After leaving the Jinse Pavilion, Yan Ru was sulky and didn’t speak. Xue-shi was still aware of her daughter’s personality and gave her a glare, resisting the urge to scold her. Only after getting back to the Yusheng Pavilion did Xue-shi start her scolding. “Your second aunt has an honest personality. Don’t be upset because you didn’t like what she was saying. What household depends on poetry and couplets? What major household picks their daughter-in-law based on her artistic abilities? I told you back then not to learn these things, but you insisted, and even became obsessed. Your second aunt was a famous talent in the past, but do you see her showing off her literary skills? She embodies the phrase, how do you say it….”
Seeing her mom struggling to come up with the phrase, Yan Ru resentfully finished her sentence, “the well-educated are naturally elegant.”
“Right, that’s it.”
“You also know that being well-educated makes one elegant? Didn’t your daughter want to learn these things because I wanted to be more like second aunt?” Yan Ru argued with a red face.
This was truly the case. If Yan Ru worshipped anyone, it would be her second aunt Shen Yi Yao. From a young age, she always felt her second aunt was different from others. Her words were gentle and her bearing was generous and dignified. She handled things in a collected way and had an aura of knowing how to do anything. She wasn’t like her mom, who always seemed to be fawning whenever she spoke. She also wasn’t like her third aunt, who looked timid and petty.
But early on, Xue-shi had cautioned Yan Ru not to get close to Shen Yi Yao. At that time, Shen Yi Yao was also worried about her frail son and rarely went out. Without anyone to teach her, Yan Ru could only fumble about by herself. This was why Yan Hong mocked her for “trying to act elegant everyday”.
Seeing her daughter tearing up, Xue-shi held her and comforted: “Mom doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn these things, but your second aunt is also very correct. You cannot ignore the other two subjects. When major households choose their daughter-in-laws, they are looking for that air of collected dignity and generosity, and being able to handle any occasion competently. Luckily mom is in charge of managing the household at the moment. You can start learning from mom tomorrow. Although your grandmother has the finances pinched tight, we can at least learn the theory behind it. This way, your days won’t be bad after marriage.”
“Then what about etiquette?”
Seeing her daughter sobbingly ask about this, Xue-shi knew she had thought things through: “Since your second aunt has spoken, she definitely has a way. No need to worry.”
Yan Ru pouted, “Since you make second aunt sound so good, why wouldn’t you let me go to the Jinse Pavilion in the past? You only make me go during “those” times.”
Mentioning their actions from before, Yan Ru felt shame creep up from her heart. Now that she matured, she started becoming more sensible. Gradually, she also started to understand that their actions weren’t good.
Xue-shi flushed and weakly swatted her daughter’s back. “Are you trying to embarrass your mom? What did your old mom do it for? Wasn’t it for our family’s peace of mind? Your grandmother has something against your second aunt, so we can only keep our distance.”
Thinking of this, she herself was also aggrieved and couldn’t help but shed tears. “Do you think life under a mother-in-law is easy after marrying a concubine born son? Everything depends on their mood! Isn’t mom just doing all this so you can marry a little better, and not have to suffer like your mom? Every parent cherishes their daughter, but marriage isn’t like that. Your second aunt was also extremely well off prior to marriage, but what happened after she came here? Would the third miss be so ruthless at such a young age if their lives were easy? She’s only that way because she was forced to be!”
“Enough, enough. As long as your life is good in the future, your mom can die happy. You can interact with the third miss more in your free time. The third miss isn’t a bad person, she’s just short tempered and can’t stand being irritated. This kind of person is the easiest to get along with. Just treat her sincerely and she will treat you the same way. She isn’t like those with crooked thoughts who smile at you while stabbing you in the back.”
The mother and daughter continued chattering for a while before Xue-shi noticed there was someone standing in the corner.
It was Yan Ling. She had noticed her in the room before, but was in a hurry to straighten her daughter out and forgot her existence.
Xue-shi’s gaze was complicated as she looked at Yan Ling. After a long while, she said: “Ru’er is learning household management in the future. You come along as well. If your second aunt invites a nana from the palace, you should also not be left out.”
Yan Ling’s half lowered eyes lifted in astonishment.
