Published at 20th of March 2019 09:37:33 AM

Chapter 49

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Happiness Derives from Comparison (2)

Seeing the hairpin that already in her hand was taken back, Yuelan hit the roof, cursing, “Is there anything to do with you while I’m talking to Minglan? What a mean thing you are! Be careful no one dares to marry you!” Then she turned around and smiled to Minglan, “You don’t know this. Rich men in a county like ours don’t have good staff to buy even with money. I just want to borrow for a few days. Sister, I don’t think you’ll be that mean, right?”

Pinlan was about to talk back when she was pulled to stop by Minglan who cast a comforting glance at Pinlan and then turned to smile at Yuelan, saying seriously, “Sorry. I’m a mean girl, and I don’t want to lend it to you.”

Upon finishing, she immediately pulled Pinlan to walk away, leaving Yuelan standing where she was, stunned. Pinlan helped Minglan wear the hairpin and walked to Old Madam, joking and laughing. Yuelan didn’t dare to follow up to try further, so she could only stamp her feet hard. Yuelan was used to taking things from others, so her plan had been to sit back in the middle of the hall once the hairpin was in her hand. She mistook Minglan, who had been quiet, as an obedient pushover that would never claim the event to others in order not to lose face and the event would get over after she went back home. To her surprise, …

Yuelan went back to Third Madam’s side when she just knew that the opera on the open stage was about to begin. Most of the ladies and madams already followed Li shi to outdoors, so Yuelan hurriedly followed up with third madam. Sheng Yun and the two old madams had intended to watch the opera but were pestered by Sun’s mother. Zhu shistayed to listen to their talks while Minglan and Pinlan chatted with each other after finding a pair of benches to sit down on.

Sun’s mother was gushing volubly about how great her son was to an extreme extent, “…The county magistrate insisted to drink with my son, hoping my son could write the official plaque for him. He was so passionate that my son had no choice but to approve. In my opinion, what a blessing that he can have a plaque written by my son…”

Pinlan couldn’t stand the words and leaned to Minglan, whispering to her, “The truth is that her son, our brother-in-law, was drunk and insisted to give county magistrate a plaque. Besides, that dinner was held by my father to discuss issues with county magistrate, but our brother-in-law came without invitation and began to drink a lot and talk nonsense, making my father keep apologizing to county magistrate!”  

Minglan was shocked. What a reporter Sun’s mother was! She could apply for a position in CNN.

Sun’s mother was so intoxicated in praising her son that only after quite long did she finally think of Old Madam Sheng, “I heard that your grandson is also a Xiucai. I’m wondering when he made it?” This was Sun’s mother’s favorite topic which she never got tired of. Even if others ranked the first in the imperial exam but just at an elder age than her son, she would take the opportunity to brag about it.

Old Madam Sheng smiled a bit, “Fifteen years old.” Sun’s mother was satisfied, “Wow, my son made it earlier, but yours is still a talented youth.” Old Madam Sheng understated with modesty, “Not too talented, but that year in Deng Prefecture, several twelve-year-old students made it to Xiucai.”

Sun’s mother forced a fake laugh, “That’s no big deal. Probably in that year the exam was easy. Not all scholars are necessarily talented.”

This sentence annoyed Zhu shi who sat next to her and couldn’t help but satirize back, “Speaking of that, your son made it to Xiucai at twelve. I suppose he has attended provincial exams several times. Why isn’t he a Juren yet?”

[T/N: Juren “举人” a successful candidate in the imperial examinations at the provincial level in the Ming and Qing dynasties.]

Sun’s mother struggled to hold her rage back, “Many tried decades of years. A few years is only normal.”

Zhu shi grinned behind her hand, “Yes, you’re right. Many tried decades of years.”

Sun’s mother flared up and found that Sheng family’s females wouldn’t help her; so, with the rage nowhere to vent out, she scolded her daughter-in-law sitting beside her, “Why didn’t you serve tea for me? What an inconsiderate and useless thing you are!” Shulan’s embarrassment from being cursed in public sprawled from face to ears as she ordered a girl servant to serve tea. Pinlan felt sad for her sister but it would be improper to speak up for Shulan in the presence of all elders, so she squeezed hard her fists. Minglan at once whispered to her, “Don’t act reckless. Calm down. Your grandmother knows how to deal with the woman.”  

Old Madam Sheng remained calm and continued to watch tea leaves spinning on water. First Old Madam began to feel irritated but, without anything displayed on her face, still listened quietly.

Sun’s mother watched Shulan walk away, dissatisfied, and pouted her mouth, saying, “Old Madam, my in-law, I’m not bragging but a man with such character and appearance like my son is so rare. It’s really a blessing that your granddaughter married to our family! She had moved in for many years but never bore a child. For any other families, such daughter-in-law would have been divorced long ago.”

