Published at 20th of March 2019 09:37:54 AM

Chapter 51

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Who Will She Marry in the Future? (2)

Old Madam Sheng also smiled, “With no one living in the house, it is only natural that it looks a bit cold. No need for a walk around, I believe you can keep the mansion well. And your grandson is just competent like you when severing Childe Changbai.”

Learning that his grandson was favored by the master, the old steward looked even happier and ushered all to sit in the main hall. After which, he convened all maids and servants to kowtow to Old Madam Sheng. Minglan felt that her head was spinning after receiving loads of complimentary words and could barely remember the servants. Finally, it was all over.

Old Madam Sheng then led Minglan to the inner hall and arrived at a secluded chamber after passing several wing rooms and circumventing the storehouse. Fang Mama was already there waiting at the door.

“Did you get all things out?” asked Old Madam Sheng upon seeing Fang Mama.

“Yes, madam.” Fang Mama answered as she bowed to pay respect. Then she led all maids out, leaving only the grandmother and granddaughter in the room.

Minglan was quite confused. Judging by the secrecy, it seemed her grandma had something to instruct her. Then she found her grandmother sitting in an old chair in the middle of the room, who pointed at the huge cases displaying in order and said, “These are all the dowries your grandma has.” With that, she then tilted the corners of her mouth and added, with a faint touch of sarcasm coloring her tone, “All that’s left.”

Minglan stared blankly at the cases and went over to open the already unlocked cases upon Old Madam Sheng’s gesturing. A strong gas of something rotten greeted her and made her cough. Whoosh! They must haven’t been touched for thirty years. Would there be some contagious bacteria in them? Minglan managed to open her eyes, only to see piles of something dark covered in dust, some even with spider webs dangling. With a closer look, she managed to tell some porcelains, bronze antiques from them. The last two cases were the mostly heavily protected, with an iron box inside the heavy rosewood case.

Something complicated came to Old Madam Sheng’s eyes. She seemed to have recalled quite a few past memories and said in a tranquil voice, “Originally, there were dozens of cases of first-class cloth, like silk, brocade, or fur. I set them all in flames. For other dowries, I exchanged them into silvers to help your father build connections for his official career. The rest I brought with me when I got married are all here…they’re yours now.”

Minglan was choked again before she hardly recovered from her coughs. She hurried to respond, “Grandmother’s dowries should be passed over to brothers. I’m fine with some silvers.”

Good heavens! If she brought all these stuff home, she, without a doubt, would be hanged by Wang shi. Worse, even brother Changbai might not like her anymore.

Old Madam Sheng ignored her words and continued, “I’ll give you girls each a thousand Liang of silvers no matter how much dowry your father prepares. As for boys, it matters whether they are legitimate or not. So I’ll give your big brother Changbai one thousand and five hundred and the younger two eight hundred each. I’ve been in Sheng family my whole life and long acquitted the scarce love your grandfather offered me. Therefore, all these cases are my own possession, not a bit related with Sheng family.”

Old Madam Sheng’s placid tone was like making clear her last will. Minglan felt depressed. She learned that all the dowry of Yu Yanran was just about one thousand and five hundred silvers, which already included the endowment her grandfather added upon her distant marriage. However, it also indicated that Cabinet Yu had always been honest and upright during his tenure and Lord Yu, Yanran’s father, was such a niggard.

Minglan pulled on her grandmother’s sleeve and persuaded, “Grandma, please leave them to brother Changbai, he is the legitimate heir of the family.”

Old Madam Sheng came to herself after quite a while and gazed silently at Minglan, the complicated implication of which startled Minglan.

“These, though not invaluable, are enough to provide you a decent life. You sure you don’t want them?” asked Old Madam in her casual tone.

Minglan heaved a long sigh and decided to speak out, “To be honest, all like great treasures, me no exception. However, I can’t bite off more than I can chew. What is mine will never fly away, and I can’t strive for things that never belong to me. These treasures can even outshine the mansion of big sister’s in-laws, how can I boast myself to use them? Besides….” Minglan couldn’t continue her reasoning under the amusement in her grandmother’s eyes, so she hastily came to the conclusion, “All in all, I am still young. If I am lucky, then I’ll be blessed with a decent life. If not, then these bronze antiques won’t change the fate.”

In this ancient time, money wasn’t everything. Without the ability or the support of a great family, the rich were more susceptible to the blackmail and threatening of the officials or aristocrats. Why Sheng Wei could thrive all these years was all because he had a younger cousin who was an official. The same reason why all the seventh-ranked officials, county magistrates in Youyang, were on good terms with Sheng family and why Li family, wealthy as this, still fought so hard to let their sons read and take the imperial exams. She had no intention to offend Wang shi or Changbai just for several cases of treasures, a loss she now couldn’t bear to stand.

Old Madam Sheng looked at Minglan in amusement, “Who said that the eight cases of treasures are all yours?”

Minglan was struck with embarrassment and forced a wry smile. Alright, it was her overthinking. Old Madam Sheng pointed at the two cases sitting at the back, “Those two are yours, some of the jewelries I’ve used. Grandma won’t let you bite more than you can chew. Rest assured, it won’t cause you any trouble.” Then she continued with a gentle voice, “You’re a clever girl, not coveting wealth. I’m more than happy about it. You deserve these things. The rest of the cases are not for your big brother. I’ve my plan. Just show you something to enrich your mind, they’re antiques of previous dynasty.”

