Published at 20th of March 2019 09:36:54 AM

Chapter 44

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Mistake Acknowledgement + Little Ming and Little Hong

Leaning against the carriage, Minglan felt a sense of nausea. She couldn't help but vomit a last mouth of bile out, then rolled over and fell into the soft cushion. Old Madam Sheng touched her face gently. In just several days, Minglan wasted away quickly and her baby fat was gone. Old Madam had thought that one day her little fat granddaughter would become a thin slim girl. Though she foresaw the result, she didn't expect the result would come in this way.

Due to a severe carriage sickness, Minglan felt dizzy and her vision doubled. She called Fang Mama grandma, recognized carter Zhang as Cui Mama and wondered since when Cui Mama got a beard. All these made Old Madam's heart ache and then cuddled Minglan to let her rest on her thighs.

After the incident in the Yu Mansion, Minglan was grounded immediately when she went back home and was punished to copy Buddhist scriptures by Old Madam. When asked by Old Madam that did she know what was wrong, Minglan nodded with a good attitude, "Yes, too aggressive."

Minglan's punishment lasted until the family set out. She never had another chance to meet Yanran again. The whole Yu family was guarded tightly and no words came out. What all others knew was that Yanran was seriously ill and her engagement with the son of the Gu family was therefore postponed.

Seeing grandma's gloomy face, Minglan hadn't been daring to justify herself. It was not until Old Madam adopted a much more moderate attitude after seeing her suffering before she stammered her excuse, "…dear grandma, do you really think your granddaughter is stupid enough to risk herself?"

According to years of experience of her immediate supervisor, an old female judge, in throwing people in jail, an interesting conclusion was drawn, "Those risky things may look like peaceful. And the vice versa, those peaceful ones may look like risky."

First of all, she did a good deed without leaving a name. As long as the servants of the Yu Mansion didn't go out publicizing the incident everywhere, Man'niang wouldn't know who she was even though Man'niang had been scolded for quite a while. What's more, the incident was indecent. The Yu family would rather keep it secret than leak it out, let alone details about Minglan's involvement and Manniang's performance. In addition, the whole Sheng family was leaving but Cabinet Yu would stay in Deng Prefecture enjoying his retirement. They would hardly meet each other again after the Sheng family moved to the capital city or if Sheng Hong was transferred to other places.

Remained poker-faced, Old Madam Sheng replied, "Why you are so determined to be involved in the incident? After all, it's just the matter of the Yu family!"

These words went straight to Minglan's heart. Her emaciated young face became sullen. After quite a while, she slowly let out a long sigh, "Born as a girl means to speak and act cautiously to avoid being discussed. However, …, what's fun in living such a life? You're haunted by various kinds of rules, from walking a step, speaking a sentence, opening your eyes, to lying to bed. Not a single moment will you be free from calculating. Your granddaughter is unwilling to live such a life like a puppet. Sometimes, …, just sometimes, I want to follow my heart and act and speak based on my own wills…. Grandma, I knew I was wrong."

Resting in grandma's arms, Minglan was rather depressed. She was more upset by the fact that similar things would happen to her than indulged in a temporary relief of speaking all out. Though Yanran's grandfather was still alive to protect her, her dad still sold her out for fortune regardless of her well-being. And how about herself? If one day, her dad needed to sacrifice her marriage for benefits, could grandma still fight for her? Born as a girl in such a world means drifting like duckweed. However, did it also mean that girls needed to sacrifice all her personalities and rules, to tolerate and flatter others, and to even become malicious and vicious for decent lives with enough food and decent clothes?

Minglan’s words silenced Old Madam, who touched Minglan's deep black loose bun softly. Actually, Old Madam Yu came to express her gratitude herself later. She praised Minglan for being able to think in others' shoes and acting like a knight to rescue her granddaughter from the total mess. She also mentioned it was lucky for Yanran to have such a close friend like her. Old Madam knew the incident didn't matter. She was just to help Minglan reflect on herself by wearing a sullen face. This could save Minglan from acting too aggressive and therefore hurting herself in the future.

Since Minglan had recognized what was wrong and completed her punishment, Old Madam then cancelled the message blockage policy: Lots of twists and turns occurred in Yanran's marriage. Cabinet Yu was always bothered by the sputum stuck in his throat. However, annoyed by the incident, he spat blood with the thick sputum out. It was a blessing in disguise. After recovery, Cabinet Yu soon got down to business and found another family to be Yanran's future in-laws. It was the family of his old friend. And this engagement was neither too bad (compared to that with Gu'er) nor too good (compared to that of Hualan)."