Sheng Yun was most protective toward her families. She tried really hard to withhold her anger but failed, “There are wives who give birth to children a decade after getting married. During these four to five years, how many concubines my niece allowed her husband to take?”

Zhu shi helped, “That’s right. Whether your family can have descendants depends on heaven. Having taken a full house of concubines, what else do you expect?”

Sun’s mother sneered, “If she is really a good wife, she should have allowed the concubine to live in our house instead of putting her outside to make us be laughed at by others.”

First Old Madam said in a low voice, “How can you let a woman of dirty origin move into your house? Your son is after all a scholar. Don’t you fear to bring shame to your ancestors for making this kind of speech!”

Sun’s mother didn’t yield, “Who can you blame for your daughters’ inability? Does she want to forbid her husband to take concubines and cut the bloodline of our family?”

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Pinlan couldn’t bear to listen to her anymore, turned away and left at once. Minglan hurriedly chased after her. With good physical strength and bad temper, Pinlan ran away for eight hundred miles in one breath and Minglan almost ran her legs off in order to catch up with her under a willow tree. She held Pinlan’s arms, determined not to let her go anymore, and kept inhaling.

Pinlan couldn’t stop kicking at the tree and cursed out of anger, “Damn it! Why should a person as nice as my sister have such a fate? Why? Why?”

Minglan caressed chest and gasped for breath, waiting for Pinlan to use up all energy from kicking the tree. Then she pulled Pinlan under a position well-covered by artificial mountain and picked a clean stone for them to sit down. Encountered with such a thing, Minglan didn’t knew how to comfort Pinlan. If she was still a secretary of modern times, she would definitely heroically announce, “Divorce!” However, here… The two sisters sat silently for a long time when suddenly sounds of hurrying steps and conversations rose up behind the artificial mountain. 

“Sis don’t leave; wait and let me finish!”

“I’m going to watch opera. Stop your speech; I won’t listen.”

–It was Xiulan and Huilan! Pinlan and Minglan quickly exchanged a glance.

As an experienced eavesdropper, Minglan’s first reaction was to cover Pinlan’s mouth. To her surprise, Pinlan moved quicker than her and covered Minglan’s mouth first. Then they sat still, focused on listening to the conversation taking place from the other side of the hill. Pinlan’s proficient reaction made Minglan wonder: Did they share the same hobby?

Xiulan over there said, “Marriage for us women is like an opportunity for rebirth. Never make a reckless choice about it! I heard about the young lord of that family. Though he is rich, he crazily lusts for women and has lots of girls in his teens.”

“Do I have other options? Aunt treats me like I am a thief. I can barely meet cousin Taisheng. Now I’m at marriageable age, so I have to find another way out,” Huilan said with resentment.

“Taisheng? Don’t ever think of it. There are things you don’t know. In that year, aunt wanted to marry her husband, yet our grandfather tried hard to force big uncle to marry aunt to another family and almost beat aunt’s husband to death. I heard later, it was second old madam who saved them as the match-maker. Even if aunt didn’t bear a grudge, she won’t treat us nicely.” Melancholy was discernible in Xiulan’s tone.

Pinlan and Minglan looked at each other, wondering if such thing ever happened. Excitement oozed out from Pinlan’s eyes while Minglan also turned gossipy—It turned out aunt and her husband got married of their own will.

Thumping sounds rose up. It seemed to be them stamping their feet. Huilan’s voice was heard again from the other side of the hill, “… Sis. Did you see the ostentation and extravagance of their family? Did you see Minglan and Pinlan’s jewelries and clothes? Name one and it is worth all I have! I don’t want to live a poor life anymore. I must marry a rich guy!”

“Don’t be stupid, money isn’t everything in a marriage. Though my husband’s family is poor, but he treats me with love and sincerity and my mother-in-law cares about me. Now with a pair of children, I feel happier than enjoying best rare food! Don’t envy Yuelan for marrying a rich family. Her husband is a rogue, visiting brothel every day and beating wife out of no reason. The concubines with children all look down upon her. Do you wish to lead such a life? You’d better beg big aunt-in-law; she will help you,” Xiulan persuaded Huilan patiently.

Huilan seemed to sneer, “How lucky you are! You and Shulan got married at the same time. How about Shulan? She also married to a poor scholar who, however, is not a bit similar to your husband! Using his wife’s dowry and bossing her around all day. Shulan, a useless woman, has no one to blame! Hem. Stop it. It’s more secure to marry a rich guy…” 

The speech finished, followed by sounds of footsteps. It seemed that Huilan left and Xiulan rushed to catch up with her. The sound faded off.

Pinlan slowly released Minglan’s mouth and said calmly with a smile shimmering on her face, “Minglan. Suddenly, I’m not angry because no matter what, my sister has never been beaten up.”

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