Published at 13th of November 2016 07:06:18 PM

Chapter 1.2

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Mama Fang dare not acknowledge this greeting, moving sideway and bowing repeatedly. “Then this old woman would just blather1. That mother of Concubine Lin and Old Madame formerly get to know each other in the boudoir2. Thinking back it was merely a couple of fated meetings, not even comparable to the other close sisters from the boudoir.”


“Furthermore, there was completely no relationships after each got married. I have waited upon the Old Madame since young therefore regarding this matter I am the clearest. Later, her husband’s family began to reap for their inappropriate behaviour. Although the possessions were not confiscated or the family beheaded, the family status declined. That year, Old Madame Lin’s family head died of illness, she also did not have any sons. At that time, she lost her support, brought her daughter to pass these desolate days. Before facing death, she seeked for Old Madame, only pleading for Old Madame to regard the past friendship at the boudoir, in any case to take care of her daughter just a little. Those relatives of hers are ruthless, harming the girl to the end. Old Madame is a vegetarian and prays to Buddha, her heart cannot be any more benevolent so she agreed and receive Concubine Lin into the household. Those few years, our Old Madame treated her not lesser than her real daughter, regarding food, clothes, expenses3, giving her the finest in everything. Even discussing everyday to purchase a dowry4 for her, seeking for a good in-laws5.

Listening up to here, Sheng Hong turned red, appearing to be ashamed. Mama Fang sighed and continued “Who would ever thought that Concubine Lin is a person actually who has big plans, looking for a few families yet she is unwilling and still privately had a head and tail6 with Master. This old woman’s speech has no rules, Master, do not take offence. This whole matter, our Old Madame was completely kept in the dark until Madame cried angrily before Old Madame. Only then, Old Madame realise that the girl she raised so has no rules.”

Sheng Hong is ashamed to no end, flushed with anger, unable to speak.

Mama Fang tenderly said “Originally Old Madame and Madame was not like today, expecting after Madame married over, with time, both mother-in-law and daughter-in-law would be warmed up to each other, polite and courteous. With that thing happening, reversely it became that our Old Madame intentionally wanted to smear the face of Madame. Raising Young Lady7 Lin was for the Master to take in a concubine8. Afterwards, you married Concubine Lin and she bore and raised children, her days are more honourable than the legitimate madame. Inevitably, Madame put her resentment on the Old Madame, not having any relations with the Old Madame. The cold has penetrated into the heart of the Old Madame.”

Sheng Hong, with a thump sound, kneeled before Old Madame Sheng and shed tears saying “This son deserves to die ten thousand times. Causing much unhappiness for mother, allowing mother to feel stifled in the heart yet nowhere to express. This son is unfilial, this son is unfilial.”

After speaking, Sheng Hong kowtow again and again. Old Madame Sheng blinked and blinked, raising her hands towards Mama Fang, Mama Fang immediately helped Sheng Hong up. Sheng Hong is unwilling to get up, blaming himself endlessly. Old Madame Sheng said “You get up first, you this big man is originally not very clear of these inner room9 matters. Get up okay, there is no overnight hatred between mother and child.”

Sheng Hong would then get up, forehead is already swollen. Old Madame Sheng sighed “I too know that in your childhood, you and Concubine Chun are dependent on each other for life. It is not easy passing the days. At that time, I cannot even manage my own son, also did not know that the corrupt behaviour of the slaves taking advantage of you and concealing matters. I have allowed you to suffer. This present time, that madame of yours is not one that is tolerant, therefore you are afraid that Concubine Lin and Little Boy Feng10 would suffer wrong, getting bullied by the servants, suffer boredom. You gave them houses and land to depend on, how can I not know your earnest thoughts. That is why I closed my eyes, shut my mouth, playing the deaf-mute these years, just acting as a living dead person.”

Sheng Hong sobbed “How is anything relevant with the Old Madame, it is all because this son has no virtue, mother’s heart is so bright, every sentence reaches to the bottom of this son’s heart. This son is just afraid Madame……that is why I over favour a little, ruining the rules. This son deserves ten thousand deaths.”

“Do not readily say ten thousand deaths, ten thousand deaths. Once you are dead, who do us orphans and widows depend on.” Old Madame Sheng hinted for Mama Fang to bring a chair over to Sheng Hong, support the teary him to sit.