Xue-shi averted her eyes in disgust and said: “Don’t look at me like that. If you get married in the future and are getting along well with your husband, imagine if a shameless maid climbed into his bed while he was drunk, and gave birth to a child. You would definitely act the same way as me! I’ve never been a magnanimous person, so you shouldn’t expect me to treat a concubine born daughter nicely. However, I also won’t harm you. If you can live well in the future, that would be your blessing. If you cannot, then you can only blame your shameless concubine mother.”
After speaking, Xue-shi waved her hand. Yan Ling left with her body rigid.
Yan Ling had her own room as well now. When the misses grew up, they couldn’t stay with the concubines anymore.
Seeing the miss come back with a rigid appearance, Xiao Tao came over. She wanted to say something but was stopped by Yan Ling. She entered her room by herself and closed the door before lying down in bed.
She suddenly felt ridiculous. Ever since she started understanding things, she had resented and hated. Only now did she realize it was all laughable.
Everything that couldn’t be explained before was now clear.
Why did her dad never get intimate with her concubine mom? She had once encouraged her concubine mom to secretly struggle for affection, but her mom had merely cried without speaking. She had assumed her concubine mom was timid and was afraid of the principal mother. Why did her dad only look at her with a complicated gaze whenever she complained about being wronged, but never said or did anything?
It turns out it was because of this!
Her concubine mom was actually a maid who climbed into the master’s bed while he was drunk!
She actually never knew this!
Her principal mother’s words weren’t exaggerated. If she was in her shoes, she would have forced that maid to drink abortion medicine without caring if she lived or died, and be done with it. Yan Ling had been full of resentment all these years and had naturally researched such shameful methods. Thinking about it now, wasn’t the reason she was born due to her hated person’s pity?
No wonder that person abused her verbally. She was a humiliation to her, a needle in her flesh. No wonder none of the elders in the estate cared no matter how pitiful of an appearance she put on!
Yan Ling covered her eyes as her tears trickled down.
She felt very lost, and didn’t know what to do.
Someone knocked on the door.Concubine Wang’s worried call sounded out. It turns out Xiao Tao had seen the fourth miss’s expression wasn’t normal and went to call Concubine Wang over. Concubine Wang and Yan Ling’s rooms were all in the rear auxiliary residence. They lived pretty close to each other.
Yan Ling heard the voice and hurriedly rubbed her face dry before saying: “Come in, the door’s not barred.”
Concubine Wang came in and carefully sat in front of the bed.
“What’s wrong fourth miss? Did the madam scold you?”
Seeing her daughter not answer, Concubine Wang wiped her tears: “The madam’s temper is a little too short. Just don’t go against her. If you go along with her, she won’t trouble you. You’re grown as well and will be married off in a couple of years. Then your days will get better.”
Yan Ling didn’t speak. She suddenly felt emotionally drained.
Every time she suffered at her principal mother’s hands, her concubine mom would say this. In the past she felt her concubine mom was too timid and hated iron for not turning into steel. Now, her words held a different meaning. There was also an explanation for why her concubine mom was so cautious.
Don’t go against her, go along with her and she won’t trouble you? Was this how she had decided to get along with the principal mother?
Did she regret her actions?
Because of a momentary lapse in judgment, her life became full of hardship. It even affected her own flesh and blood.
She probably didn’t regret it. Yan Ling knew Concubine Wang’s maternal household wasn’t doing well. She had to send money over several times a year. The eldest branch’s allowance wasn’t a lot and Concubine Wang wasn’t favored. She could only save up her own monthly allowance to send back home. That sort of household had to worry about food and water. It was already good enough for them to have the basic necessities.
Yan Ling’s life in the estate wasn’t good. It couldn’t even compare to the fifth miss’s, let alone the third miss who was prouder than the heavens. The saying not afraid of scarcity but afraid of uneven distribution referred to this. Yan Ling’s resentment stemmed from this. Why was she lower by a level when they were all misses in the estate?
But compared to commoners, her life was actually unimaginably good. Back then her maternal uncle’s cousin had kowtowed to her concubine mom. This fact was clear from the look in her eyes.
Therefore, she shouldn’t complain and should be content! Just treat all the previous abuse as settling this woman’s debt!
“I’m fine. I know I have to get in the principal mother’s good books. After I get married, my days will get better.” Yan Ling’s voice was rigid and she spoke with an obscure expression.
Concubine Wang was startled. Her daughter had never been willing to listen to this in the past. As she grew older, her occasional expressions made Concubine Wang worry. Now that she had thought things through, Concubine Wang praised the Buddha and was prepared to light some incense after getting back.
