Published at 18th of August 2019 12:00:52 PM

Chapter 131

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Rulan's Marriage (2)

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Hualan’s eyes brightened with admiration for her grandmother. She turned to Old Madam Sheng and smiled, “Grandma, you make a very close guess. If they had got on very well, General Gu wouldn’t have been away from the capital for many years without returning home to see his family. After he received the General Mansion from His Majesty, he has only returned to Marquis Ningyuan Household once. Every mother will talk her husband out of hitting her son. Fifth Young Master of Duke Han Household is indeed a bully. He has done all kinds of bad things, including playing with prostitutes and gambling. What he has done is much more serious than what General Gu did that year. However, with the protection of Duchess Han, he is till safe and sound. Now I know why General Gu was punished severely by Old Marquis Ningyuan at that time. Madam Gu is not his biological mother. Surely, she would have purposely exaggerated his mistakes and given Old Marquis Ningyuan pernicious advice in bed. So in the end, Old Marquis punished General Gu brutally.”

Wang shi was thickheaded and her main concern was to figure out whether Gu Tingye had a mistress outside. So she asked directly, “So… Are all those rumors false? Does he have a mistress living outside? Did that woman bear him a son and a daughter?”

Hualan's face stiffened with embarrassment and she replied in an embarrassed tone, “He does have a mistress outside. She gave birth to a son and a daughter. He has told Wenshao everything. But…” Seeing that Wang shi seemed angry, Hualan promptly added, “General Gu says that he has sent that woman to the estate. He doesn't intend to see her anymore because she always harbored evil intentions. As for his illegal son, I think that boy is unlikely to be written in the pedigree of a clan.”

Wang shi felt a bit relieved.

However, Old Madam Sheng still wrinkled her brows and said slowly, “After all, the boy is General Gu's eldest illegal son. He will become a hang-up to Rulan.” She turned to Wang shi and advised, “You should think carefully before you make a decision. Marquis Ningyuan Household has a high social status. Moreover, General Gu has stayed in the good graces of His Majesty. He now has powerful influence and a position of eminence. Rulan is your own daughter. You should put yourself in her shoes. For a woman, her husband's attitude toward her will decide if she can live a good life. If Rulan doesn't live well after marrying into Marquis Ningyuan Household, outsiders will regard us as cruel persons who covet wealth and rank and disregard Rulan's feelings. So, when you choose your son-in-law, you should place a high premium on what he is like as a person.”

Minglan lowered her head and kept quiet. She had heard a phrase in her previous life, “Loyalty will give way to temptation.” Old Madam Sheng seemed a staunch supporter of this phrase. Although she didn’t think He Hongwen was the best man in the world, in her view, a doctor who devoted himself to medicinal materials and medical books, was much more reliable than a high official who frequently attended banquets.

Wang shi was caught in a dilemma. She twisted her handkerchief and became hesitant.

Realizing that Old Madam Sheng seemed unwilling to marry Rulan to Gu Tingye, and Wang shi was affected by Old Madam Sheng, Hualan was anxious. She put on a smile and complained, “Oh, dear! You should trust my husband. He won't put my sister in harm's way. When my mother-in-law heard the news, she beat her breast and regretted having promised to marry her daughter to her nephew. But we all know that Wenying has been engaged. So my mother-in-law asked Wenshao to introduce Cousin Xiumei to General Gu. My father-in-law heard that and gave her a good dressing-down. Humph! How dared she put forward this proposal? Cousin Xiumei’s father, Uncle Zhang has passed away. Even if he were still alive, he could be just a toothless fifth-ranked official. Wenshao pondered for a long time and said that he thought General Gu was a good match for Rulan. Although General Gu made some crazy mistakes in the past, he has become good. Generally, he is a person of good character. Mother, he has showed his good faith and sincerely hopes to marry Rulan. If he had no mistress and illegal children, we wouldn't have this chance. Those influential noble families have no intention of marrying their daughter to General Gu because he has a bad reputation. Those who enthusiastically go to Marquis Ningyuan Household and propose a marriage are all social climbers. General Gu doesn’t want Madam Gu to arrange his marriage. So he asks your son-in-law to introduce a good lady to him.”

Hualan, who was articulate, spoke in a sing-song voice and every word she said was perfectly logical and reasonable. When she was frothing at the mouth with excitement, she caught the puzzled look on Minglan's face, so she asked thoughtlessly, “What's the matter?”

Minglan cast a glance at Old Madam Sheng and said under her breath, “I'm told that the widowers have difficulty in remarrying. But why is General Gu so popular? Being two children's stepmother is not an easy job. What’s more, the second wife has to kowtow to the memorial tablet of the first wife just like what concubines have to do to the legal wife.” For example, Jia Zhen’s second wife, Madam You, and Jia She’s second wife Madam Xing didn't live well and the servants who were high-ranking or experienced, showed no respect for them.