Old Madame Sheng continued after waiting for Mama Fang to hand a warm towel over and served tea “Leaving aside, heaven’s law and human emotions, you also do not think and think, you have just reached your established years11. Your career as an official do not have to say it is going on smoothly and with no twists and turns. At that time, those whom you graduated12 with, how many are as smooth-sailing as yours. Many are still pointlessly enduring, envious of you, waiting to pick at your faults, has not this happened. Concubine Wei is not a servant bought by me, she is born of a proper and good household at Jiangnan, generations of farmer scholars13. She can be the primary wife of someone else, if not for the family meeting with difficulties, even being poorer, she is not willing to be a concubine. It is merely five years since she married over and died tragically. If a resolute person wants to use this matter to attack, urging her maiden family to cause trouble, accusing14 you this official house of abusing lives. Do you think you can be easily promoted?”

Sheng Hong’s heart was frightened, beaded with sweat “Fortunately, Old Madame understands, promptly settling the Wei household. Then this son is able to no worries over anything.”

“That Wei household is kind and honest, knowing of Concubine Wei’s death yet did not make noise. Only wanted the corpse of Concubine Wei back to bury by themselves, I did not agree. Even the more money I gave, the Wei household did not accept at all. Only saying that they are ashamed to take the money that cost their daughter’s life, pleading me to give much care to Ming girl15 then they cannot be more thankful. That family so distressed, I felt sad looking at them.”

Old Madame Sheng took out her handkerchief to wipe the inner corners of her eyes. Mama Fang personally brought a teapot from outside to replenish the tea, adding water the two extravagant patterned embellished chinaware. Carefully covering the teacups and sighed “Concubine Wei is a kind and honest person. The young lady that she gave birth to is also pitiful, since she lost her concubine mother16, she had fever continuously for two days, to the point of being in a daze. Ever since she woke up, she has always been acting foolish, not even speaking a single word. That day I was ordered by Old Madame to visit her, only saw that the servants are noisy, laughing and playing, not a single person to wait upon her in the room. When I entered, I saw the young lady unexpectedly get down from the bed and poured water to drink by herself! Merely a child of four or five, a little thing who is still unable to reach the table. Climbing up onto a stool, tiptoeing while holding the teacup to drink. It was really a pitiful sight!” Mama Fang also wiped her tears.

Sheng Hong recalled those days where Concubine Wei’s goodness and gentleness, deeply sorrowed in the heart and ashamedly said “I originally wanted to send her to Madame’s place but the past few days Girl Ru is also sick. Madame’s place is also a lump of mess17, I reckon to send her again after a few days when Madame is not busy.”

Old Madame Sheng breathed evenly, slowly said “What not busy, must Ming girl be carried or piggy-backed by her. The servants in the house, how many you desire, how many there is, there is someone to do it when you give instructions. It only cost a few thoughts, using all sort of excuses to not raise Ming girl, afraid that she is pretentious only.

Sheng Hong was reserved and stood up, not daring to make a noise. Old Madame Sheng looked at him, her voice carried a little tone of coldness “You dare not say her, also unable persuade her. If nothing else, you have not set yourself before her, getting rebuked by her with every sentence only. At that time, you have first ruined the rules, spoiling a concubine to be impudent. To go as far as, conducting herself extravagantly like any other primary madame. What Madame have said, I have guessed — what? When there is no problems, the concubines would raise the children by herself, once the biological mother dies, suddenly this decorative18 legitimate mother is remembered? This is no wonder the Madame got angry. Things in the past, I would not bother at all. Only asking you these two, answer them honestly.”

Sheng Hong hurried said “Mother please speak, not only if it is two, even if there is a thousand or ten thousand, there will be answers.”

“Number one, this corpse of Concubine Wei and the two lives, are you planning to let this whole matter go? Or demanding to make up for that life?” Old Madame Sheng watched Sheng Hong attentively.

“There is a need for careful planning, there is a sinister one within the family, how it be let go easily. She can harm Concubine Wei and my full-termed flesh and blood today, she would be able to put her hand on someone else tomorrow. How can we tolerate this kind of person in my Sheng clan!” Sheng Hong answered with his teeth clenched.

Old Madame Sheng’s complexion lighten up slightly, slowly continuing to question “Good, number two, this kind of impudence situation in the family, not differentiating between legitimate and concubine, what do you plan on doing?”

Sheng Hong took a deep breath “Mother is brilliant, When I returned, I saw the bloody corpse of Concubine Wei and that living child within her belly, suffocated to death. My heart felt very remorseful. The slaves dare to be so insolent, no strict rules to restrain them. If the upper beam is not straight, the lower beam will be crooked. The root of everything is at the top, I have made a firm decision to tidy up the family principles.”