She was still afraid she hadn’t pressed the point enough and consoled again: “Fourth miss, we cannot be resentful towards others and can only resent our fate. A concubine is lowly and can only be a lowly person. But you are different. In the future, you can also become an official’s wife.”
Yan Ling laughed weakly and sat up, saying: “Enough, concubine mom. I understand. You should go back first. Let me lie down for a bit.”
Concubine Wang fussed some more before leaving.
Back at the main residence, Yan Ru asked Xue-shi doubtfully: “Mom, why did you tell her these things? Weren’t you unwilling to mention it?”
“Haven’t you realized she’s becoming gloomier and gloomier? Her gaze is very dark and calculating when looking at others. She’s also grown and I don’t want her getting thoughts to harm you. Instead of becoming enemies, might as well let her understand that the reason she was born was due to my mercy. Isn’t it better to have her as a helper in the future?”
Xue-shi’s expression was extremely complicated. “Also, ten years is enough. Everything that needed venting has been vented. She is your dad’s child after all. Daughter, you must remember this. There’s a limit to a man’s guilty conscience. You must know to get the most benefit while he’s still feeling guilty. You must also understand when to stop. Look how your dad never looked at other women in so many years. Our relationship being good is one thing, but another is that he felt he had let me down.”
Yan Ru didn’t speak. It wasn’t clear if she took these words to heart.
Xue-shi sighed and stroked her daughter’s hair.
Children didn’t understand how much their parents do for them. When they were about to marry out, and leave from under their wings, a mother would wish to stuff everything she knew into her daughter’s head. This was to prevent her from taking so many detours. But no one knew what the future held in store.
After a few days, the nana Shen Yi Yao invited arrived.
This nana wasn’t that old. She wasn’t even fifty yet. She was surnamed Chang and had served the previous crown prince consort. After the previous crown prince consort passed away, she had been granted her freedom from the palace. She was no longer able to get in touch with any family members and thus settled down in a small house within the capital. She would often go teach at major households and made a living instructing the misses in etiquette.
Her coming this time was due to Shen Yi Yao paying her a lot of money.
Yan Ru, Yan Ling and even Yan Yan had to learn etiquette.
Yan Yan actually didn’t have much patience for it, but Shen Yi Yao said that it was necessary to understand some of the palace’s etiquette. There were many occasions where noblewomen had to enter the palace, such as major national holidays, the emperor or empress’s birthdays. They couldn’t be caught unprepared.
To put it plainly, this was planning ahead.
Yan Yan, Yan Ru and Yan Ling went to Nana Chang every day to learn etiquette. However, Yan Qian and Yan Chan, as well as the misses from the third branch were left out.
Concubine Wu and Chen-shi didn’t understand Shen Yi Yao’s thoughts, and didn’t dare say anything right away.
On this morning when they went to pay respects at the Rongan Hall, the old madam’s expression was rather unpleasant.
“Old second daughter-in-law, what you’re doing isn’t right. You’ve invited a nana over to teach three, but not the others. Let’s not mention the second and fifth lass since they are concubine born. Why not bring the sixth and seventh lass along?”
Shen Yi Yao who was sitting below slightly froze. Yan Yan gave Xue-shi a glance and Xue-shi didn’t let her down. She twisted her mouth and started speaking.
“Mom, this matter cannot be blamed on second sis-in-law. Didn’t your daughter-in-law mention it several times before? You said the nanas from the palace are all servants and won’t be able to teach anything. But your daughter-in-law kept thinking about it and felt there had to be a reason everyone invites them to teach. Thus I asked second sis-in-law to invite one over. This person is actually paid for by your daughter-in-in-law. The price isn’t cheap. It costs two hundred taels of silver for two months.”
After she spoke to the old madam, she then turned to Chen-shi: “Third sis-in-law, you also know the eldest miss and third miss aren’t young anymore. They are about to discuss marriage. This is why they are prioritized. As for Yan Ling, she happened to tag along. That nana can’t teach too many people at once or everyone won’t get the individual attention that’s needed. If your third branch really needs it, how about we discuss with that nana and have her stay a few more months?”
Xue-shi’s words were ambiguous but her tone was very clear. For the sake of the estate’s misses, I suggested inviting one over. But the old madam doesn’t want to spend the money and refused. Now that I’ve used my own money, why are you all interested?
