Matron Qu was a maid who was part of the estate madam Tian-Shi’s dowry.
She was born into the madam’s maiden household, and as a maid she was one of the few who weren’t constantly scheming how to get into the estate master’s bed. Therefore, Tian-Shi held her in high regard. Once she came of age, Tian-Shi acted as a matchmaker and introduced her to one of the stewards in the main pavilion.
While Matron Qu married that steward, several other maids by Tian-Shi’s side had succeeded in climbing into the estate master’s bed, and became his chambermaids.
At that time, there were those who mocked Matron Qu. Her appearance was excellent, and as the pavilion near the water 1 why didn’t she make plans for herself?
She had merely smiled at the time. After marrying the stweard, Matron Qu took a break from her duties and returned home to enjoy her married life. Three years passed and she gave birth to two children, one was Bi Yuan’s older brother, the other was Bi Yuan.
After her post-natal period, Tian-Shi called her back to become the baby 4th young master’s wet nurse.
Many were envious of her and said she was blessed with good fortune. Those that laughed at her previously for not climbing the bed no longer laughed, because only then did they realize that the lady who was gentle and generous while at her maiden home had several tricks up her sleeve to deal with her husband’s chambermaids. Before you were let off since you knew your place. Now that you’ve climbed into my man’s bed watch me keep you on a tight leash.
Matron Qu was the 4th young master’s wet nurse for five years. She put her whole heart into it, to the extent that Tian-Shi as the birth mother was unable to point out a single issue. When the young master turned five, the estate master said that a grown man shouldn’t be coddled by a wet nurse anymore to prevent him from ending up with the air of a housewife. Tian-Shi thus transferred her back beside her to be a senior maid.
While Matron Qu became a head maid, those initial bed climbing maids had all disappeared to who knows where.
Many thought Matron Qu was someone with great foresight, and Matron Qu thought of herself the same way.
Having served her mistress from birth, wouldn’t she have lived her life in vain if she didn’t understand certain things? As long as her mistress could remain stable in her position as the Jinyang Marquis Estate’s madam, glory and wealth would rain upon her as long as she continued serving wholeheartedly. No need to become a mistress. A position as a senior maid, with a husband, a son and a daughter was plenty. Her husband didn’t even dare take a concubine. Who could say her life wasn’t good?
As Matron Qu finished listening to the common maid’s report regarding Bi Yuan’s situation, she remained expressionless.
Only after finishing her tasks for the day did she make her way over to the main pavilion where the madam lived.
Upon seeing Matron Qu, the maid at the door didn’t even announce her presence before allowing her to enter.
As Matron Qu entered, Tian-Shi was leaning on the recliner with her eyes closed as a maid massaged her legs.
Tian-Shi was now over forty years old, but still looked like someone in her twenties. The years left no marks upon her visage, except for traces of maturity and a graceful bearing, as though time was giving her special treatment.
Fate truly was kind to Tian-Shi. Being noble born, marrying into an excellent household, and becoming in charge of household affairs upon marriage as the principal wife. Her mother-in-law was also magnanimous, and did not micromanage. She got along well with her husband and had a pair of sons and a pair of daughters.
The only imperfection was that men inevitably wanted to take a few concubines, and the resulting fruits of those unions.
However she was skillful, showing filial piety to her mother-in-law while showing respect to her husband. Kind in front of others while mercilessly strict in private. Those concubines and their children had long been suppressed by her into inexistence within the estate. Now that she even had a grandson, the only thing that could cause her worry apart from her husband’s matters in court was her younger son Ruan Siyi.
Matrin Qu didn’t say anything as she entered, and directly dropped to her knees at the madam’s side.
The maid massaging the madam’s legs was startled. Only then did Tian-Shi open her eyes and gaze upon Matron Qu who was kneeling on the ground.
Seeing her lying prone, Tian-Shi wrinkled her brows and waved her hands for the maid at her side to help Matron Qu up.
Matron Qu refused to rise, continuing to lay there, rambling about how she had lost face for her young mistress.
Upon hearing the phrase “young mistress” the estate madam’s originally furrowed brow relaxed.
That’s right, young mistress. She was indeed Matron Qu’s young mistress for many years. That was back when Matron Qu wasn’t called Matron Qu yet, but rather Dié’er 2. In the blink of an eye many years had already passed.
“Alright, talk to me. What’s the matter?”
Tian Shi wasn’t a fool. Seeing Matron Qu put on this performance, she had definitely messed up somewhere and was here to ask her for forgiveness. Regardless, Matron Qu had followed her wholeheartedly for so many years. She had already planned to let her off as soon as she said “young mistress”.
