Published at 23rd of November 2019 10:26:11 AM

Chapter 176

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The compartments in the hall by the Inner Rite Door became quite busy right now. The people there had been divided into three groups. In the first group, Cuixiu was in charge of asking the teenage girls while Bisi took the notes. The rest of the servants were questioned by Danju and Ruomei in the second group as well as Qinsang and Lvzhi in the third group. The duration of the question varied from each person. The younger ones who didn’t have too many experiences finished the process very quickly. While the older servants all got lots of stories to tell.

Danju, as considerate as she was, had taken out a few screens from the inside as temporary barriers. In this way, the servants who were questioned didn’t need to worry that their personal details would be eavesdropped. For example, Hao Dacheng’s wife who did the needlework was actually in her second marriage now. Her ex-husband had been beaten to death when his master’s property had been confiscated. As for Hao Dacheng who was in charge in the outer yard, he had been a wifeless servant of a guilty official. Then, the widower and widow had got married and also had a few kids.

The Morning Sunlight Hall was so spacious that Minglan always felt it like the exhibition hall of the museum. Therefore, she moved to the side hall next to the Morning Sunlight Hall and started to hear Sir Gongsun reporting the family accounts. Gongsun Baishi showed a super leisure look while stroking his bear in an even more elegantly way than Sheng Hong. There were a few stewards and accountants standing there. Minglan pointed at some places on the account book and asked them a few questions. As a result, they answered the questions fluently in a very reverent attitude.

“Thanks for your hard working.” Minglan turned around to thank Gongsun Baishi, “It’s so hard for such a superior man like you to handle those trivialities!”

Gongsun Baishi watched Minglan pointing at the account book while putting on a wry smile, “I’m a man who likes to be unrestrained. Those are not the things I am good at. Ever since Commander has established his own mansion, I really have had a tough time.”

Minglan ordered Xiaotao to serve the tea while saying smilingly, “Why did you say that, sir? If commander deals with those things by himself, he will feel the same. Sometimes people break a fly with wheel. However, we all know that it is not an efficient way.”

With the corner of his mouth curved to a smile, Gongsun Baishi agreed, “That’s absolutely right!”

As they were talking with each other, he found Minglan having a refined style of conversation and an active mind. Although he enjoyed their conversation, he knew it was not appropriate for them to talk too long since he was a man and hadn’t signed a contract to be the servant of Gu’s mansion. Thus after a short while, he stood up to bid his farewell. When he left, he asked a boy servant to lead Minglan to the inner study.

“My name is Gu Quan. Madam, you can call me Little Quanzi.” Gu Quan was around thirteen or fourteen with a round face and two narrow eyes. The smile on his face made him look quite smart. As he walked ahead of Minglan by the side to lead the way, he grinned and said, “... Master is my great benefactor. At that time I was just a beggar on the street. If it were not for Master, I would have died miserably on the street.”

Minglan wanted to say, “Well, you might also become the leader of beggar gangs.”

After they had walked along an east-west lane outside of the Morning Sunlight Hall and crossed a floral-pendant door which had the flowers and woods as decorations, Minglan finally arrived at the front of the Inner Study. The wall in the study which had used to separate the two large rooms had already been got through. On the left and the right of the study were two side rooms while on the front and the back were two small warm rooms and Baoshas for people to rest. Minglan nodded inwardly while thinking that she could sleep here if she had a row with Gu Tingye in the future.

As she stepped into the study, she found the writing desk, the drawing desk, the music instrument table, the fruit table, the tea table were available in all varieties. The six windows which faced the south were clean and bright. Clearly someone had already done some cleaning there. There were two huge beech boxes with iron surface and wrap corners on the ground. The bookshelves on four sides of the wall were still empty. After Minglan had taken a stroll in the whole place, she gave out a wry smile. Then she asked Gu Quan to open the boxes and take out the piles books inside. After that, she started to sort out those books simply according to what she had seen in Changbai’s study. Under Minglan’s command, Xiaotao and Gu Quan carried those books into the bookshelves in proper order with sweats stripping from their faces. In the meantime, Minglan also touched the brand new book covers with her fingers, The Analects of Confucius, The Great Learning, The Doctrine of the Mean, The Book of Mencius, Huan Nan Tzu... This study really was fully equipped with all kinds of books. Minglan even found a few pieces of unique copies. However, according to the thickness of the dust on those books, she was pretty sure that the books had only been used for--decoration. Since that was the case, Minglan thought there was no need for her to classify the bookshelves. However, it still looked ugly since there were still some empty cells of the bookshelves. As a result, Minglan decided to buy some unofficial history books or some novels to fill in the blank.

After she finished tidying the bookshelves, Minglan started to deal with the desk. As Minglan arranged the purple stone ink sticks from Hu Prefecture, the Cloud and Mist ink ingot from the southern Su Prefecture, the ink-painting white jade writing-brush washer from Qiong Lin, a rack of purple rhiho furs brushes from small to large, the three stacks of snow-white delicate Yanzi paper, she sighed secretly, ‘Lovely flowers, why were you stuck in a dunghill.’

