Published at 18th of April 2019 02:38:54 PM

Chapter 69

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Chapter 69: Women’s Life Is Never Easy

Translator: Flying-Lines

Just after the Spring Festival, servants from the country estate sent words to the Hall of Peaceful Age that Cuiwei’s father was dying and that they wished Cuiwei could get married earlier so that the joy of marriage could wash away the omen of death, begging the mercy of Old Madam to relieve Cuiwei of current duty. Cuiwei was born when her parents were quite old and the only one that made her parents concerned since other siblings had forged families already. Considering this, Old Madam approved and ordered Fang Mama to grant thirty taels of silver for her dowry purchase.

Getting the news, Minglan at once rummaged out twenty taels of silver from her own room to add more dowry for Cuiwei who pushed it away, refusing, “My nice lady, I can’t take it. You just gave me two pieces of gold and silver jewelries and five bolts of brocade. This is already too much. I remember that when Caizan in Madam’s house got married, Madam only granted her twenty taels of silver. I only get 10 taels more because I was originally from Old Madam’s house. If you give me more, on the one hand, you’ll embarrass Madam, and on the other, how much are you planning to grant other girls when they get married in the future?”

Minglan was touched and knew that Cuiwei thought all in the shoes of her lady, Minglan, and she still tried to insist, “I know your good intention my good sister, but…but for being concerned about me, you should have gotten married last year.”

Cuiwei looked around, seeing no one’s presence, she gently closed the door and windows, put down the curtain of the minor room, and said, “There is something I wanted to ask you long ago my young lady. Once I leave, you have to promote one to fill the vacant. Those girls are all staring eagerly at it. Do you have someone in your mind?” Minglan thought about this question long ago but she asked back, “What do you think?”  

Cuiwei didn’t think too long before answering, “In terms of seniority, I’d say Yancao; in terms of capability, it should be Jiu’er; and in terms of exterior and temper, I’d say Ruomei.” Since dowry girls would be taken by the husband in the future, Cuiwei frowned a bit when she mentioned Ruomei.

Minglan contemplated for a moment and responded in a low voice, “I’d prefer Luzhi.” 

Cuiwei was surprised, “Luzhi had a pair of unforgiving lips. Why would you want her?”

Minglan smiled without answering her but asked, “If I promote one, there will be another little girl getting into the house. Recently, You Mama keeps recommending her daughter. What’s your opinion?” 

Cuiwei thought about it and shook her head, “You Mama is a hot potato and now only suppressed by you, my young lady. If one of her family gets into the house, there will be more troubles. It’d better ask one from Old Madam, Madam, or Young Madam (Hai shi). In this way, on the one hand, you show respect to seniors and on the other, in view of what happened last year, they will send over someone reliable.”

Minglan nodded and said seriously, “My good sister, your words make every sense.” Then she pushed over the twenty taels of silver on the table toward her and said in a low voice, “In these years, for me, you’re both exhausted and offended many others. You must take this. If you want to keep a low profile, just don’t let others know and hide it at the bottom of your luggage.” 

Cuiwei whimpered a little because Minglan didn’t like other ladies or lords that would claim their good deeds everywhere for a good fame. She felt her effort and caring wasn’t wasted on this earnest and benevolent sixth young lady. Suddenly, she thought of what Fang Mama had indicated that her family could follow to serve when sixth young lady got married in the future. Thinking of this, Cuiwei was quite tempted.

Cuiwei was trained by Fang Mama so the news spread fast. On the next day, Old Madam called Minglan in and asked with a faint smile, “You want to promote the girl Luzhi? How come?”

Minglan confessed, “Jiu’er won’t stay by my side for too long because Liu Mama is sure to want her to stay here, so it’s no use promoting her; Yancao and Danju are of the same temper, with not enough reverence from others; Ruomei is too arrogant. Even now she looks down upon this or that. If she gets promoted, I’m afraid she’ll make more troubles. In the end, I think Luzhi is suitable. Though she always speaks her mind, she’s less arrogant and detests evil deeds. Once disciplined, she is nice as a servant; …this is my original plan.”

Old Madam asked with interest, “Original plan? What about now?”