The old madam normally didn’t care about these things. Xue-shi was willing to bet Chen-shi had said a few things to her.
Especially since this involved a few things that happened previously. When Xue-shi had wanted to invite a nana over, she had wanted to pull Chen-shi along for help. Chen-shi was afraid of angering the old madam and thus passed on it. Chen-shi had always been like this. Xue-shi was also clear about it. If it didn’t concern her, she would leave others hanging.
But Xue-shi was angry now. Why did she let her take the brunt of things and now try to enjoy the benefits of her success? I’ve expended a great deal of effort and my own silver for the sake of my own miss to finally invite a nana over. Why are you jumping out now?!
Chen-shi was stuffed up by these words. She was definitely not willing to spend her own silver. In her mind, no matter how much silver she had, she wouldn’t be willing to waste two hundred taels for two months.
“Eldest daughter-in-law, I’m not willing to hear these words. We’re all one family, why do we have to divide things so clearly?”
If we aren’t dividing things up, then why don’t I see you picking up the cost?! Something like this which benefitted all the estate’s misses was supposed to use the estate’s funds to begin with.
Regardless, Xue-shi was disliking the old madam more and more. As the old madam of a grand marquis estate, why is she being miserly with small amounts of silver? She didn’t realize the old madam was also living frugally. The money taken from Concubine Pei had already been spent long ago. They were now spending without any income.
The old madam also didn’t want to deal with the household income, and wished she could hand it off to someone else. But the problem was she didn’t dare take out the income statements. Otherwise, everything would be revealed. At that time, if someone in the household asked where all their promising businesses and manors went, how was she supposed to answer!?
This was why although she let Xue-shi manage the household expenses, she kept the household income close to her own chest. This included Concubine Pei from before as well. Only back when Shen Yi Yao was the proper Weiyuan Marquis Estate’s madam did both income and expenses get handled by her.
When Shen Yi Yao handed off the responsibilities, she had made sure all accounts were settled before handing it over to the old madam due to her being someone who abided by regulations. The old madam had managed things for a few days before handing it over to Concubine Pei.
It would still be fine if all the estate’s businesses belonged to the second branch. The problem was that this wasn’t the case. Prior to the death of the old marquis, the household had been split once before. The old madam wanted to send all the concubine born sons out since they were eyesores, but also didn’t want to tarnish her reputation. She thus had her near-death husband handle it.
The old marquis had granted her wish and and divided all the properties under the estate up apart from their land. All the concubine born sons got a portion. The principal sons Yan Ting and Yan Qu got the largest portions. Afterwards, those concubine born sons moved out of the marquis estate. Because the eldest branch and third branch didn’t move out, the old madam insisted on combining all the properties of the three branches and used them as public funds. Their daily necessities and networking expenses all came from this public fund.
This was to say the eldest branch and third branch wasn’t really relying on Yan Ting for their living. They merely received the portion that rightfully belonged to them. Of course they did take a little advantage of the second branch, but since Yan Ting received the marquis title it shouldn’t be a big deal to let his brothers take some advantage. Major households mostly did things this way. These so-called major clans couldn’t be made up of only one family. Only with many people’s assistance can a household flourish.
The point was that the old madam didn’t know how to operate businesses but also wasn’t willing to relinquish authority. They could only spend money without any income. Along with Yan Ting using up a huge sum of silver that time, the old madam had pretty much sold off all the estate’s businesses. There were only two manors and a storefront left, as well as the Weiyuan Marquis Estate’s land. All this was under the second branch’s name.
How would the old madam dare reveal this sort of situation?
Ultimately, there wasn’t a conclusion to this matter. Chen-shi no longer spoke up and the old madam didn’t want to spend this money. Things ended up being unsettled.
After leaving the Rongan Hall, Chen-shi hurried off with the sixth and seventh misses. She seemed unwilling to speak with Xue-shi and Shen Yi Yao.
“Eldest sis-in-law. Maybe this isn’t too good?”
Xue-shi gave her a glance. “Wait until we get back to the Jinse Pavilion.”
Yan Yan and the rest went off to Nana Chang while Xue-shi and Shen Yi Yao arrived at the Jinse Pavilion. The two went to sit in the eastern side room and the maids served tea.
“This is the reason why I insisted on being the one to pay the silver. Your sister-in-law knows you are more generous than anyone else, but you can’t just become someone else’s piggybank. Haven’t you realized how the estate operates by now? Whoever has money suffers. No one is grateful if you spend your silver. Instead, they take it for granted!”