After Minglan cleaned up the study, she went back to her room. As she pounded on her waist and legs while preparing to have a rest, another valet of Gu Tingye who called Gu Shun rushed back to the mansion on a horse. He came report to Minglan that Gu Tingye wouldn’t have lunch in the mansion today and Minglan had to eat by herself. As a matter of fact, Minglan didn’t mind about that at all. Except for giving birth to babies, women could do lots of things on their own. It was not like her appetite would be influenced when she ate the lunch alone.

However, as a virtuous wife, Minglan still needed to ask something as a polite gesture, “Then where will Master eat the lunch?”

Gu Shun used his sleeves to wipe the sweats on his face while wheezing, “I heard it was quite a scene on the Imperial Court today. Only until eleven o’clock did the officials stop arguing with each other and leave. After the meeting was dismissed, His Majesty called Master and other generals to discuss something in the palace. It is said that they would have the meal there too.”

Minglan replied a yes slightly with no expression on her face. However, she felt pity for Gu Shun who had been so tired rushing back. So she asked Xiaotao to hand a cold wet handkerchief to him as to wipe his sweats. Xiaotao did as Minglan had told instantly and also poured a cup of tea for Gu Shun.

Gu Shun drank off the tea immediately and adjusted his breath. Having given his thanks, he saw Minglan’s gloomy face. Then he added, “Madam, don’t worry. This kind of things happens all the time. Sometimes His Majesty summons Master, sometimes other generals would call Master over.”

Actually Minglan was just a bit tired instead of being worried. Hearing his words, she said with a smile, “Look how tired you are. If this kind of thing happens again, you would always be this fatigue, right? I guess you still have to go back to Master afterwards.”

“Please don’t say that, Madam!” Gu Shun said that in a loud voice with excited look on his face, “I owe Master my life. Never will I be tired working for you two! As long as Master and Madam give the orders, I won’t complain a thing even if I have to break my legs!”

Minglan burst into laughter and said, “Just keep your legs! Xiaotao, serve Little Shunge’er some fruit. Also, grab some coins for him to buy some snacks.”

Xiaotao ran to the inner room right away. Then she came out with a porcelain tray of golden candied dates on the one hand and a handful of coins in the other hand.

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The smart Danju knew that she should question the staffs in the kitchen first. After she finished asking, she told those staffs to prepare for the meal right away. So the lunch was not delayed. As Minglan faced the whole table of dishes, she said in a soft voice, “Tell Ruomei and other girls to eat the meal first and have a rest. There will be enough time for them to do the questioning in the afternoon.”

After Xiaotao had folded her sleeves in three layers primly, she raised up her waist and began to serve the rice, soup and dishes for Minglan while saying, “Don’t worry, my lady, Lvzhi is clever girl. She will never starve herself.”

Caihuan who stood next to them also smiled and said, “Madam, you can rest assured. I have already sent the young maid to ask. I heard that the servants in the kitchen have already delivered the dish boxes to other sisters.”

Hearing that, Minglan laid down her chopsticks and said smilingly, “You are a smart girl.”

With a bashful look showed on Caihuan’s face, she said, “I am the new one here. Madam, I’m a silly girl who don’t understand the rules of yours, so I need to watch and learn. I just hope that you won’t dislike me, Madam.”

Minglan swallowed a piece of fish gracefully and said with a smile, “There’s no rush. Take it easy. As the saying goes, a distant journey tests the strength of a horse and a long task proves the character of a man.”

Hearing that, Caihuan laughed, looking quite reverent and obedient. Then she continued, “When I served Madam Wang, I always heard her praising that you are the most excellent girl among all the ladies, Madam. She also mentioned that you always had a clear mind and knew how to appoint people on their merit. She even praised that the maids who served you were the most disciplined ones.”

Minglan put down her chopsticks and took a sip of the soup with her spoon. Then she glimpsed at Caihuan and said slightly, “As long as you are not a complete fool and are willing to work hard, you would eventually master the skills and behave perfectly. The most important thing is the bond between us. They have served me for almost ten years, of course they are closer to me than you. But I know you are a good girl, take you time. There is still plenty of time for us to stay together. All right, you can go have your lunch now. Xiaotao can guard the door this afternoon, you can accompany me to the front yard.”

With light flashing on Caihuan’s face, she went out in a joyfull.

After she had left, Minglan put down her spoon and pondered for a while. Then she asked in a low voice, “... What do you think, of this girl?”

“She talks too much and loves to inquire about lots of things.” Xiaotao pouted, “However, she really is good at the needle work. A diligent girl, also. Always rushing to do anything.”

Minglan poked the rice with her chopsticks while saying, “It’s reasonable for her to love inquiring about things. She has to know as many things as she could since she is the new one here. I’m just afraid that... Forget about it, I can’t be in a state of nervousness all the time. Xiaotao, remember this, just don’t let her get into my room. There are lots of thing for her to do at the outside.”

Xiaotao answered with a stern look, “If she is clever enough, she won’t act on her own. As long as she can behave herself, I believe you won’t mistreat her, my lady.”

“I hope...” Minglan still didn’t have any confidence in Caihuan. Maybe that was a common problem for a legal worker.

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