Minglan shook her head, pretending to be a worldly adult, “Later I thought twice and decided that I shouldn’t set those girls against each other because of this, so, I’ll choose Yancao based on her seniority. Besides, she is an honest and considerate girl. It’s good to have her around me.” —Efficiency was not the point, stability was everything.

Listening to the words, Old Madam nodded slightly, “I didn’t approve with the previous plan either. It’s good that you think straight now. There are things…that you’d better just let it run its due course…You’ve grown up now.” Old Madam signed with emotion. Looking at Minglan’s rosy pretty face, she was reminded of the tender chubby baby years ago who now grew into a capable thoughtful girl, which made her couldn’t help but get emotional.

Just after the first month of the lunar calendar, Hai’s father Master Hai was leaving the capital to take his office. Before his trip, Madam Hai specially visited Sheng family. She instructed a lot to her daughter and talked with Wang shi for quite long with a tone full of modesty and urbanity. Minglan and others went back to their room after greeting Madam Hai and the three girls held a tea party in Minglan’s house as usual.

“Madam Hai is really amiable and talks with such courtesy.” Molan admired her lofty temperament, “I heard that this time Lord Hai is going to take the office of Councilor of the Ministry of Finance and Public Affairs, a post of third-rank.”

Rulan smiled, “Of course, they are our in-laws.”

Molan shot a glance at Rulan, blowing the tea, “It’s not necessarily so. Last time we visited the Mansion of Marquis Zhongqin, Big Sister’s mother-in-law wasn’t that polite. We only got tea and refreshment served after sitting for quite a while.”

Rulan hit the roof again with popping eyes.

Fuck, would you be dead to stop bickering for one day? Minglan sighed and tried to find another topic. She pretended to be curious, “Is it true that sister-in-law’s family don’t permit taking concubines? If so, wouldn’t her sisters-in-law lead a relaxing life?” 

Rulan was attracted to this and replied complacently, “That is a scholar family for many generations that has produced numerous scholars and pre-scholars. The rules are really strict; but due to this reason, swarms of powerful and wealthy people want to be in-laws with Hai family, yet they are stricter in choosing a daughter-in-law than the Emperor selects a first-place scholar! Character, learning, exterior, family background are all requested! Besides, they only want legal daughters~~~”

The last sentence was dragged long as if she was deliberately telling Molan and Minglan. Minglan was thick-faced and didn’t care about that because she knew she was just a half-way fake legal daughter, so she made a mere “oh” as reply; Molan, on the contrary, felt an upsurge of boiling blood and sneered, “What kind of great family rule that is? Right, the husband can’t take concubines, but they must have a lot of lovers. Many of them even bought houses for lovers outside the family mansion. Hum, just hypocritic pretentious people seeking for fame.”

“Really?” Minglan, as the last one to know, sighed about her backward intelligence system.

Rulan argued, “There are all kinds of birds when the forest is big enough. Hai family has so many side-clans. How could them be easy to manage?”

Minglan, trembling with fear, looked at Molan thumping down her beloved teacup on the table. Luckily, it wasn’t broken.

Molan ridiculed, “I didn’t criticize. Yet, I believe it’s hard to live up to such a great fame. Now that they can’t maintain it, why pretend?” 

Rulan flew into a rage while Minglan was indifferent. It’d be as hard to find a monogamous family in ancient times as finding an innocent guy in a pornographic novel. Since already becoming an ancient woman, she must be open to the reality and mustn’t push herself too hard.

After a few more days, Cuiwei bade farewell to Old Madam and Minglan and had herself fetched home. Yancao got promoted and others congratulated her. Another girl called Cuixiu was sent from the Hall of Peaceful Age to fill the vacant. She was just eleven years old, clear and smart, and quickly got familiar with other girls in the House of Clear Dusk. Seeing that everyone was so happy, Minglan ordered Danju to take out two or three taels of silver and send to Mamas in the chicken to prepare for two tables of dinner. Then they locked the yard door earlier, enjoying the feast and drink for celebration.

“My young lady, you’re too nice. Look how drunk and happy these girl servants are, lying here and there! Luckily, Fang Mama isn’t here, otherwise heaven knows how she might comment on this; now I can only get relieved after getting all of them on bed.” Danju made only one toast and then checked around the house, “Forget about Yancan. What’s annoying is the careless Xiaotao that is absent from guarding the stove fire; only Ruomei could read the situation and didn’t drink too much. Now she’s checking rooms with a lantern.” 

