Published at 20th of March 2019 09:37:29 AM

Chapter 48

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Happiness Derives from Comparison (1)

Pinlan took the lead and stepped forward and Minglan followed suit behind her. Upon entering the inner room, what they saw were a full house of bustling female relatives. Madams and ladies, young or old, either stood or sat down, filling the room with dazzling radiance of shining jewelries. Third madam, sitting on the side, patted her thigh and laughed when she saw Minglan coming in, “Speak of the devil and she does appear!”

Minglan ignored her as if she didn't hear it, greeted after Pinlan other seniors one by one, and then stood respectfully next to Old Madam Sheng who sat up there. The old woman sat next to cousin Shulan was her mother-in-law who was wearing an auburn brocade coat and loads of hairpins stuck horizontally or vertically in her hair, plus a velvet rose. Her neck and wrists were encompassed by gold or silk jewels, making it too glaring to look straight at her.

Scholar Sun’s mother had been screening at Minglan ever since she came in; not until quite a while later did she spread a smile on her heavily-wrinkled face and start to talk, “Days ago I heard my in-law third madam talk about Minglan and think nicely of her. Today I see with my own eyes. She is indeed a lady from a grand family. What a pretty girl!” Then she smiled at the two old madams sitting up there, “My nephew and she are of similar age and appearance. Why not taking this fortunate day to make them a match? How do you like it?”

Finishing the suggestion, she stared directly at the two old madams and waited for reply. All others also stopped talking and turned over to look at them.

Minglan sneered to herself because people usually wouldn't propose so straightforwardly in public out of fear of being turned down. How brazen scholar Sun’s mother was! She even tried to propose for her nephew in presence of ladies from nearly half of the county’s noble families in the hope that she wouldn't be turned down in public.

Well, in fact, what Minglan disliked about Sun’s mother was how she screened at Minglan—in a way like selecting an egg in the market.

Old Madam Sheng used the teacup lid to drive away tealeaves, remaining silent while First Old Madam frowned a bit and intended to say something after a while when Sheng Yun spoke up first, “Dear heaven, that’s a funny joke. Your nephew is nearly twenty but how old is my little niece? They are of similar age? I don't think that would be nice.”

Sun’s mother was a bit vexed, “What’s bad he is a little older? Just put a few girls in his house first and they can serve the bride after holding the wedding ceremony.”

All in the room showed various expressions. Some felt funny; some were shocked; some others shook their heads and more of them showed scorn, directly lowering their heads to whisper with one another. Minglan admired this mother so much. The niece-in-law was far yet to be decided, but she dared to talk about taking concubines for her nephew publicly, so she was here either to make trouble or really had no care of it. The ignorant was the dauntless, after all.

However, they couldn't forbid a man from having concubines, or they would be blamed for being jealous. Sheng Yun rolled her eyes with a glimmer of slyness and smiled, “While you want a good niece-in-law, we also want a nice nephew-in-law. We Sheng family have a little fame and my cousin (Minglan’s father) is an official of not low ranking, let alone my nephew who is a member of the Imperial Academy handpicked by His Majesty! What about your nephew? Does he have an official ranking or real estates and shops? After all, marriage is all about better life. Name a few to impress us.”

Sheng Yun’s speech was fast and clear. Besides, her straightforwardness was well-known in the county, so this half-serious speech made all in the room laugh because everyone knew that the nephew of Sun’s mother, whose parent died at a young age, just depended on his aunt, wandered all day, and pleased her with sweetened words.

However, ever after Sun Zhigao became a scholar, Sun’s mother believed that hers was a scholar family and looked down upon average families, so she was determined to get her nephew a good wife. All grand families in the county had been bothered by her, but they responded with politeness in order not to spoil their relations with Sheng family. Sun’s mother was a bit discouraged after being rejected several times. Days ago, she heard third madam mention Minglan and decided to try again, believing that although Minglan was born into an official family but she was just a daughter of a concubine and that the proposal would flatter Minglan. To Sun’s mother’s surprise, the two old madams remained silent and left her in embarrassment while Sheng Yun, on the other hand, spitted out unsparingly stabbing sarcasm at her. She pulled a long face, saying, “Though my nephew doesn’t have official ranking nor great wealth but he’s a legal son of a legitimate madam!”

Pinlan’s little face turned bloodshot and her eyes were glaring with rage. She unconsciously squeezed Minglan’s hand under sleeve so hard that it was about to bleed. Minglan lowered her head and gently tapped on Pinlan with her other hand—Li shi was also a daughter of a concubine.