The estate madam’s change in expression was within Matron Qu’s expectations.
As stated previously, how could those that were able to stably maintain their positions in the enormous Jinyang Marquis Estate be fools?
While Tian Shi understood Matron Qu, would Matron Qu not understand her own household’s young miss?
Matron Qu knelt and explained the situation without embellishment. She merely said her daughter Bi Yuan was given a bowl of soup by the young master and therefore hit across the face by his wife.
Her tone was without complaint, just recounting the story and even criticizing Bi Yuan for being short-sighted. She happily received the young master’s grace and offended his wife. Being hit wasn’t a big deal, she was just worried that the young master’s wife would hate her in the future. She begged Tian-Shi to remove Bi Yuan from the young master’s side to prevent harming the relationship between the 4th young master and his wife. She criticized herself for not raising her daughter well, causing the madam to lose face.
Tian-Shi was the one who originally placed Bi Yuan by the young master Ruan Siyi’s side. This incident resulting in a beating could indeed be seen as losing the madam’s face.
Matron Qu’s words were very appropriate, without complaint and without mentioning anything else. She played the role of a servant who worried for her master and was unbiased towards her own daughter very well.
Yet Tian-Shi couldn’t help but realize how serious the situation was. Qiao-Shi had made such a large commotion and hit Bi Yuan? If the master bestowed something from above, how could those below refuse the offering? Was Qiao-Shi complaining about Yi’er 3 giving her the cold shoulder, or was she giving him a slap to the face? Or was she including Tian-Shi’s face in the slap as well? After all, Bi Yuan was someone placed by Tian-Shi.
She was suddenly discontent with Qiao-Shi in her heart.
Regarding Qiao-Shi, her daughter-in-law, Tian-Shi couldn’t say she was fond of her, but also couldn’t say she disliked her. While discussing the marriage proposal initially she had looked well upon her family background. The precious princess of a high ranking official in the Ministry of Appointments. Apart from her slightly lacking appearance, just based on her background she was a worthy match for her Yi’er.
Since her Yi’er was the younger son, he couldn’t inherit the title of nobility. No matter how much he was pampered at home, he couldn’t avoid having a slightly lower status. In the future, he could only take an idle post to pass the days. Therefore, Tian-Shi was still satisfied with Qiao Shi as a daughter-in-law based on her status.
Yet when considering the 4th young master’s dislike towards Qiao-Shi, Tian-Shi was unavoidably at a loss.
Yi’er, this child, was outstanding in most aspects. He was good at studying, and if the imperial court hadn’t ruled that the offspring of nobility couldn’t take the imperial exam, her Yi’er would have no problem ranking within the top 3 candidates.
His only flaw was his love of beauty. This wasn’t to say Ruan Siyi was a lecher. Tian-Shi was clear about her own son’s character. Yi’er that child just liked beautiful things, so Qiao-Shi who wasn’t anything special to look at was a major eyesore.
Unfortunately since she had already married in, they had to be resigned.
Hearing her son often complaining to her about having picked out a mediocre wife for him, the estate madam was also slightly regretful. She could only blame herself for not taking a look in person initially. Yet who would have expected the likeness portrait to have been altered?
Tian-Shi didn’t realize that Qiao-Shi’s mother had spent a lot of effort for the sake of her daughter’s marriage into the estate, not just making some alterations to the portrait. In fact, it couldn’t really be called alterations, just that it was painted a little more abstractly. The portraits of this era were painted abstractly to begin with. She had also convinced a good number of people to bring up the proposal. Tian-Shi listened to these people, took a look at the portrait and decided on Qiao-Shi. Who knew that the bride was not much to look at in person?
Looking at the portrait, Tian-Shi had initially thought that the lass looked pretty decent.
But there was nothing that could be done even knowing the portrait had been altered. The principal wife was married for her worth, and a concubine taken for her looks. Could you return someone’s daughter because they weren’t beautiful? Of course you couldn’t, so Tian-Shi could only console her own son, and promised that if he took beautiful concubines in the future she wouldn’t hinder him.
This was the reason rumors of a chambermaid spot opening up in the young master’s room had spread. It was actually premature, since Tian-Shi had only the intention but had not decided whether or not to influence what goes on in her son’s room yet.
Back to the topic at hand, when Tian-Shi heard that Qiao-Shi had caused such a commotion, her dislike of Qiao-Shi increased. She felt in her heart that Qiao-Shi was quite petty, and not suited for a position of power.