“Good, good. It is well with these words from you.” Old Madame Sheng’s heart is slightly opened, knowing the character of Sheng Hong thus no longer speaking, only nodding her head repeatedly. “If you want to be an official for long, our Sheng family must have continuing offsprings. Must strictly govern the house, must know that disaster and misery starts from inside. Many large and influential families starts to rot from the inside, we must learn from them.”

“What mother said is right. Recently I have been concerned over the evaluation and now that big rock in the heart has dropped, I will clear out time to rectify. Sorting out those servants, starting with those who waited on Concubine Wei’s labour day.” Sheng Hong’s tone was serene, his heart considerably furious.

“Cannot, you cannot check now.” Old Madame Sheng unexpectedly flatly overruled. Sheng Hong was puzzled. “Old Madame, why is this so? Do not tell me we should indulge these servants.”

Old Madame Sheng looked deeply at Sheng Hong “You have been appointed a government official in Quan Prefecture for many years. All influential families knows each other backgrounds thoroughly, the families’ females have always kept in contact. A group of servants, many are bought locally. Any sign of trouble in the house, how do others remain unaware. Although you are friendly with most of your colleagues yet it is hard to say for sure who secretly hates19 you. First step, your concubine just died, next step is to tidy up your servants without restrain. Is this not revealing what you intent to hide, clearly telling others that there is no peace in the house?”

Sheng Hong was alerted, praising yes “Luckily mother reminded, this son almost made a mistake. If I sort out the home in Quan Prefecture, when the time comes to sell the people, perhaps all of Quan Prefecture would know. Waiting till we reached Shandong, at that time we are at a distant place, how we deal with those wicked servants, which outsider would know the inside story.”

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“Exactly. Therefore, this moment you cannot disclose, still have to stablise this big family. A tranquil environment until you take up the post at Deng Prefecture. When the imperial decree is passed, you take the official seal, the whole family settled down in Shandong, it is not too late to slowly act up.”

“Old Madame is wise, this son has not spoken intimately with mother for many years. Speaking this today, my heart has become quite clear. Regarding managing the household, still have to rely on the Old Madame in the future. Must really let Madame come to seek guidance from Old Madame more often.” Sheng Hong honestly said.

“No, I am already one that is half way to buried. If not for the big fuss, I would not been bothered. In the future, the same as before at my side, it is suffice let your wife pay her respects thrice a month. You guys manage your affairs, run your own house, I will just quietly pray and abstain from meat.”

Old Madame Sheng appeared to be somewhat tired, resting on the back of the soft couch, slightly closed her eyes and her voice gradually becoming weaker. A copper Qilin20 incense burner exhibited on the small sandalwood table at the corner of the room, quietly diffusing clouds-like smoke.

1. 饶舌 (Rao She): Shooting one’s mouth off but it has a more positive tone and more polite seeing that Mama Fang is the servant and Sheng Hong the master 
2. 闺 (Gui): A private sitting room for ladies
3. 用 (Yong): Use, translated as expenses due it meaning more of items being used
4. 嫁妆 (Jia Zhuang): Dowry can be anything from land to clothings and jewelries to cold hard cash and the bigger the dowry the better
5. 婆家 (Po Jia): Husband’s family
6. 首尾 (Shou Wei): Beginning to end, insinuating that Concubine Lin hooked up with the Master
7. 姑娘 (Gu Niang): Usually how to refer to a young unmarried lady

8. 小老婆 (Xiao Lao Po): Literally small wife, may not necessarily always mean concubine but in this context it does
9. 内帏 (Nei Wei): Literally means internal woman’s apartment
10. 枫哥儿 (Feng Ge Er): 枫 would be given name while 哥儿 means boy, it is mostly how rich families elders would address the children, the female counterpart would be 姐儿 (Jie Er)
11. 而立之年 (Er Li Zhi Nian): Aged thirty, Related to Confucius idiom whereby you are therefore independent at thirty
12. 进士 (Jin Shi): One who has passed the imperial civil service examination
13. 耕读 (Geng Du): Both working the fields and taking on academic studying
14. 参 (Can): It has the idea of criticising an official before the emperor
15. 丫头 (Ya Tou): girl; servant girl, can be used both as an term of endearment or deprecatingly
16. 姨娘 (Yi Niang): Slightly different meaning as in this context, the emphasis is on the concubine being a mother
17. 忙忙乱 (Mang Luan): Rushing and Muddled
18. 挂名 (Gua Ming): Literally hanging name, the title of legitimate mother is just for show/on the surface
19. 嫉恨 (Ji Hen): Hatred with jealousy
20. 麒麟 (Qi Lin): A mythical Chinese creature, representing prosperity and serenity; similar to the western unicorn with differences in features

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