Minglan also drank a few cups and felt in a daze. Watching Danju busy making bed for her, she said slowly, “During this Spring Festival, they were too busy to enjoy themselves. Poor girls at a playful age. Let’s make this dinner the celebration of Cuiwei’s marriage. Alas, how is Cuiwei now? Is her husband nice to her? Did he bully her?”

Danju smiled at her, “The marriage is secured by Fang Mama. It can’t be bad.” Then she felt a little sad, “As a servant, it’s her blessing to have such decency and we’re lucky to have you as our lady. If we were under someone relentless, I can’t imagine what’s waiting for us.”

“…How is Ke’er now?” Minglan asked suddenly.

Danju smoothened the bed and put a piece of blanket over the smoking furnace to warm it up, bemoaning slightly, “Concubine Lin is really cold-hearted. Taking the opportunity when Old Madam went to Youyang and Madam was busy moving to the capital, she gave the flower-tender girl to the filthy son of the old woman guarding the front door. He is a drunk and gambler doing all bad things. She died after just two months she was sent to him with limbs bound and mouth gagged.”

“Didn’t my third elder brother say anything?”

Disdain was displayed on Danju’s mild face, “He cried hard at first, but a few days later, he let it go. Now the girl he likes is Rou’er.” 

Minglan felt a little sad and said gently, “Old Madam is right. As a woman, we shouldn’t be greedy.” Minglan indulged herself in depression for a while before shaking off the thoughts and said seriously, “From tomorrow on, you, Yancao and Xaotao should discipline others’ speech and behaviors. Don’t let them chat or joke with male servants too freely. We must guard the door tightly.”

Danju looked at Minglan’s solemn face and approved seriously.  


Minglan was lying on the brick bed of the minor room, copying a script with bigger characters for Old Madam while the latter was sitting on the couch bed in the main hall. Wang shi and Hualan sat down there, stretching their necks long outwards and their conversation couldn’t match with each other. The leisurely Old Madam couldn’t stand them anymore and said, “Take it easy. He family lives in the Huichun Hutong, they can’t make it here even if setting off at dawn. Now you’re worried? Why did you hide it from everyone before?” 

Hualan smiled with embarrassment, “Grandma, I, I…didn’t want to trouble you.” Old Madam rolled eyes at her and cursed, “If you knew the consequence earlier, this wouldn’t have been postponed for so many years!”

The three didn’t make it clear, but Minglan inside could guess what they were talking about.

As they spoke, the outer girl servant came in, reporting, “Guests arrived.”

Old Madam ordered hurriedly, “Quick. Ask Minglan out.” Then welcomed the guests in.

Hearing sounds of people walking, Minglan lifted up door curtain and saw Old Madam He whom she hadn’t met for long. Standing next to her was a tall slim youth. Old Madam Sheng was unusually hospitable, “I’ve been expecting you. Take a seat please.” 

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Old Madam He looked the same as usual. A rosy chubby face. The grey hair was tidily groomed into a bun that was held together with a flat auspicious-money hairpin made of white jade. The two exchanged phatic greetings and then let juniors greet them. Minglan and Hualan went first to kowtow to Old Madam He and then He Hongwen saluted to Old Madam Sheng and Wang shi.

Wang shi pulled him over and looked He Hongwen over from right to left and kept praising, “Indeed a handsome talented young man. No wonder Old Madam has been praising him ever since she got back to the capital.” Then she gently asked some questions such as how old he was, what books he had read, what he liked to eat before Old Madam stopped her and smiled, “Alright! Let the boy take a seat. Are you asking questions or asking for money?”  

Everyone in the room laughed. Hualan stepped forward to hold Wang shi and smiled, “Forgive us Madam He. My mom really likes him.” Old Madam He shook her head and immediately spread a smile at the sight of Minglan, “You grow taller after just a Spring Festival.” Old Madam laughed, “This girl only gets taller but never smarter. What a naughty one!” 

Hualan’s face was shining with joy and she said pretending to be angry, “Look at you, grandmother. Even if to be modest, you can’t say sixth younger sister like that. My sister is really filial and obedient.”