“Alright, alright. Quickly get up. It’s not that big of a deal.” Tian-Shi indicated for the maid beside her to help Matron Qu up. Since it wasn’t appropriate for her to blame her own daughter-in-law, she could only placate Matron Qu: “Bi Yuan will stay in Siyi’s pavilion. If Qiao-Shi has a problem with it, she can come talk to me about it.”
Tian-Shi was also prepared to use this situation to beat some sense into Qiao-Shi, letting her know that it’s fine if she wanted to hit her face, but she could not hit her husband’s face. Married couples were supposed to be united. If you hit your husband’s face, how could you be a good wife?
Therefore, after pondering for a bit she added: “Tomorrow I will let Xiu É go give Bi Yuan that lass some medicine for her wounds. She’s considered to have suffered some grievances this time.”
“Thank you madam for your sympathy!”
Matron Qu knelt to the floor once more and shed tears of gratitude.
This was her original intent!
Matron Qu finished expressing her gratitude and asked to withdraw. Only after leaving the main pavilion did she harshly spit a wad of saliva onto the floor.
Pah! Don’t think that just because you’re the 4th young madam you can act as you please! A madam without the support of her husband wasn’t that much more powerful than her servants. This time I will make you improve your memory, and remember in the future not to touch someone before having a stable footing!
Therefore it is said: who in this large residence was truly virtuous and kind? Even Matron Qu had manipulated her mistress without leaving a trace.
Yikes these chapters are long. This one especially since I decided to translate the author’s notes (rant?) which was almost half the length of the chapter. Thanks for reading up to here, I will continue doing my best going forward.
Spoilers for side characters in 2nd last paragraph of Author’s notes.
People have been pointing out that Tian-Shi was negligent in picking such a wife for her son. It was mentioned in the story that the wife’s family spent a lot of effort into making it happen. You couldn’t say anything if the portrait was too abstract, that could just be the artist’s style. Furthermore, Qiao-Shi isn’t ugly. She just can’t be described as beautiful. In modern terms, she could be called fresh and pretty. It’s just that the young master’s standards of beauty are much higher than normal people. Just like how everyone has their own preferred looks. A person could be an 8 to one person, a 6 to another and not attractive to someone else. It’s just a matter of perspective. Qiao-Shi’s family also couldn’t be said to be without conscience. Normally speaking, once you take the bride that’s it, what could you still be grumbling about? Her mother at least still felt some guilt over it, and even though her daughter was angry she still criticized herself at first. In fact they didn’t have to feel guilty. A high ranking official’s daughter being matched with a second son was more than enough. As someone in Qiao-Shi’s father’s position, marrying off his daughter wasn’t so simple. The background of the Jinyang Marquis Estate was taken into consideration, as well as Ruan Siyi being talented, good looking as well as a second son. In normal families they only had to worry about their daughter marrying rich. In this case the father had to consider his daughter’s personality, which didn’t fit that of an estate’s main wife. Instead he chose for her to marry rich but in a position where she wouldn’t have to do much work and not have to interact much with her mother-in-law. It was only upon seeing such a good match and opportunity that they decided to alter the portrait and have people bring up the proposal. Since these people could convince Tian-Shi, they were of course not outsiders, and instead were people close to her, which was why Tian-Shi didn’t bother going to check it out in person. Furthermore, Tian-Shi also had plans in her heart. From the phrase “Looking at the portrait, Tian Shi had initially thought that the lass looked pretty decent” you can tell she didn’t think it appropriate for the wife to be some great beauty. Especially the following line about the wife being married for her worth and concubines for their looks.
How could she not know her own son’s personality? She just thought well of the bride-to-be’s family background, and thought it a good match. Even if she wasn’t a beauty, how could everything be perfect? She just didn’t expect her son to have such a big reaction. Her complaints about Qiao-Shi and her family was merely her taking out her anger on them after being incessantly bothered by her son’s complaints. Venting anger is something everyone does. Therefore, in deciding who was in the wrong, both sides are to blame. But to look at the root cause, the 4th young master is the majority, being not quite mature enough. Otherwise he and Qiao-Shi would not have fallen out to this extent.
But don’t worry everyone, because a lot of people are saying it’s a shame for Qiao-Shi. The husband and wife wouldn’t have ended up this way if it weren’t for outside interference. The end of this piece has a happy conclusion for Ruan Siyi and Qiao-Shi. Let’s give Qiao-Shi happiness.
Having written so much, a lot of it were things I didn’t want to say. But seeing some of the comments asking questions, I decided to provide some general explanations. To be honest, a lot of it is written in the story, it’s just a bit fragmented. Since they aren’t main characters, going into too much detail would make people say the story is getting bogged down. But it is reflected in many places.