Minglan wiggled herself on her grandmother and said in a low voice, “Your silly granddaughter knows nothing of them. Please tell me about it, grandma.”

Shooting a glance at her granddaughter, Old Madam Sheng led Minglan to the cases and introduced the story of these jewelries. Learning the true value of these treasures, Minglan suddenly blurted out, “Grandma, why not keep these two cases to yourself?”

Quite surprised, Old Madam Sheng eyed implicitly at Minglan.

Minglan continued after hesitating for quite a while, “I know father, mother and sisters and brothers are all filial. However, grandma, you still need some private silvers for your own use.”

What she truly wanted to say was that sons were not as reliable as the money in hand. Besides, her father’s biological mother was some concubine, not her grandmother. That were some of her heartfelt learnings of being a court clerk in her previous life.

Touched by Minglan’s words, Old Madam Sheng said gently, “Good girl, don’t worry about your grandma. I have quite a lot left to myself.”

Many of the women servants were those who followed Old Madam Sheng to Sheng family upon her marriage. Old Madam Sheng wanted to have some talks with them and let Minglan to walk around garden in case she felt bored. Minglan pouted her mouth and complained, “I don’t like walking around the garden.” She longed to play on the streets.

Old Madam Sheng put on a serious face and stuffed a small abacus to Minglan, “Then practice how to use an abacus. Now you couldn’t even count to one hundred, I’m afraid you’ll squander the family fortune when you get married.”

Minglan stared at her grandmother with much unwillingness in eyes. Weighting the two choices, she groaned, “I’d rather walk around the garden.”

Alas! She had been selected for Mathematical Olympiad from primary school to the high school! What she was good at was doing sums in head!

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Minglan, with not a bit interest, walked around the lake, then sat on a stone under a withered willow tree. Holding her chins in her hands, she stared at the lake with her thoughts running wild. The lake here in Jinling was quite different that that of Shandong, it was so clear that Minglan could see clearly her reflection in the water, a wry face out of boredom. Minglan suddenly became a bit childish, grabbing stones from the ground and throwing one at a time into the lake.

Her grandmother must have a plan about her marriage as even her dowry was prepared. However, no matter how her grandmother loved her, or how she herself tried to please her grandmother, Old Madam Sheng never disclosed any information to Minglan. Minglan heard that Old Madam Sheng chose her husband all by herself, falling in love at first sight with the handsome boy who came the third in court exam after hearing the boy composing several lines of poems. To marry the man with a humble birth, Old Madam Sheng defied her parents who loved her dearly. The story didn’t end well as the passion faded in just a few years after their marriage, making the two like enemies.

Much like those told in dramas, however, it was true that art imitated the real life. However, Minglan herself was a legal worker of sense and she would never make fool of herself by marrying someone she fell in love at first sight. She kept throwing the stones with grieve, quite curious to know who her Mr. Right was.

“Sister Minglan,” there came a clear voice of a young boy.

Minglan raised up her head out of bewilderment and scanned the lake around, surprised to find a good-looking boy standing beside the lake.

Walking closer to Minglan and seeing her in a trance, He Hongwen smiled as he approached, “Don’t you remember me, sister?”

Minglan beamed with a warm smile. Standing up, she bowed rakishly, “Brother Hongwen, so great to see you here.”

He Hongwen stopped a few steps away from Minglan and cupped his hand, “I came today with my grandmother, sorry for the bother.”

Seeing the mourning apparel on He Homgwen, Minglan assumed a serious expression, “Grandmother and I had planned to attend your maternal great-grandfather’s funeral, but…”

Waving his hand to stop Minglan, He Hongwen smiled, “You’re here for the wedding ceremony and stayed in your uncle’s house, it is only natural that you didn’t come as weddings or funerals shouldn’t be attended together.”

Minglan lowered her voice, “Old Madam He must be sad.”

He Hongwen walked over and said in a genial voice with his eyes fixed on Minglan, “Grandmother is open-minded and often told me that life and death are normal. Great-grandfather enjoyed a long life and died in peace. It’s a blessing. Death is not something to be feared.”

Minglan was in a bit of a daze then nodded in approval, “Old Madam Sheng is right. I fear not the death but that I cannot live following my heart.”

He Hongwen was touched by her words and smiled, “I fear not the death either but that I cannot live long.”

Minglan burst out laughing.

Seeing her smile, He Hongwen asked, “Why you looked so sad just now? Was it because you didn’t get satisfactory pouch on your elder cousin’s wedding?”

Minglan shook her head and grumbled unhappily, “Grandmother criticized me for not being able to use an abacus and said that I would only splurge on family wealth.” She made up an excuse to avoid talking of her fear of being married to someone unknown.

He Hongwen couldn’t help laughing, “It’s no big deal. I wasted quite a few fist-class ginsengs by feeding them to the goldfish. In the end, the fish died. And my father chased me around the house, reprimanding that I was such a spendthrift.” He Hongwen looked a bit sad as he recalled his deceased father.

Minglan shook her head and argued, “Uncle was wrong. You’re more a quack than a spendthrift. My tiny flaw is nothing compared to yours. Don’t drag me down!”

He Hongwen burst into laughter and shook his head again and again.

The boy was gentle and composed, his smile warm and bright. In the agreeable landscape came a fait aroma of fresh herbs. All these put Minglan in a better state of mind.

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