The future in-laws of the Yu family were far away in Dali, Yunnan. They were a local noble family. The future husband of Yanran was a Disun (legitimate grandson) of the Duan family. He was much older than Yanran and was said to be with good personalities. However, there was some problem with his legs (He had broken his legs when he was young.) which prevented him from finding a proper wife or becoming an official.

This time Cabinet Yu was so determined that he asked his son to send silvers to Deng Prefecture directly for Yanran's dowry and threatened that he would open the ancestral temple and exclude his son from the family if he would dare to refuse the request. By the time the Sheng family set out, the Yu family had just accepted betrothal gifts offered by the Duan family.

"…this is not too bad." Minglan tried to think the matter positively, "Even though the man is deprived of chances to be an official, he can still be a doctor or a merchant. He can buy properties and do many other things. What matters most is that he treats Yanran well." Thinking of Yanran's narrow escape from the trap, Minglan was happy again and said with her hands clapped, "Now it would bother Marquis Ningyuan to find another daughter-in-law and matchmakers in the capital city would get busy immediately!"

"There's no need to bother." Old Madam said in a low voice, "Yanran's dad promises her younger sister to the Gu family. And the wedding will be held as soon as her sister reaches 15."

Hearing the news, Minglan was astonished and then irritated. She even wanted to clench her fists and run outside or curse the gods to vent her hidden fury. Minglan was indulged in her feelings for quite a while before dizziness and nausea struck her again. She turned around, grabbed an empty basin and continued vomiting

The Shengs was heading directly to the south with wheels running untiringly. Featuring a cloudless blue sky, the weather at the end of August in the north was very pleasant. However, Minglan still suffered from carriage sickness. To divert Minglan from boredom, or maybe it was due to a relaxed environment, Fang Mama started to educate Minglan, "My girl, don't blame your grandma. She did all this for your own good. As a girl, you still have a lot to learn to earn yourself a decent life."

Since Old Madam was resting in another carriage and she was taking care of Minglan, Fang Mama couldn't help but try to persuade Minglan. She kept talking while she was smoothing the blanket and slapping the cushion.

Though lack in theories, Fang Mama had witnessed and experienced numerous cases for decades. According to her experience, three factors mattered in a woman's life, first birth, second fortune and third capability. Any two of the three would lead you to a happy life.

Take Old Madam Yu for example, she was born in a noble family with a great scholar. Her parents were nice and kind. The whole family was strictly run based on a set of family rules. We could conclude that she was with a desirable birth. Later she was married to Cabinet Yu, an excellent protege of her father. Cabinet Yu appreciated the guide and support offered by her father and thanked a lot for her father's choice to turn him his son-in-law when he was a nobody and thus treated Madam Yu well. Later even though Cabinet Yu enjoyed a smooth official career and gained a high position, he still maintained a harmony relationship and wished to be together with Old Madam Yu till the end of their lives. We could also say that Madam Yu was with an extremely good fortune.

Since Old Madam Yu had had two of the three factors, it didn't matter whether she was competent enough. And Old Madam Yu indeed didn't suffer from severe pains during her whole life. There was no need for her to play tricks or to plot for something. She was lucky enough to be protected well. Hmm, maybe it was the reason why she was unable to control Yanran's stepmother. Sometimes, she even needed Cabinet Yu's help to educate daughter-in-law.

"Well, she is not competent enough. So? Nevertheless, she was born and married well!" signed Fang Mama.

Attracted by the story, Minglan thought it was more interesting than that said by storytellers.

"It seems that it really matters to be born in a good family! Having noble parents means all works needed for a decent life are half done!" exclaimed Minglan, expressing her heartfelt feelings. Evidence showed that Old Madam Yu's parents were good at choosing their son-in-law. However, Fang Mama did not totally agree with Minglan, "Not necessary. Yanran's mother died before long after giving birth to Yanran. Her dad didn't care about her at all. However, she was protected by Cabinet Yu and Old Madam Yu. In this case, as long as Yanran herself got capabilities to some extent, she would be able to earn herself a promising future. However, it was afraid that Yanran would inherit the personalities of Old Madam Yu!"

"Is that so?" Minglan wondered, still wanting more evidences.

Hearing Minglan's words, Fang Mama continued talking by taking herself as an example. She said with a little bit complacency.