Wang shi also joined in the joking, “That’s true. Among my daughters, she’s the best.”

Being praised to such an extent, Minglan was a little shocked and felt something weird. She took a glance at He Hongwen, who was sitting on the opposite, only to find him blush and his eyes flickered to avoid eye contact. Every time she looked at him, he would look away like a timid bunny.

Minglan got alert. Seeing the five women in the house, either young or old, she thought to herself: Was there anything known to all of them but me?

They continued to talk for a moment. Old Madam Sheng pointed to Hualan and smiled, “My eldest granddaughter brought several bolts of thick velvet that are quite good. I’m about to send you some. Why not you take a look now and see which one you like?”

Old Madam He’s wrinkled face and squinted eyes turned into a flower from smiling, showing a little child-like naughtiness, and she pretended, “Now that they’re brought by your eldest granddaughter, why not let her accompany me?”

“Go with us. We can choose some together.” Old Madam Sheng was all smiles and Hualan seemed to flush but still stood up quickly and followed the two old madams into the inner room. A girl servant from He Mansion with a huge box in her arms also went in.

These words were like secret codes. Minglan thought to herself: Seriously? It was just a specialist clinic on infertility!

Once they got in, they didn’t come out soon. Wang shi who was left outside tried to find topics to talk with He Hongwen. After time for another cup of tea when Wang shi had asked for a third time “Is your father well?”, she finally couldn’t help it and smiled unnaturally, “I have to go inside to take a look.” 

Then only Minglan and He Hongwen were left. They were sitting opposite each other, one holding the teacup examining the pattern on it and the other fixing his eyes onto the ground as if there were crab-apple flowers coming out from the ground. They had known each other and during the first several times of encountering, they also laughed and joked with each other naturally, but this time, Minglan felt the obvious abnormal atmosphere between them, so she insisted never to be the one who talked first.

Silence froze the room with intermittent cracking of coal fires in the seven-layered-lotus-shaped bronze thermal stove in the middle of the room. At last, He Hongwen couldn’t stand it and slightly coughed a little, saying, “What takes them so long?”

Minglan imitated him, “There must be many of velvet materials.”

“No matter how many of those, they should have finished.” He Hongwen was a little restless. 

“Then the cloth must be too good.” Minglan was calm.

After another moment of silence, the two took a glance at each other and burst into laughter. He Hongwen had a pair of clear eyes of which spilled out brightness like spring lake, making people feel warm. He sighed, “Being a doctor is not easy.”

“Why pretend all this? Why not just do it open and candid?” Minglan exhaled.

He Hongwen smiled a little, “It’s been that people try to avoid illness and doctors, let alone women. ‘Seriously ill’ are two words hurt people most. Your eldest sister has no other choice.”

Minglan looked at him quietly and asked, “Do you also think that women’s life isn’t easy?”

He Hongwen’s eyes and eyebrows were mild and pure as hot spring, and he replied with sincerity, “If my grandmother were a man, then she would be known in the world for her excellent healing skills. Yet, what a pity that she could only take care of domestic affairs in the house and teach her useless grandson, that’s me.”

Minglan laughed, “Stop it. You’re not useless. I heard that you already started to open a clinic and receive patients. However, since yours is a clinic and drug store, forgive me that I don’t say congratulations and prosperous business.”

He Hongwen was amused and stole a glance at Minglan’s unusually red cheeks, which inspired him, so he put on a serious face, “Since you complimented me as useful, there is something I need to say.”

“Yes, please.” Minglan noticed nothing.

“Don’t drink cold wine, especially before going to bed.”

“Oops—” Minglan covered her mouth with hand subconsciously. Annoyed for being caught on site, she muttered, “You—” She was planning to deny, but at the sight of He Hongwen’s confirmative gaze with smile, she decided to confess, “You can even tell that?” 

He Hongwen pretended to sigh, “Alas, I’m just so useful.”

Minglan pulled her sleeve in front of mouth, laughing so hard that she could barely sit straight.

He Hongwen looked at Minglan who displayed curved corners of mouth and two tiny cute white teeth, looking both embarrassed and shameful. Her black eyebrows, against the almost transparent fair complexion, was as pretty as peacock feathers.

Feeling blood burning in his heart, he bowed his head, not daring to look at her any longer.

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