Published at 29th of January 2019 03:36:22 AM

Chapter 32

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A Report on Worsening Living Conditions (1)

Knowing another senior servant girl was sent to the Hall of Peaceful Ages, Wang shi was lost in deep thought for quite a while, and then sneered, “The old madam does keep an eye on the sixth girl.”

Lin Kun’s wife exhorted immediately, “Don’t be muddled, madam! The old madam is informing you, and just as I have said, she knows well what to do. So if you can play fair, the old madam won’t treat fourth young lady shabbily either. Just look at how much she dotes on the eldest young lady, frequently sending letters to the capital to ask for information. The old madam just feels pity on the girl because Concubine Wei died young. You don’t have to feel disgruntled at old madam just because of a servant girl. The most important thing for now is that young lord Changbai can win credit for the family, and especially you, my madam.”

Pinching her handkerchief, Wang shi’s face got gloomy, and she said, “It is not bad to send some servant girls there. I can’t be kept in the dark and it’s only natural to find a way to keep myself informed about the girl. But I won’t push it too far.”

The matter hadn’t been settled, and then another two girls were sent to the House of Clear Dusk that afternoon. Having led the girls to Minglan personally, Liu Kun’s wife forced a bitter smile and explained this was what Concubine Lin had begged Sheng Hong for. Concubine Lin said it was not reasonable that the elder brother had servant girls to make himself live comfortably, while his younger sister didn’t have enough servants. So Concubine Lin picked out the best two girls from Changfeng’s house and sent them to sixth young lady.

Casting a glance at the two girls, Sheng Hong got quite touched just at that moment, since the girls were well-behaved and were tiptop whether in needlework and in their appearance. Sheng Hong highly praised Concubine Lin for her care to the whole family and praised Changfeng for his deep love toward his younger sister. It seemed that Changfeng got motivated after being praised, absorbing himself in studying for several days.

Just look at these two pretty girls whose names were Ke’er and Mei’er respectively. They were thirteen to fourteen years old. With one delicate and beautiful, and the other one cool and charming, they were so attractive and enchanting. All in the House of Clear Dusk got quiet. Touching her fat and plain face, Xiaotao, who was still green and inexperienced, stared at the two girls blankly, astonished with her mouth wide open. Danju looked at Minglan with dull eyes, Yinxing and Jiu’er stared speechlessly at each other, while Cuiwei was fairly composed, who held the two’s hands to talk with a smile. Minglan nearly couldn’t refrain herself from exclaiming, “When the priest rises one foot, the devil rises ten.” So she announced immediately that the House of Clear Dusk was small in space, she already had plenty of people to order about, and those who were concerned could be at ease.

Looking at the two pretty girls, Minglan thought of the nature of his third brother Changfeng and almost asked whether they were still virgins or not. However, she felt evil about herself to have such an intention flash through her mind.

With the two moving in, the House of Clear Dusk got quite busy and bustling.

Jiu’er got a stewardess mother who was meddlesome, so naturally she liked to poke her nose into anything that was none of her business. Though she was still a newcomer who had been here just a few days, she didn’t regard herself as a stranger. Every time she saw servant girls bickering or quarreling, she would pull them in the hair and abuse them even before Cuiwei could speak, claiming that she would let her mother drive them away, which frightened the young girls to cry. Feeling unhappy with it, Danju thought Jiu’er overstepped too much.

Minglan forced a wry smile, “It doesn’t matter whether a cat is black or white as long as it can catch mice.” Jiu’er disciplined those girls after all.

Yinxing kept a low profile, was diligent yet inquisitive and liked rummaging, always seeking to Minglan’s side with flattering words. Danju tried very hard to separate her. Cuiwei rebuked her many times, “Behave yourself! You just came here a few days, and how dare you burst into the young lady’s house and touch her things? Stop cleaning the yard, and start with the needlework! Don’t flash your eyes and pry all day long!”

Yinxing behaved obediently, but the instant she turned around, she persisted in her old way. Therefore, Xiaotao had to shadow her. Minglan comforted herself that at least these two trouble-makers performed their duties, while the other two girls were terribly awful.

On one warm day, a few servant girls were gathering things in Minglan’s room to air them outside when they heard a clear noise of crack. Mei’er had knocked over a writing-brush washer made of Celadon porcelain, which fell to the ground and was broken into pieces. Minglan couldn’t help feeling pity and said, “Be careful! If you cannot do it, just leave it to Danju and Xiaotao.” Quite unexpectedly, Mei’er actually lowered her almond-eyes and said in a stubborn voice, “It is just a writing-brush washer! I had knocked over quite a few valuable objects in the third young master’s room, and he didn’t even say a word! All the people have said you are good-tempered, and who can imagine……?”

Minglan was petrified. As a girl who had travelled from modern times, she didn’t think too much of status ranks, but even in modern times, you should at least say sorry if you had knocked over an object belonging to your roommate or your friend. With the scornful and stubborn expression, the little beauty in front of her looked like that it was Minglan who should actually apologize and comfort her.

Minglan stood there, speechless, and didn’t know what to say. Feeling outraged, Xiaotao rested her hands on the waist and rated, “Such a haughty manner! Our young lady hasn’t scolded you, but you do it first! After knocking over the washer, how dare you behave in such an inurbane manner?! The writing-brush washer belongs to the same set with the other objects over there, which were birthday gifts given to our young lady by Master Wei two years ago! Now you break it, the four stationery treasures get incomplete! You think your third young master is kind, then why did you come to the House of Clear Dusk? You can go back immediately if you feel aggrieved! Our place is too small to have such a pampered maid!”

