It is almost April, the peach blossoms were glorious. Count Zhongqin household sent a letter from the capital saying that Yuan Wenshao will set off to receive the bride at the end of the month. Counting the days, he will be able to reach the Deng Prefecture in a few days. On this side, Sheng Hong’s first paternal cousin Sheng Wei has also arrived. Originally Hualan’s wedding should also have her maternal uncle present but that Wang Yan is now an official and he cannot leave his post easily. Only Sheng Wei who is in the restaurant business can easily move about. This time he brought along his second son, Changwu to congratulate and will still accompany Changbai to send Hualan to the capital.
When Sheng Wei followed Sheng Hong to the Shou’an Hall to pay his respects, Minglan was sitting at the couch reciting《Ode to the Lotus》 “In the water or on the lands flowers, have won a great many fans and lovers…… And yet, on the lotus my crave showers, which out of muck and mud grows unblemished. And out of clear waters shows pure and stainless. Hollow as inside is, upright is the outside, with no creeper and branch served. Wafting its fragrance far and wide, it stands elegant and spotless……”1 Her voice childish, reciting in a clear voice. The little young girl looked pleased with herself and is charmingly naive. Old Madame Sheng upright on the couch, turning to the side to laugh as she listened. Her eyes filled with warm and delight.
Sheng Wei was touched and saw the cheerful spirit and rosy complexion of Old Madame Sheng was actually a little more vigorous compared to when he last saw her two years ago. Then he turned his eyes to look at Minglan and saw that her pair of pupils are glistening. Once she saw that he came, she immediately climbed down from the couch and obediently stood at a corner. Seeing that she is so well-mannered and sensible, Sheng Wei is awfully fond of her and his heart more understanding.
After greeting Old Madame Sheng, Sheng Wei laughed and took Minglan into his arms. “You must be Sixth yatou right. I have seen your older sisters, only you. Whenever I come over to your house, you are always sick, now you must be well enough.” He has a squarish face and seems like he has been through rather tough times. He is obviously only a few years older than Sheng Hong but looks as if he is ten years older. He looks very kind.
Minglan raised her pair of fat little fists and greeted according to the rules, appearing to say hello “This niece is well, thank you First Uncle for caring. Hello First Uncle, really thank you for coming here from far.”
A crispy young voice yet her words are like a little adult. The adults in the room all laughed. Sheng Wei laughed especially hard, hugging little Minglan and continuously tremble. Minglan was laughed at till her little face turned red and felt indignant. She obviously followed the rules all right, laugh what laugh, be more solemn!
Sheng Wei felt about in his chest and fished out a round red silk, passing it to Minglan “This is given by your paternal grandaunt, your older sisters have them, just lacking yours.” Minglan lifted her eyes to look at Grandmother and Father. She saw that they lightly nodded then she received it. Opening it up, gold ray glistening before her eyes.
This is a heavy pure gold Ruyi lock, she quickly gave to Old Madame Sheng to take a look. The Old Madame put the gold lock around Minglan’s neck with a smile and Minglan immediately felt the weight, weighing a few taels.2 She promptly turned her fat little body and obediently bow towards Sheng Wei and said “Thank you Grandaunt, thank you First Uncle.”
This moment, Cuiping carried in a lotus red little tea tray and entered. She saw Minglan walk over then as usual placed the tea in front of Minglan, who reached out to pick up one of the tea cups and walked away diligently. Sheng Hong thought that Minglan would first carry the teacup to him as per normal, who knows Minglan’s short little legs would make a turn after walking halfway. She lowered her head and held the cup with two hands, offering it to Sheng Wei. She gave the second cup to himself, after that Minglan tiptoed to get the fresh Shandong’s jujube and attentively carried it to Sheng Wei’s tea table. Sheng Hong inwardly found it funny and could help to jokingly scold her. “This Sixth yatou, offering tea and jujubes in this way from just receiving a present. Forgotten your father already!”
Minglan looked embarrassed, her little face blushed and stopping her squirrel like little body that was busy moving around. Her awkward little hands and legs were very helpless, she explained in embarrassment “This…… no, probably it is…… the hand that has received doesn’t reach.”