She was born in an impoverished peasant family. Her father was severely ill. She never got the chance to eat enough before seven. Her mother had no choice but to sell her to a middleman of human trade. Later she was sold to the mansion of Marquis Yongyi. Her birth was not good at all.

However, after she became a servant girl of Marquis Yongyi, she was honest and diligent and was soon selected to serve the young lady. Later she was eager to learn and had mastered a lot of skills, including writing, accounting, embroidery, and how to run a family. What's more, she was loyal to the young lady. Thus, she was promoted as a first-grade servant girl besides lady Xu. Then she came here since her lady was married to the son of the Sheng family. When it was time for her to get married, Old Madam selected a male servant in charge as her husband and helped them both to get rid of their slave identities. Gradually, they had their own sons and grandsons and earned themselves properties. One of their sons became a scholar and opened a private school. One ran several shops. And one purchased farm lands and became a landlord.

"Fang Mama does have a good fortune! Good people will be rewarded eventually." Minglan got excited on hearing Fang Mama's story.

Fang Mama waved her hand with a smile, "It is not enough to be a good person. I started to save money by working day and night since I had realized I would eventually be sold. When the time came, I offered the middleman all that I earned to beg him hard for selling me to a good family. Well, it was lucky of me to encounter a kind middleman. He gave me the chance to meet Old Madam. When I became a servant of Marquis Yongyi, it was because I could bear hardship and do extra work that gained the hostess's attention. In addition, it was also me who urged my husband to go out and make a living. And now my sons and grandsons are able to enjoy the properties we leave to them. I serve Old Madam now not for money but to accompany her and talk to her in case of boredom. If one day my body prevents me from serving her anymore, I will go back to my hometown and take care of my grandsons!"

After she lose her husband at her middle age and saw all her children enter their marriages, she came back to the Shengs again to accompany Old Madam and continued their friendship as master and servant. Her filial children all tried to persuade her to come back home to enjoy her leisure life at every festival. However, Fang Mama refused.

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Minglan was astonished to hear that. Fang Mama was obviously a successful case of striving for a better life! Now she couldn't help looking at Fang Mama with adoration. Though Fang Mama was not born in a decent family, however, fortune and capability also led her to a successful life.

Actually, Fang Mama was not talkative and always spoke in a proper way. Minglan knew that her nagging these days was to help her analyze her own situation. She herself was not with a noble birth. To be more specific, she was not the child of the hostess and not loved by her dad. And her mother died early. However, she was lucky to be brought up by Old Madam. Nevertheless, it was not enough. She still needed to fight for her future.

The attentive listening of the audience encouraged Fang Mama, who then told Minglan what she had experienced in serial stories. When she told stories, she had Danju  guard the door to keep others away. When it came to important matters, she would talk in detail. Occasionally, she would discuss with Minglan. However, sometimes she was not talking in a straightforward way, leaving Minglan to comprehend the hidden meaning.

However, asked by Minglan in a row, Fang Mama finally explained to her with a sigh, "…all said that our Old Madam was aggressive for she prevented her husband from taking concubines and threatened to punish and kill the concubines the whole day. However, …, well, you can see that your dad still grows up safe and sound. Old Madam's behaviors put her at a disadvantage. Though she didn't behave as what she had threatened, she got a bad reputation because of her words. Actually, she was indeed nice and kind! She went straightforward and always argued with her husband, but she never guarded against possible despicable measures that may be taken by concubines. Her son was later dead therefore, which broke her heart."

Recalling what happened in the past, Fang Mama couldn't help feeling sorry for Old Madam with tears welling up in her eyes. She held Minglan's hands and said, "You may think Old Madam is angry at your bold behaviors at the Yu family. In fact, she worries that you may act too aggressive. You can know from my stories that all aggressive thoughts need to be hidden. You would be put at disadvantage and defamed by others if you act aggressively. What's more, all you have done may not help to solve issues! The more competent a girl is, the less you can tell from her face!"

"I now know I am awfully wrong." Minglan said in a low voice. This time, she knew in depth why she was wrong.

Seeing Minglan finally got Old Madam's message, Fang Mama was happy again and began to tell another excellent example with great enthusiasm, "The lady I'm talking about, hmm…, becomes an old madam now. She has neither a noble birth nor a beautiful face. And the husband she married to is not as talented as your grandfather and to some extent, a playboy. However, she manages her husband's personal affairs well and not a single child is born by concubines! I also heard that they get along with each other well since her husband gets old and they are not bothered by concubines."