When Sheng Wei married his wife, First Old Master Sheng had squandered almost all his wealth. Fortunately, Old Master Li was an upright and kind man, cherishing the old days when they had struggled together to make a fortune, so he made the decision to marry his granddaughter to Sheng family. However, his son and daughter-in-law disapproved of the marriage, so in the middle of the wedding they tucked a daughter of a concubine in place of their own legitimate daughter. No one had expected that things changed dramatically. Now of all offspring of Li family, Li shi had the happiest marriage to the best family. Her husband was capable in making money and loyal to her. In retrospect, the legal daughter replaced by Li shi enjoyed no happy marriage and greatly regretted about it.

As the old saying went, when you tease about someone, don’t rake up his/her real weakness. In the past few years, Sheng family prospered gradually, and no one mentioned about the origin of Li shi. Sun’s mother’s words went too far. Silence hovered the room. All looked at Sheng members and Zhu shi who was quietly sipping tea with her head lowered, when First Old Madam who had kept quiet began to talk, eyes full of icy coldness, in a calm voice, “Our children respect for seniority. Minglan still has a few older sisters. In terms of age, third uncle’s Huilan is a better match with your nephew.”

Third Madam was taking delight in Sun’s mother’s misfortune when she suddenly became the target. She hurriedly shook her hands, “No, no, no. Impossible! Our family won’t take a poor slob…” She stopped here at one because she spotted that Sun’s mother was staring fiercely at her. But for in presence of so many people, very likely Sun’s mother might have beaten Third Madam up in the manner how she had ploughed lands many years ago. All others in the room knew what Third Madam meant and all laughed behind their shielding hands. Gazes of mock shot at Sun’s mother and Third Madam, making their faces dark red from shame.

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Pinlan laughed to herself and finally let go of Minglan’s hand. Minglan also felt delighted after venting her anger. She pulled Pinlan to step backward, draw away from the crowd and stopped behind flower shelve to take a rest.

At this time, a beautiful young woman sitting next to Third Madam smiled behind her hand and said, “Mother, don’t rush to turn her down. Sun is quite a scholar. Maybe his mother doesn’t want my sister at all!”

Sun’s mother’s face softened a bit and she snorted, “That’s right. Third Madam, you’re thinking too much—!” She intentionally prolonged the ending, making Third Madam shake from rage. Huilan, standing behind Third Madam, was extremely embarrassed. She lowered her head, bit hard on lips, clenched the handkerchief and shot a resentful glance at the beautiful young woman, who ignored Huilan completely without even sparing a look. All others in the room burst into giggling.

There were too many people in the room for Minglan to remember everyone, so Pinlan explained to her, “The woman in red sitting next to third aunt is elder sister Yuelan and the good-tempered one sitting next to her is elder sister Xiulan.”

Minglan nodded. Legal mother, legal sister and daughter of concubine. Truly, the enemy of an enemy was a friend, yet this saying didn’t work with Yuelan.

Noticing the mocking and pointing of other females at her, Huilan’s face turned black from awkwardness. Finally, she couldn’t bear it and fled out of the room in a hurry. Xiulan knew her sister’s behavior was discourtesy, so she apologized and followed her sister out. Yuelan hated to sit with Third Madam, so she stood up and walked to Pinlan and Minglan, touching Minglan’s hair and clothes as if they were intimate friends, “What a pretty sister. I already like you at the first sight.”

Minglan had met with female relatives in Deng Prefecture, but none of them acted so intimately so soon. She turned aside a bit while Pinlan just looked at Yuelan coldly without saying a single word. Yuelan wasn’t a bit bothered by the fact that both the two sisters ignored her and began to talk all by herself. Pinlan disliked her and, pouting her mouth, walked away to have some fruit.

While talking, Yuelan started straight at the flower-shaped hairpin made of pearls fixed by gold lines in Minglan’s hair. The gold threads were delicate, and the pearls were crystal and well-rounded, apparently expensive jewelry. She felt envious and reached out to touch it, saying, “I’ve never seen such big pearls! Second uncle is an official, so I suppose you must have led a luxurious life. Why not lend this to me to wear for a few days so that I can be proud in my husband’s family?”

Minglan was so stunned that her eyes turned wide open. Was Yuelan actually…asking things from her?

She suddenly missed Molan, who, using no matter what methods, would play better tricks than this and never pester and beg for things from a cousin she just met like that. Before Minglan could say anything, Yuelan acted first on her own. She quickly took the hairpin off Minglan’s hair, checked it carefully in her hand and felt quite satisfied. She then turned around and smiled to Minglan, “Thank you, my sister. I’ll give it back to you a few days later.” With that said, she put it in her own hair, making Minglan’s eyes open even wider from astonishment.

At this moment, Pinlan fetched tea and refreshment and just heard the last sentence. A gust of fuming anger arose from inside her mind. She approached from Yuelan’s back and suddenly reached out and grabbed the hairpin. Tucking it back to Minglan’s hand, Pinlan sneered, “Sister Yuelan. Are you borrowing or robbing? How can you take it before Minglan approved? It’s said your husband is a rich guy. Why you so long for your younger sister’s staff? What kind of elder sister you are!”

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