Old Madame Sheng as well as the two brothers, Sheng Wei and Sheng Hong immediately roared with laugher. Sheng Wei took Minglan into his embrace, taking a look at her snow white and soft little face, shy and really cute. Thus he took out an exquisite embroidered bag and placed it in Minglan’s hands and cracked a joke “First Uncle’s mouth that has been fed by others is soft.3 Here, this a newly made ninety-nine fishes, all given to you! I say little Ming’er, your family’s food is really a little too expensive!”
The Old Madame was practically laughing out tears, she scolded while laughing “These cheeky little monkeys!” The surrounding maids also secretly covered their mouth. Minglan quickly picked out ten over fleshy jujubes from the fruit plate and sent it to Sheng Hong. Smiling in a fawning way “Father eat, Father eat. This jujube is plump……”
Sheng Hong smilingly pulled Minglan over and he touched his little daughter’s soft hair. Then he opened the embroidered purse in Minglan’s hands and grasping a detailed bright gold fish-shaped ingot. He placed into Minglan’s fat little palms “Looks good right, play with it then.”
Suddenly Minglan had so many gold, she really was somewhat embarrassed. She bowed with her hands held in front with her little face red. At this time, Wang shi arrived and brought several children apart from Hualan. Minglan let out a little relief and hurriedly went to greet Wang shi.
Wang shi greeted Old Madame and Sheng Wei then allowed the children to greet. Seeing such a big and dazzling gold lock on Minglan’s chest, Rulan pouted and Molan was docile, having no expression. Having gone through Governess Kong’s teachings, the both of them has become more well-behaved. Sheng Wei exchanged conversational greetings with his nieces. Rulan is haughty and Molan is polite and does not speak a lot. Sheng Hong does not have anything to say, on the contrary, Wang shi said smiling from ear to ear “Sister-in-law is too courteous already, to make First Brother-in-law come so far for Hualan, I feel very apologetic and still bringing so many things as well.” After she spoke, she turned her head “And you guys, the little boys’ things are in Master’s study and the little girls’ are at Weiru Pavilion. Go and pick it up later.”
The children immediately expressed their thanks to Sheng Wei. Everyone said a few more words, Rulan then happily went to see the gift. Old Madame Sheng smiled and allowed the granddaughters to first go over. After the three girls left, the atmosphere in the room became quiet at once. Sheng Wei stood resolutely before Changbai and said “I heard that Little Boy Bai has already passed the county exams, Sister-in-law4 really has good fortune.”
Changbai cupped his hands in greeting “First Uncle has praised wrongly. This young nephew is ignorant and needs to study harder.”
Wang shi proudly replied “There is still the final college exam before he is considered a Xiucai.5 First Brother-in-law, do not be in a hurry to praise him. Everyone says that Little Boy Wu is also studying, the two brothers can take the examinations together.”
Sheng Wei smiled and shook his head “This cannot be done, at that time when I was studying, I was already not better than Second Younger Brother. That First Nephew of yours follows me, only diligent when looking at the account books and looking at those four common characters of classical Chinese, he will feel giddy. Although your Second Nephew can study a few books but is still fallen short compared to Little Boy Bai. I see that he still likes wield guns and play with spears. This time, after sending First Niece to the capital to complete the marriage, I intend to let Little Boy Wu pay respects to Lu Kui, General Lu and try the military path.”
Sheng Hong smiled “This is actually good. That thick bar Lu’s martial arts are first class. He often drank wine with me when he was taking the military examinations, these few years also have not broken contact. I will write him a letter later to lead Little Boy Wu and also take more care.”
Sheng Wei greatly rejoiced “Then I must thank Second Younger Brother. Wu’er, still do not hurry and kowtow in thanks to your uncle!”
Changwu who was standing by in attendance, looked of the same age as Changbai but his body is growing, his mouth big and his face broad, his spirit cheerful. He happily kowtow to Sheng Hong and Sheng Hong quickly helped him up “Big Brother is still saying these words, if Little Boy Wu has prospects in the future, it is also our fortune. Having our own brothers mutually caring for one another in officialdom, is it not that our clan will flourish?”
Sheng Wei turned his head to look at Changfeng and smiled “Look, your Cousin Wu is useless and can only be a military person. Seems like it is still you guys related brothers to take the examinations together. I hear that Little Boy Feng’s poetry is excellent. Rather talented at such a young age, definitely able to become a Zhuangyuan6 in the future.”
