Chapter 39: Affection
Qin Yining immediately inclined her waist when she saw that her father was still angry. She murmured lowly, “I was stupid and fell into the prince’s trap.” She didn’t bother making any other platitudes.
Qin Huaiyuan had been waiting for a long speech that rambled about what she’d did wrong, where she’d gone wrong, and how utterly in the wrong she was. But she wasn’t saying anything else! Does she think that her only mistake was falling into the trap and not going to save Tang Meng? He was caught between amusement and anger. She’s displaying her own temper to me, huh!
He was about to launch into a lecture when another pageboy timidly spoke up, “My lord, more word’s come that the senior madame is about to exit the inner residence doors. We request your guidance.” Are you going to comfort her or not, my lord! Tell us what you want to do!
Qin Huaiyuan already felt like he was bearing the world on his shoulders alone, and it was compounded by the fact that no one else seemed to understand him or the bigger picture. He finally exploded impatiently when he heard that his wife was acting up again. “Tell her to go the hell away then! The further the better! And don’t come back!”
The pageboy finally realized how big of a rage the lord was in. He hastily bowed before quickly scampering off.
Qin Huaiyuan leaned to the side, cradling his head in one large head. Fully half his weight resed on the square redwood table that bore his elbow. More than anytime before, he looked weary.
Qin Yining felt even more guilty when she saw her father thus.
It’d been father who’d brought her back from Liang.
It’d been father who’d averted her fate of being exiled out to an estate in the countryside.
It’d been father who’d used a word to cement her status as the official daughter.
Her father was immensely talented and capable, making prime minister at the youthful age of forty. All of this added together made Qin Yining admire and love her father even more so. She could tell that her mother didn’t have much in the way of talent and had a haughty temper. It was a source of disappointment for her father that his wife and he didn’t speak the same mental language, and now she’d brought even greater trouble in a moment of softheartedness. She didn’t regret saving Tang Meng, but she hated that she’d fallen into a trap doing so.
“Please don’t be mad, father. I know my wrongs. You expend great effort and energy outside and still have to come home to face a tangled mess, and now also have to right the trouble I created. It really is wrong of me to do this to you. In the beginning, I just couldn’t bear to see innocent families suffer. That was why I tried to do something. When the prince readily released Tang Meng to me as my maid, I immediately realized that I’d fallen into his trap. In the future, I won’t be so brash and will think carefully before acting. Please don’t be angry anymore. What if you harm your own body?” Qin Yining touched her forehead to the ground, quite sincerely penitent.
Qin Huaiyuan sighed softly. He had a clear understanding of his daughter’s thoughts from her words. It looks like she doesn’t think it wrong to save someone. She’s just sorry that she fell into a trap. He wanted to say something about the wisdom of putting one’s own affairs in order before meddling in others, but those self-centered words stuck in his throat. He’d always felt that there was no one in the world who understood him, but who would’ve thought his daughter would be the one to say the words he’d been yearning to hear for so long? Not his mother, not his wife, but his daughter
Forget it. Qin Huaiyuan was someone who always looked forward. He wouldn’t keep dwelling on what had already happened. As opposed to ruing the heavens for what had happened, it’d be better to figure out how to respond. He raised his voice slightly, calling for a servant. A pageboy immediately answered his summons.
“Take Fourth Miss to the ancestral hall.” He kept his eyes trained on the kneeling Qin Yining and spoke slowly. “She is not to emerge until she thoroughly memorizes ‘Lessons for Women’ 1 and ‘Internal Lessons’ 2. None of her usual maids are allowed to serve her. All of them are to be grounded in Snowpear Courtyard for reflection!”
“Thank you for your teachings, father.” Qin Yining kowtowed again before leaving respectfully.
The news that she’d been confined to the ancestral hall to study books quickly spread throughout the manor. When it reached née Sun, still dithering by the flower-hung gate, she angrily threw away the brass hand warmer she was carrying. The hand warmer skittered across the stone tiles, scattering ashes everywhere. “What a harbinger of disaster! There’s not been a day of peace since she’s returned!”
“Please quell your anger, madame.” Jin-mama sighed. “Let’s not stay here. Let’s return to Garden of Tranquility and make our plans from there.”
“No! Stop trying to persuade me, wet nurse! I’m waiting for a declaration of Qin Meng’s attitude. What point is there in staying if he doesn’t want me here!” Née Sun doubled down in her obstinance. Jin-mama was nursing an incredible headache. This matter had nothing to do with the senior madame to begin with, so wasn’t she creating trouble out of thin air by carrying on like this?
Née Sun happened to glimpse the pageboy that served at Qin Meng’s side sneaking by. She shouted angrily when he poked his head around the flower-hung gate. “What are you dragging your feet for, boy!? What did your lord say?”
How would the pageboy dare repeat “the further the better” and the “don’t come back”?! He pasted a beaming smile on his face and started to speak. “Madame, the lord is very busy at the moment. Why don’t you…”
Née Sun was already striding outside with wracking sobs before the pageboy finished. “Wet nurse, prepare the carriage. I’m going home! What’s the point in staying if he doesn’t ask me to?!”
Jin-mama felt her very soul grow weary, but she pushed herself to run to née Sun’s side, trying to persuade her against leaving. She glanced sideways at Qin Huining, in hopes that the girl would help convince her mother to stay as well. However, Qin Huining was busy drying her tears with a lowered head. She didn’t see what was happening at all.
In the end, the mama was a servant, and even the head maids Cailan and Caiju didn’t dare pull at née Sun too much. They could only revolve around her as they tried to talk some sense into their mistress, who was almost literally hopping with distress.