“But this concerns the estate’s misses after all.”
“I know second sis-in-law is kind, but kindness depends on who you’re dealing with. Back then, for the sake of the two misses, I had gone over to the third branch several times. Do you know what Chen-shi said? She said the sixth and seventh misses are still young and don’t need to worry about this at the moment. When I went to the old madam, I suffered a round of abuse. Actually, if Chen-shi had openly come to discuss things with the two of us, it wouldn’t be a big deal. I just can’t stand how she sits back and instigates others to speak up for her.”
Xue-shi took a sip of tea and continued: “Out of us three daughters-in-law, I’m sure second sis-in-law can tell only Chen-shi is favored by the old madam. How long has it been since she married in? She doesn’t even have a son but has the old madam said anything about it? I had to do my best to give birth to a son on the first try. Second sis-in-law, do you still remember when you gave birth to the third miss? She had grown too big in the womb and your health was harmed after giving birth. When there were no signs of a second pregnancy for a few years, what sort of expression did that old madam have? She naturally wouldn’t say anything ugly, and only knows to cry and use filial piety to suppress others. Otherwise, why would you allow your personal maid to marry in?”
When this was mentioned, Shen Yi Yao’s expression was very complicated.
Actually there were many things outsiders could see more clearly than the person involved. She had thought for a long, long time that her mother-in-law cherished her the most. But in reality? It was just her own assumption.
Xue-shi saw Shen Yi Yao’s expression wasn’t good and hurriedly smiled and hit her own mouth. “Look at this mouth of mine, it has no filter. Second sis-in-law mustn’t mind me.”
Shen Yi Yao waved her hand. “Eldest sis-in-law mustn’t say that. It’s all my fault for being too foolish back then.”
Xue-shi put her teacup down and said in a low voice: “Second sis-in-law, let me tell you something. This time actually isn’t just because of a grudge against her.”
As she spoke, she glanced at the maids in the room. Shen Yi Yao motioned them with her eyes and they all filed out.
Only then did Xue-shi say what she wanted to say.
“Three years ago when the estate was cutting expenses, I started having doubts. If you’ve been paying attention, you should have noticed that over the years the days have been getting worse and worse in the estate. Now, we’re only maintaining a nice appearance on the surface. In theory, this sort of thing shouldn’t happen. Although our estate cannot be called grand, we still have a good amount of assets. There are only so many people in the estate, our daily food and drink shouldn’t be something to worry about.”
“But first it was cutting expenses. After we got the silver that Concubine Pei embezzled, life became comfortable again. Before long, things tightened up once again. These years I’ve been managing the household and am more aware than others. The old madam is getting more miserly by the day, and has gotten to the extent of being stingy. To be honest, if I had a good excuse, I would have long since stopped managing this household.”
Xue-shi had chattered for a long time. Shen Yi Yao also more or less understood her meaning.
“Eldest sis-in-law’s meaning is?”
Xue-shi didn’t beat around the bush. “I’m thinking maybe our estate is out of silver!”
“This, shouldn’t be possible, right?”
“I also hope it’s just my imagination, but….” She paused and spoke agai: “I reckon if this is truly the case, the old madam may soon find an excuse to have me hand over the management of the household to you. At that time you have to be more careful. It’s best if you can refuse. If you truly can’t, you mustn’t be like me and only get to manage things on the surface. You have to take over everything, and you must do it in front of everyone. Definitely don’t give others the opportunity to make you the scapegoat.”
Shen Yi Yao’s thoughts were a mess as she nodded. “No matter what, thank you sis-in-law for your warning.”
Xue-shi smiled. “Let me say something heartfelt. We are both moms. Whatever we have now will be given to our children. We can’t get screwed over by others cluelessly. For women, everything in life is fake. Only our own children are real.”
After saying these words, Xue-shi said her farewells.
After Shen Yi Yao sent her off, she was deep in thought alone in her room.
Xue-shi had a little too big of a part in this chapter. But this author thinks she’s a rather farsighted woman, and wanted to give her some praise. Many of her words are rather meaningful. Shen Yi Yao’s actions in the future will definitely be affected by her.
Of course it isn’t just this. Since we’re lighting a fire, might as well make it bigger. Being besieged from inside and out is more satisfying. The old madam’s actions of pulling down the east wall to repair the west can’t hold up much longer, hehe….