Changfeng had a smile while standing at the side, this moment he cupped his arms and said “This nephew is ashamed and only hope and will be contended to have half of Big Brother’s knowledge in the future. The previous dynasty’s Zhang Taiyue7 became a Tongsheng8 at the age of nine, this nephew is untalented and intend to take the examinations next year.”
Old Madame Sheng sternly said “Although literature is important but the imperial examinations is not entirely tested on poetry. You ought to spend more energy on essays, just like your grandfather’s poetry is so elegant that it hides the forest of apricot trees, he too first learnt essays well. You can follow your Big Brother to study together later.” Changfeng smiled and replied yes.
After conversing for a little while, Old Madame Sheng allowed the three little boys to play and the adults will continue chatting.
After they left, Sheng Wei respectfully said towards Old Madame Sheng “Originally your nephew’s wife also wants to come over but was hindered by family matters and cannot clear her hands. I take the place of her to kowtow in congratulations to Second Aunt.”
“How to come this far away, how to come out when nephew’s wife manages such a big family. We these two branches need not these formalities. How is your mother’s health, is it still strong?” Old Madame Sheng smilingly asked.
Sheng Wei’s expression became a little gloomy “Everything is fine in the family, just that my Mother is getting more lazy recently. Her body is not the same as before, she often talks about Second Aunty. I thought that when Aunty is free you can come over to my house to stay for a while. Just afraid that it will make Second Aunty tired therefore Mother did not allow me to mention.”
Old Madame Sheng sighed “Tired what tired? I am sisters-in-law with your mother and are close. How can it be unpleasant for the wife of the younger brother to visit the old sister-in-law. Sigh… I admire this Old Sister-in-law very much. She, a weak female, endured for so many years and has endured it all but has pitifully wear out her body to ailments.”
Sheng Wei sincerely said “At that time, it is all thanks to Aunty who supported us mother and son. This nephew’s whole family can have today, speaking of which is really…”
Old Madame Sheng waved her hands to stop him from continuing “Do not mention already, do not mention already.”
Sheng Hong saw that the atmosphere was heavy and wanted to look for a lighter topic. He looked at Wang shi, she received the signal and immediately understood thus she smilingly said “Had not been to Jinling in a long time, do not know how is Little Boy Song’s wife? In the previous letter, it said that she is pregnant.”
Sheng Wei’s expression became even darker “What a pity, she suddenly miscarried a little while ago.”
The atmosphere became even heavier within a short period of time. Sheng Hong glared at Wang shi with a discontented expression. Wang shi felt very wronged, she also did not know.
Okay, livening up the atmosphere requires talent. It is evident that Wang shi still require practice. Sheng Hong was completely unsatisfied with Wang shi and decided to take it into his hands. He smiled and said “Do not know how is that family you mentioned the previous time for Little Boy Wu? Has Big Brother asked around, if it is good, being the uncle, I can start preparing the congratulatory gift already.”
Sheng Wei’s face was black like the bottom of the pot “Alas, do not mention, that family’s daughter has eloped with the horsekeeper!”
The atmosphere in the house became heavier……
1. Credits to Peter Cooper Xu, http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_49f5af5901012p9p.html Minglan did not recite the poem in whole so the full poem and the different ways of translation is in the link.
2. One tael weighs about 50 grams.
3. 吃人嘴短，拿人手短 (Chi Ren Zui Duan, Ge Ren Shou Duan): It literally means the mouth that has been fed by others is soft, the hand that has received doesn’t reach. Minglan said the latter half of the idiom and thus Sheng Wei replied with the first. This idiom means that one is partial to those from whom presents have been accepted.
4. 弟妹 (Di Mei): Literally younger brother and younger sister. This case would refer to the wife of a younger brother
5. 秀才 (Xiu Cai): Also know as Shengyuan, someone who has passed the entirety of the Child Examinations.
6. 状元 (Zhuang Yuan): It is a title given to the scholar who has the highest score in the imperial examinations
7. Zhang Juzheng would be his birth name and Taiyue was his pseudonym. He was the Grand Secretary of the Ming dynasty.
8. 童生 (Tong Sheng): Literally child student, it is one that has passed the county/prefecture examinations
Minglan is so easily bribed. I am glad the uncle was really nice to my cutie pie. LOL Sheng Hong got angry at Wang shi but he made the whole situation more awkward. Next up, Minglan shares her presents!