Minglan dreamed to be like this Madam He after hearing the story. Maybe it was just because they talked about her behind her back that Minglan met the successful example in person in just several days.

The carriages of the Shengs arrived at Jingjin ferry and they were about to continue their trips to the south by ship. In the meanwhile, the He family happened to be there since they were heading to Jinling by boat. Madam He recognized the signs on the carriages when she lifted the curtain and looked outside by chance. Servants were then sent to see whether it was the Sheng family. It turned out that they almost missed the chance to meet each other again. The two old madams who hadn't met each other for decades now were busy exchanging with each other about what they had experienced with tears in eyes.

Madam He was a plump woman with dark black hair and rosy cheeks. Though wrinkles sprawled her face, most of the lines were laugh lines. She greeted everyone with a happy face. She was outgoing and hospitable. She found Minglan adorable and kissed her several times by holding Minglan in her arms. Later she gave Minglan a heavy pouch as a gift. Right inside the pouch were a handful of small gold ingots and a pair of Lucky Jade in white.

Minglan was astonished on the spot. She thought Madam He would be like Baoyu's mother. However, she turned out to be a happy rural old woman. She was just two years younger than Old Madam Sheng. Nevertheless, she looked like ten years younger.

"Have you got this right, Fang Mama? She doesn't look like Madam He to me." With pouch in hand, Minglan whispered to Fang Mama since she still couldn't believe what she had seen. Fang Mama replied in a soft voice with a big smile, "If one manages to be nice but with hidden vicious thoughts, it not only harms her credits in the next world, but also brings her a weary life. Look and learn how Madam He behaves. She’s got really something! Live a happy life, never bear unpleasant incidents in mind and see who laughs last!"

Madam He led a witty conversation and Old Madam Sheng couldn't help bursting into laughter since they met. They were happy together and decided to take a same boat.

"My dear sister, I've been waiting for you to say it! This time, we have travelled in a hurry and didn't book a boat in advance." Madam He patted her chest, seeming to be lucky enough to meet the Shengs. She turned around issuing orders, "Be quick and call Childe Hong over. Tell him we have a boat now. His grandma is competent enough to come across an elder sister with a boat."

All people in the house laughed out loud. Old Madam Sheng patted Madam He with force and pretended to scold her with a broad smile, "You are a grandma now, but still act in an undignified way! Wish my little granddaughter haven't learnt from you and become naughty later!"

After vomiting the last round, Minglan recovered gradually. She sat quietly beside her grandma. Since she had never seen such a broad smile on grandma's face, she tried to tease her, "However, an old ox makes a straight furrow."

Madam He burst into laughter and couldn't help leaning back. She hugged Minglan, kissed her again and pretended to be angry with Old Madam Sheng, "I'm rather fond of her. She acts as if she were my granddaughter. On the contrary, my own grandson is just like you, pretending to be dignified!"

A woman servant of the Hes came during their conversation and reported with respect, "Here comes Childe Hong." Madam He replied immediately, "Call him in now!" A tall youngster came out of the curtain and saluted to people the moment he came in. Old Madam Sheng called servants to lift him immediately. It was not until he raised his head before Minglan saw what he looked like.

He was about 14 years old with a white face, long eyebrows, and beautiful eyes. Though he was not as comely as Qi Heng, he seemed to be with scholar's style. He was composed and modest. Though the He family was rich, what he wore was just a long satin robe in plain color. There were no decorations on him except for the green jade pendant hanging at his waist through a Ruyi silk braid. After figuring out who was elder and who was younger, they all sat down.

"This is your younger sister from the Sheng family, little Ming." Madam He introduced Minglan to her grandson enthusiastically and called her by the nickname which was used by her grandma in the daily life. "And this is my grandson, Hong'er. He is three years older than you."

What He Hongwen saw was a doll-like delicate young girl sitting beside Old Madam Sheng. Her eyes turned into crescent moons and an aura of charming innocence arose when she smiled. However, she was apparently sick and weak, insufficient in vital energy. Hongwen couldn't help persuading her, "Sister Ming, don't take plums any more. They are extremely bad for your spleen and stomach."

Suddenly called by others, Minglan was startled. She looked at the plums in her hand, turned around to seek help from her grandma, and then glanced at the youngster blankly, from whom came a fait fragrance of fresh herbs, "These are for you. Plums can help you recover from fatigue. Hmm…, in this case, you'd better not take them."

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