Chapter 68: Paragon of Daughter in Law (2)
Proofread by DragonRider
On the second of the twelfth month of the lunar year, Wang Shi invited tailors from Garments of Immortals to measure the children so as to prepare some new outfits. Changbai, without a blink of an eye, chose some dark colors; Changfeng, as usual, picked the most expensive and ethereal materials, while Changdong only dared to choose the most inconspicuous ones...When tailors arrived at where the three sisters lived...
“Why is it so late? Even the servants and maids had their new clothes for the winter, why delay us to now?” Molan asked with much implication while picking casually through the cloth.
Rulan was quite alerted and retorted, “Did you get your new clothes only once for a year? Are you ever short of casual wear? It’s delayed only because mother has been busy since we just moved to the capital.”
Molan sneered with her mouth covered, “Ah! Why are you so anxious, my sister? I didn’t blame anyone...However, from my view, why wouldn’t Madam let others help her with some affairs to relieve some of her exhaustion? Wouldn’t it be great to let Madam take some rest and get things done timely?”
All this time since they moved to the capital, Wang shi had been extremely busy with social engagement and wedding preparation so naturally some of the family affairs were neglected. Concubine Lin took the chance and proposed to Sheng Hong, claiming that she could help, which Sheng Hong agreed yet Wang shirefused.
Quite clear of Molan’s scheme, Rulan sneered, “Stop scheming like this and be a good young lady, then mother will be much relieved.”
Molan immediately put on a worried face, “Why saying so, my dear sister? I’m just worried about mother’s well-being. Why you call my ‘worry’ for family ‘scheme’? Sixth younger sister, what do you say?”
Minglan then became the target with even Rulan staring at her. Minglan was quite bothered. That was the worst part of a struggle between three girls as she could never be spared whatever the other two argued about.
Pressing her temple to ease the pain, Minglan signed, “Garments of Immortals is the best in capital with high quality and exquisite needlework. Due to the flourishing business, all new clothes for winter are booked earlier in September or October. We came here late, it is lucky that we can still have the chance. The clothes for maids and servants were all roughly made in a hurry. Madam is so considerate to have Garments of Immortals make our new clothes and not willing to make do with ordinary needles so that we can look more decent before sister-in-law.”
Molan immediately pulled a long face, “This isn’t the only matter. Can we deal with everything in such a haste? Why don’t you think about the future, sixth younger sister?”
“The future? By then we have sister-in-law to help us,” Minglan smiled.
Molan clenched her teeth secretly out of anger. All in the Sheng family praised that sixth young lady was the most amicable one, who would seldom throw a temper. However, when Minglan truly was involved in argument, Molan could never find any loopholes to repute.
Rulan beamed with smile upon Minglan’s words. Taking Minglan’s hand, she said gaily, “You’re right! Come on, I have quite a few great fabrics. Pick anything you like.”
The dowries of Hai family were moved into Sheng Mansion like the flowing water of river as the wedding date approached, which included furniture such as bed, desk, chairs and screens emitting red luster of great value, dozens of cases of cloth, decorations of different varieties, countless title deeds for lands as well as innumerable shops. Minglan was shocked.
“The ten-mile dowries that the ancients talked about could cover everything for the girl, from clothes, money, daily supplies to even shroud. Old Madam had it all.” Fang Mama was excited with tangible pride coloring her tone.
Minglan stuttered, “Why preparing so much? Is it really necessary?”
Fang Mama nodded repeatedly, “Being a daughter-in-law put a lady in a humble position. With rich dowry, she can have more say in the new family because her dowry could cover all her daily expenses and she is not replying completely on her husband.”
Minglan calculated with her fingers and said, “These are more than enough for big brother to take several concubines, let alone supporting a sister-in-law. Hai family is noted for being upright and clean-handed...um...it seems that clean-handed is far different from being poor.”
The corners of Fang Mama’s mouth twitched upon her words.
Unmarried girls could do little for a wedding ceremony, she could not drink for the bridegroom, nor banter the newlyweds in their wedding room. It was not until the second morning that the three Lans finally got the chance to meet their sister-in-law, Hai shi, who went to greet her parents-in-law after kowtowing to Old Madam Sheng.
Her outwear was a front-opening coat in scarlet made of brocade, on which embroidered flower patterns by golden threads; beneath it was long dress of brocade embroidered with plush patterns of moiré and bat; pinned in her coiffure was a phoenix of pearls spreading its winds threaded by gold threads. When she bowed to Wang shi, not a noise was heard from the set of bracelets with nine twists.
Minglan couldn’t help but admire, “What a skill!”
When Hai shi raised her head, Minglan observed carefully. Hai shi had a relatively long face and a pair of long eyes, looking not as charming as Hualan, nor as delicate as Yun’er, yet she demonstrated an air of nobility, which, to put it in a more pedantic way, was “Wisdom in hold, elegance in mold.” Seeing that her big brother would care much about her new sister-in-law, Minglan knew that her brother liked his wife.
However, tastes varied. Wang shi was a bit grouchy about her new daughter-in-law as she thought her son, Changbai, with such a good nature and knowledge, should marry someone, if not as pretty as the fairy living in the moon, then as least as good-looking as Wang Qiang or Xi Shi (both great beauties in history). Therefore, when accepting the tea served by her daughter-in-law, Wang shi handed over a pouch with quite a condescending look, then, quite unwillingly took off a white jade bracelet from her own wrist and helped Hai shi in it under the gaze of Sheng Hong, which meant happiness and family reunion.
