sedan with brocade cover, then said with a smile, “Second Madam Ye is here.”
The sedan was stopped right in front of the gate straightly. Danju helped Minglan get off the sedan carefully. Shao shi then told someone to add more firewood in the stove in the room. After Shao shi sat Minglan down, she said, “Today is so cold. You are pregnant now, why did you come out? Just call me over if you need anything.”
Minglan took off her cloak while saying, “I was too bored. Also, I don’t need to walk by myself since I took the sedan.” After saying that, she turned around and waved her hand to let the servants bring something in. “I have received two pieces of silk yesterday. I found the color pretty and the material very fine, so I brought them over. You can make some clothes for Xian with that.”
Shao shi found the silk pretty and glossy with graceful patterns while the color was plain which was perfect to make clothes for the girl whose father had just passed away. Shao shi, pleased as she was, still said modestly, “The girl is still growing. You don’t have to spend so much money for her.”
Minglan chuckled, “I also made clothes for Rong too. The two good girls both study hard and are filial to the elders. Xian is especially well-behaved and sensible. She should be rewarded.”
Shao shi was glad to hear that. After she received the silks, the two sisters-in-law chatted for a while. Then Minglan mentioned about her purpose of coming, “Tingcan is going to have a wedding. We, as her sisters-in-law, should give her some presents to add to the blooming atmosphere. I don’t know about the rules about that in the Gu family. Sister-in-law, I need your advice in this in case I make any mistake.”
As Shao shi thought of Gu Tingcan, she dithered for a short while and then said, “When I first came to this family, Sister Tingyan has already got married. When the daughters of our two uncles married, there weren’t any special rules. It’s just…” She observed the look on Minglan’s face, “Sister Tingcan is a proud girl. I’m afraid that there are some things which aren’t up to her taste.”
The wedding presents someone gave to her sister-in-law was meant to enrich the latter’s dowry. The wealthy people would offer manors or stores, the considerate ones would present a set of furniture, clothes and jewelries. However, most sisters-in-law would merely give a hairpin and a pair of bracelets or a mirror case.
Minglan had expected that Shao shi would say that and then said, “I heard that people from the Princess’s family have come to discuss about the wedding date. They seem to want the wedding to happen soon. Why don’t we ask Tingcan what she likes and dislikes? Then I can start preparing the gifts.”
Shao shi got relieved secretly. Actually, she couldn’t afford to offend both sides, so she agreed with a smile, “That’s great. Tingcan’s room was near mine. I’ll go with you.”
It was easy to tell that Tingcan must be favored since her childhood judging from the place she lived. Her room enjoyed the best daylight in this mansion with the best orientations. Before Minglan entered into Tingcan’s room, she had already viewed lots of rare vegetables in the yard. At the time when the whole mansion was in a tragic situation, the maids in the Seventh Lady’s yard still wore decent and shiny clothes.
“What a coincidence that you are both here, my sisters-in-law.” Gu Tingcan sat in front of the piano stand and said that with a casual tone.
She was a gorgeous girl, but the look on her face seemed a bit prideful and depressed as if there was a layer of yarn between her and others. In ancient times, ladies were required to be gentle, bashful, dignified and tender. Gu Tingcan was nothing like what the normal training for ladies had asked to be. However, that was also what Old Master Gu liked the most about her.
The decoration inside the room was very graceful and delicate without too many extravagant gold or silver ornaments, but also not too plain, showing exactly of her great taste and noble identity. There was a magnificent painting being hung up on the wall randomly, exposing jade and crumbled gold faintly at the reel. The book which was put on the desk casually was actually a unique item. The pretty red plum on the desk seemed to have just been picked but was inserted in a rare white porcelain bottle which was invaluable.
The decorating style was outstanding. When comparing to this room, Hualan’s room seemed too luxurious while Molan’s was devoid of bookish environment.
Minglan followed Shao shi to tour the whole room and then sat down and chuckled with her head lowered. The most interesting thing about this room was that the paintings on the wall as well as the handwritings in the corner were all the works of Seventh Lady. Even the books on the desk were actually made of the poems that Seventh Lady had composed from childhood, being made from soft silk rice paper.
Shao shi, as the eldest sister-in-law, spoke their purpose of coming at once with a smile, “Sister-in-law, just tell me what you want. We’ll see if there’s anything we can do to help.”
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