Wang shi had almost been persuaded by Hualan but now she hesitated again because of Minglan's remarks. Hualan rolled her eyes at Minglan with anger and said, “You are still young and ignorant. There are widowers of different levels. Those widowers who are in their seventies or eighties and have legal sons, are naturally unable to marry a good wife. But General Gu is young and valiant, and he has no legal son. As long as Sister Rulan marries him and bears him a son, she will be the only hostess of General Mansion. No one dares to look down upon her.” With that she reached out and poked Minglan's forehead with her slender finger. Minglan drew back her neck and shut her mouth. Anyway, she had tried to stop this marriage and she could go to see Rulan with a clear conscience.

Hualan kept persuading Wang shi who gradually had a disposition to marry Rulan to Gu Tingye. She said that she needed a further discussion with Sheng Hong. They chatted for a while and then Hualan excused herself. Wang shi stood up and intended to see her daughter off. The mother and the daughter walked away shoulder to shoulder, talking with each other, leaving Minglan alone at the door of Hall of Peaceful Ages. Minglan watched their figures disappear in the distance and then turned back to Old Madam Sheng's bedroom.

Old Madam Sheng had been tired from chatting with them for a long time. She leaned against the pillow at the head of the bed and took a rest with her eyes closed. Minglan crept up to Old Madam Sheng and covered her up with a light, soft blanket. But Minglan was taken aback when Old Madam Sheng suddenly opened her eyes.

“You… Rulan is your older sister. You'd better persuade her not to go against her mother's wishes,” Old Madam Sheng said slowly.

A bit surprised, Minglan tilted her head, sat down beside her grandmother and asked, “Has Madam made up her mind to marry Sister Rulan to General Gu? But I hear that she plans to choose her future son-in-law among the young scholars after the examination scores of the Spring Imperial Examination are announced.”

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Old Madam Sheng pressed the hand-warmer into Minglan's hands, held her small hands and replied with a mocking smile, “She always wants to marry her daughter into an influential, aristocratic family. If Molan hadn't married into Marquis Yongchang Household, your legal mother wouldn't have had such a strong desire. You know, Gu Tingye is much more noble and promising than Liang Han. She surely won't refuse this marriage.”

Minglan thought for a moment and understood what Old Madam Sheng meant. ‘Wang shi has competed with Concubine Lin for so many years. But a few months ago, as the result of Wang shi’s inattention, Concubine Lin's daughter, Molan, succeeded in marrying into Marquis Yongchang Household which is more noble than Earl Zhongqin Household, the household of her own eldest daughter, Hualan's husband. Wang shi is certainly not reconciled to her defeat. So the marriage proposed by Gu Tingye is just what she wants. She must be very pleased now. Poor Brother Jing, you have bad luck. I'm afraid that you will be disappointed again,’ she thought to herself.

“… What would Father think of this marriage?” Minglan stared at the ceiling, lost in thought.

Old Madam Sheng sneered with deep resignation on her face, “He will readily agree to this marriage. Men have different considerations from women. Moreover, your father…” Considering that it was inappropriate to talk about a father's shortcomings in front of his daughter, Old Madam Sheng shut her mouth.

But Minglan knew what her grandmother wanted to say. From the point of view of Sheng Hong, what Gu Tingye had done was nothing serious. Every man would act on impulse in his salad days. Although Gu Tingye was not successful in cultivating his own moral character and governing his own family, he had made great contributions to national peace and now he took part in the management of national affairs.

Compared with the interests of the whole Sheng family, Rulan's personal will was nothing. What was more, she had no compelling reason to refuse this marriage. In the eyes of most men, Gu Tingye's follies had become the past and it was normal for a widower to have an illegal son. As for the fact that he had a mistress outside, it was regarded as of insignificance because almost every official's wife had to bear the disloyalty of her husband. Old Madam Sheng wanted to find a faithful husband for Minglan, which was absurd in the eyes of most people in ancient time.

Old Madam Sheng was so tired that she couldn't keep her eyes open. She lay down on her side, about to sleep. Minglan smoothed the crumpled pillow and tucked her grandmother in so that she could sleep comfortably. “…Rulan is their daughter and they should be responsible for her marriage… An inexperienced couple... Gu Tingye is a libertine and has just risen to power and position for a few months. But they treat him as a treasure.... Anyway, I despise him...” Old Madam Sheng mumbled before she fell asleep.

Minglan stood at the bedside for a while and felt that she should defend Gu Tingye who had saved her before.

‘In my view, Gu Tingye is not a bad man. At least, he once did boldly what was righteous and saved me in time. He is good at archery and fighting. When he has a beard, he looks majestic…

However, to be honest, I don't want to marry him either, because it is quite a challenging job to be wives of high officials and men of power. Most of them keep lots of beautiful women as their concubines in their mansions. For example, Qi Heng’s grandfather, Marquis Xiangyang, who is old with his face covered with wrinkles, however, still keeps many concubines and beautiful maids in his mansion. And sometimes there are rumors that he took new concubines.

Alas! The desire to advance of parents always brings pressure to bear on their children both in ancient times and in modern times,’ Minglan thought to herself.

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