Sheng Hong cleared his throat and instructed his son and daughter-in-law something like, “You should respect and love each other and bring more kids to the family.”
Minglan recalled that when her Uncle Sheng Wei said the same to Changwu and Yun’er, Yun’er buried her head quite low out of shyness. Yet her sister-in-law Hai shikept natural and poised with only some faint blush on cheeks, even the servant girls and mama wait upon her kept quite calm and mannered. With that in mind, Minglan couldn’t help stealing a glance at Wang shi as she suddenly had a foreboding: Her sister-in-law was a tactful one!
It was the three sisters’ and two younger brothers’ turn to pay their respect after the newlyweds’ greeting to their parents. Hai shi prepared in advance five heavy pouches made with K’o-ssy technique, two cucurbit-shaped in cyan and blue, three lotus-shaped in pale rose, pink, and pale purple. In the order of age, Minglan was the last but one to salute so she barely had any chance to choose.
In just a few days Minglan’s foreboding became true.
Hai shi apparently received quite amazing training before marriage as she served Wang shi with great respect, who not only greeted in the morning and helped Wang shi to bed by evening, but also waited upon by Wang shi’s side from the first thing in the morning to the time Sheng Hong and Changbai got back from duty, standing by Wang shi’s side to help her for dishes during meal time, testing the temperature of the tea before Wang shi had it, preparing the water and wringing the towel when Wang shi washed...And she did all these smilingly with not the slightest tiredness to be detected as if severing Wang shi was something quite delighting.
Molan tried to picked her fault yet failed to find any excuse, Rulan intended to put an air of a sister of the husband but was coaxed back in just a few sentences while Minglan exclaimed with much shock and fright, “Being a daughter-in-law is such a tough task? Is Big Sister also like this in her husband’s?”
Molan and Rulan was immediately reminded of their possible future of being daughter-in-law and couldn’t help signing with fear.
Even Wang shi who wanted to put on airs didn’t got the chance to pick any fault. Sometimes she would deliberately find fault with Hai shi who would take it all with gratitude, her expression so sincere, her attitude so obedient that it was either because she truly felt so or, she was an Oscar winner.
“My silly child, no one likes to suffer. She is a tactful one to accomplish it as this.” Old Madam Sheng said with a delight tone while holding her granddaughter on the brick bed.
Soon Wang shi learned what Hai shi got. After enjoying a few days of Hai shi’s great service, she was satirized, though not directly, by Sheng Hong, which basically meant: Remember how you treated my mother? Now you enjoyed your daughter-in-law’s serving with such ease.
Even some elderly maids in the mansion mocked Wang shi while praising their new mistress, which gradually went into Wang shi’s ears.
In fact, Wang shi herself was quite ashamed. She herself grew up with her uncle’s family until less than two years before she got married. Her uncle treated her as his own as he himself did not have a daughter; her mother, feeling guilty for the presence of her growing up, never disciplined her strictly; by the time she married to Sheng family, Old Madam Sheng never put an air of mother-in-law to educate her, so she lived all her years quite at her will.
Now with a paragon of daughter-in-law by the side, Wang shi felt quite bothered and unsettled. Finally, at Chinese New Year’s Eve when the whole family gathered for the dinner, seeing Hai shi busy like a rolling wheel, Old Madam Sheng smiled at Wang shi and said casually, “You’re much more blessed than me for having such a considerate daughter-in-law.”
The implication of the sentence made Wang shi break out in cold sweat.
When the New Year was over, Wang shi implied at Hai shi to not wait upon, while Hai shi first pretended not getting it. Wang shi tolerated it for another several days then told Hai shi directly to stop it, while Hai shi refused resolutely claiming that it was against the etiquette and she dared not to be unfilial. Wang shi almost vomited blood. With Concubine Lin adding fuel to the fire, Sheng Hong nearly started all the conversations with the comparison between Wang shi and Hai shi, feeling happier every time he did it.
Finally, Wang shi determinedly ordered Hai shi to serve Old Madam Sheng in Hall of Peaceful Ages. Not until Hai shi spared half of her efforts to wait upon Old Madam Sheng did Wang shi finally feel relieved.
Old Madam Sheng was quite generous in treating granddaughter-in-law, asking Hai shi to rest or escort Minglan in chess playing or reading. Sometimes they even dragged Fang Mama together for playing cards. After winning quite a few silvers from Hai shi, Minglan’s fondness over her sister-in-law grew, and she felt her sister-in-law was quite amicable and generous. Hai shi, though of scholar family, was not a bit old school, and was quite genial and kind in treating her sisters- and brothers-in-law.
Changdong even told Minglan in secrecy that after Hai shi took over some of the management of the domestic affairs, Concubine Xiang and his days were much easier than before with timely monthly allowances and better clothes and dishes.
“Sister-in-law, are you tired of serving Madam when you first came here? Are all new daughters-in-law like this?” Minglan ventured to ask while pretending to be a little girl.
“Your Big Brother taught me so,” Hai shi whispered. After getting alone with Minglan for nearly two months, she knew Minglan was an adorable girl who would not carry tales among others; plus that Minglan was not Wang shi’s daughter, so Hai shi was more casual while talking with Minglan, getting alone quite well with her sister-in-law.
“Your brother said that I’ll get over it all in less than half a month,” Hai shi said blinking her eyes wittily.