Mei’er ran out with tears immediately. It was said that she cried in her own room for 4 hours, and she calmed down only after Cuiwei went to comfort her.

It was not that bad yet. Though arrogant and bad-tempered, Mei’er still did her duty as a servant girl. But Ke’er behaved as if she was a literary young lady, pining and whining over poems all day long in her room. She left the work arranged to her aside and just sat there sentimentally. Even if she reluctantly took up the needlework, she would put it down soon. Seeing a leaf falling, she would cry for half a day; hearing a geese honking, she would write a few lines of sad poems like “chirps the cuckoo with bloody tears”. Every time you saw her, she was either ready to shed a tear or she had been tear-stained. Cuiwei once reminded her not to cry all day to bring bad-luck for the master, and Ke’er just cried in the yard with the cold wind head-on for a whole night and fell ill.

Qinsang was gentle, and Yancao was straightforward. They had tried all means to make Ke’er smile, who was so self-willed and sentimental that she must be comforted and coaxed into eating or taking medicine! Couldn’t bear it any more, Lvzhi intended to rebuke Ke’er but was stopped by Danju. On subsequent inquiry, Ke’er turned out to be the daughter of a convicted official.

“So what? Even if she was a phoenix before, she is now a servant girl after all, so she has to do her duty. Did our Mansion buy her to be a Miss? Now, you see, we all have to attend to her!” After watching the medicine stove for Ke’er a whole day, Lv Zhi complained.

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“She was a Miss who had servants to attend her before, so it is unavoidable for her to feel aggrieved after being a servant girl herself.” Taking the medicine jar, Danju carefully filtered the herb residues and felt pity for Ke’er.

Bisi sneered in a gentle voice, “She came here at the same time with us. It has been a couple of years, but she still behaves like a Miss, putting on air because she can write and draw! Hum! Who, in this house, cannot read some words?” Being pretty and literate, Bisi was even better than the other three young ladies considering the general quality.

Sadly, she lacked a bit of luck.

Though it was always tit-for-tat between Molan and Rulan, they did surprisingly share a same taste towards the selection of servant girls. Those got a prettier face or a better talent were not their choices. Bisi was out obviously. Though Changfeng enjoyed the companion of beautiful servant girls, he had in hand a limited quota. He had selected the better ones and Bisi was left behind again, becoming Minglan's servant in the end.

Yancao kept drinking water to the teapot mouth. She was totally exhausted in persuading Ke'er and had no other alternative but to ask Qin Sang to replace her for a break. It was not until she had almost half a teapot water before she could talk, "Our young lady is acting so nice that these servants are getting bold. If Fang Mama were here, she would have them flogged!" On hearing the words, several servant girls nearby couldn't help recalling the strict management of Fang Mama and were saddened by the current situation.

"She has been spoiled by the third childe but is sent here to torture our young lady!" Lv Zhi concluded.

Danju was then selected as a representative to report to Minglan about their opinions. At the end of her speech, Danju couldn't help persuading, "My lady, it's not appropriate to let it be like this. These lower rank servants are finally disciplined by Fang Mama. However, they would return to their old habits if left uncontrolled."

Minglan was in a pickle and said, "They are sent by Madam and my third brother. It's inappropriate for me to educate them. I know you are tired of Ke'er. However, she lost her parents and it's natural for her to feel aggrieved!"

"Feel aggrieved?!" Cuiwei was startled and looked at Minglan, "What are you talking about, my lady? I heard from my dad that her dad was just a county magistrate somewhere near Deng Prefecture but was as greedy as a wolf. It was his insatiable appetites that put him dismissed in prison. All his property was confiscated and his families were sold as goods." Cuiwei's father was a steward in charge of external chores. All new servant girls and menservants were selected and bought by him.

"Maybe her father is treated unjustly!" Minglan argued, thinking of the families of those loyal officials in TV dramas who suffered from wrongful treatment.

Cuiwei couldn't help but laugh, "Ah, my lady, officials get dismissed due to wrong doings all the time. However, less than one in ten of their families are punished. And those forced into Jiaofang (imperial musical office) are less than one in one hundred. How come there should be so many unjust treatments? Many people know about what Meier's father had done. Her father is a corrupt official and spendthrift indeed. All his confiscated property was not enough to meet the shortfall. Thus, his families are implicated in."

Minglan couldn't help retorting, "It's the man's fault. His wife and daughter are innocent."

Xiaotao heard the words as she was entering the room. Recently, she was haunted by the thought to guard against Yinxing. She was exhausted and couldn't help refuting with a sullen face, "My lady, the silks and satins put on the families of corrupt officials and the delicate dishes they eat are all drained from those who live from hand to mouth. Numerous of families are forced to fall apart and they have no choice but to sell their children to make a living. Shouldn't Mei'er pay off her dad's debts? What's more, it's her fortune to be able to enter our house."

Minglan was a little embarrassed to hear that. It was not all her fault since what she said was taught by TV dramas. And the servants were just complaining. Minglan chose to make concessions to avoid conflicts, thinking that there were still days for her to educate them and believing they would be unconsciously influenced by the environment in the future. However, things didn't turn out as planned.

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