After a loud hubbub, née Sun finally settled into the carriage. When she got comfortable, she finally recalled that Qin Huining had been with her at the flower-hung gate. “Where’s daughter Hui?”
Jin-mama said. “Miss Huining only sent madame to the second gate. She isn’t with us anymore.”
Surprise blossomed over née Sun’s face. “Didn’t she say she would go home with me just now?”
Jin-mama didn’t respond. She was beginning to think that the duchess was right. Although Qin Huining looked like she’d been calming née Sun down in this matter, nothing she said had made a difference. In fact, most of it had spurred the madame onto new heights instead.
“Madame, don’t, don’t ignore your body so in the future. Great anger harms only yourself.” Jin-mama also wanted to say something about not trusting Qin Huining so much in the future as well, but she swallowed that part. A servant saying this wouldn’t do much good, it’d have to come from the duchess.
Back in Garden of Loving Piety, the old dowager was surprisingly calm, not in the towering rage she would usually have been in. Instead, she dismissed everyone and kept only Qin-mama by her side. “Lujuan, tell me, do you think Meng’er was truly angry at granddaughter Yi today? Why do I feel like there’s something else to this matter? Something I missed?”
No one knew a son better than his own mother. This accomplished firstborn occupied the highest position in the old dowager’s heart. She felt the most affection for and understood her firstborn the most. In her view, in light of Qin Yining’s grave mistake, Qin Huaiyuan would’ve normally just told his mother what had happened and let her discipline the child. Why would he care that née Sun was slapping her, and take her away to personally lecture and punish her?
Does he like Qin Yining or not?
“This servant thinks that the lord is likely treating the fourth miss as a son.”
The old dowager had speculated about that once, but it’d been quickly dismissed. But with the mama’s words, the incongruous behavior immediately made sense. She nodded firmly. “Indeed, these are Meng’er’s thoughts alright. Why else would he value granddaughter Yi so much? 3 So although she’s gotten into great trouble, she’s earned Meng’er’s affections as well.”
“Not only is Fourth Miss smart, but she possesses great courage as well. Although she’s a girl of the inner residence, her actions show a heroism on par with any boy. Old Dowager, don’t you feel that the fourth miss not only looks like the lord when he was young, but even has a similar personality?”
“Quite right.” The old dowager nodded continuously and recalled what her firstborn looked like when he was young. She was transported back to that wonderful time, so filled with joy. “Meng’er has no son and is bound to be happy to meet a girl so similar to him. But granddaughter Yi was too bold this time. She’s committed a great wrong.”
“Aiya, don’t worry, Old Dowager.” Qin-mama offered tea with a smile. “I rather feel that the lord is finding happiness in resolving his daughter’s woes.”
“Happiness in resolving her woes?” The old dowager thought about her son after accepting the teacup and recalled the joy her late husband had secretly felt when he’d disciplined their sons. She nodded understandingly, and burst out laughing. Tears swiftly welled up in her eyes afterwards. “Yingguang just didn’t have greater fortune. How happy he would be to see how accomplished his son and grandchildren are today!”
Qin-mama quickly soothed the old dowager’s mood when she saw her mistress thinking of her late husband. When the old dowager was calm again, the old servant spoke, “The lord has sent Fourth Miss to the ancestral hall to memorize ‘Lessons for Women’ and ‘Internal Lessons’. None of her usual maids are allowed to serve her.”
“Since Meng’er values her, there must be some positives to her.” The old dowager thought for a moment. “Make some arrangements for her in place of her usual maids. We’re more likely to see snow in June if we expect granddaughter Yi’s mother to take care of this!”
“Don’t be too angry, Old Dowager. Your health comes first. As for the senior madame and the lord, it’s just a bedroom spat. They’re quick to fight, but equally quick to reconcile. They’ll be fine in a few days.”
The mere thought of née Sun was enough to irritate Old Dowager as she cursed. “I hate that haughty attitude of hers the most! So what if she’s had a good birth. She’s just feeding off the achievements of her ancestors! She has no talents or wisdom. How is she worthy of my Meng’er?”
Qin-mama spoke a few more words of comfort when she saw that her mistress work herself up again. She summoned a married servant and a young serving girl when the old dowager had washed up and gone to bed. “Old Dowager instructed the two of you to go to the ancestral hall and serve Fourth Miss in her studies for the next few days. Follow me.”
The married woman was surnamed Ge and called Wife Ge. The serving girl was named Xiaoling, a clever looking girl who had just turned ten. The two curtsied to Qin-mama, who ordered two granny servants to deliver some blankets, braziers, and other necessities to the ancestral hall.
The ancestral hall was situated in a quiet courtyard in the southeast corner of the outer residence, next to a door that led to the inner residence. The main house paid tribute to the various Qin ancestors, and servants were often rotated in to clean the two side wings. It was more than enough space to house someone, and was much cleaner and more luxurious than Qin Yining’s Snowpear Courtyard. When Qin-mama arrived, she was already studying a copy of “Internal Lessons”. She rose in welcome when she heard the disturbance outside. “Mama, how would I dare have you make a trip yourself?”
- A Confucian treatise written by the Late Han female scholar Ban Zhao on how a woman should conduct herself. ↩
- Written by an empress of the Late Ming dynasty. ↩
- Let’s take a moment to remember that we’re in ancient China. So although Qin Yining is a beautiful, vivacious, gusty, and wonderful girl in her own right, sadly she’s just a pawn good for marriage by current societal standards. ↩