Chapter 55: I’ll Help You If You Don’t Dare
Qin-mama glanced at her mistress first, and when the old dowager didn’t show any signs of disapproval, asked the fourth miss to follow her to the side. “Miss Huining fought with the senior madame over what Bao-mama said when the mama came for you today. Both of them argued fiercely, and left very angered. Senior Madame is crying sadly in Garden of Tranquility, and Miss Huining is quite aggrieved here as well. Old Dowager spent her day comforting the two of them and being caught in the middle. As a result, she didn’t eat much today.” The mama sighed at this point. “Bao-mama really shouldn’t have jabbed at Miss Huining in front of so many. Girls have thin skin, how could she have endured all that? The old dowager is quite saddened by Miss Huining’s fit as well.”
Even subtly, this was a criticism of the duchess. In actuality, if Qin Huining had been a mature girl, she wouldn’t have thrown a temper tantrum no matter how much the mama had embarrassed her. It was the Qin family who hadn’t taught their children well, but they were blaming others instead. How would a family’s children show off superior composure if one didn’t focus on their upbringing? And what dreamer would think that life would always be smooth and unobstructed?
And yet, Qin-mama was only saying what she was because she held a different perspective. A son didn’t comment on the faults of his father. In the same vein, Qin Yining wasn’t willing to criticize her elders and even less willing to talk ill of someone behind their back. She merely frowned with concern. “Old Dowager is of an age where maintenance of good health is of primary importance. Skipping a meal and harboring angry dejection, how will your body bear up under all this stress?”
She walked up to the old dowager. “Old Dowager, I know of your difficulties in today’s matter. I may not have read many books, but I know of one thing.” She picked up the still warm, white porcelain covered bowl. It housed the milk steeped bird’s nest that Qin-mama had just instructed the servants to make. Qin Yining brought a spoonful next to the old dowager’s mouth. “Your children and grandchildren all have their own destinies. Please focus on your health, Old Dowager. You are the guiding compass needle for the Qin clan. With you healthy, my father, second uncle, third uncle, and all my various male cousins don’t need to worry about the inner residence when they’re hard at work outside; while the womenfolk have a pillar of support with you holding down the fort.”
Qin Yining’s limpid eyes overflowed with friendliness and the love of a child for her family. The old dowager’s heart softened at the tender tone of these gentle words. She hadn’t had any appetite before, but cheered up enough to eat a few spoonfuls after Qin Yining’s cajoling. Qin-mama smiled at the sight and immediately fetched a silk towel and warm water, standing ready on the side.
“You’re the matriarch of our family, Old Dowager. Your body isn’t just yours, but rather the entire Qin clan’s. Not only do you need to remain in good health for your own sake, but for the entire family as well. Even me, I’ve just returned home and know nothing of anything, so I will need much guidance from you in the future, to say nothing of anything else.” Qin Yining’s soft tone was a soothing balm on the old dowager’s heart, helping the matriarch finish the bowl of bird’s nest before she knew it.
Qin-mama nimbly came over to help her mistress rinse her mouth. “Fourth Miss speaks quite rightly. Your children and grandchildren all have their own destinies, mistress. You are a forefather and great matriarch of the family. Why not just see part of a matter and ignore the rest? Don’t trouble yourself so. You toiled on behalf of this family when you were young, and now that the elder senior master has a bright and smooth career that brings glory to the family, it’s time for you to enjoy what you have reaped, mistress. Why not be kinder to yourself?”
Perhaps her spirits had taken a turn for the better after eating, or perhaps Qin Yining’s words had some use. Whatever it was, the old dowager broke into her first genuine smile after an afternoon of depression. She sighed, slightly happier. “Forget it, you’re right.”
The mama’s respect for Qin Yining grew a bit higher when she saw the change in her mistress. She couldn’t help but speak up on behalf of the fourth miss. “In this servant’s eyes, the fourth miss really is quite similar to the lord when he was young. Do you remember, mistress, when you were sick and the lord had just turned ten? He didn’t rest all night and stayed by your side, helping you with your medicine. He wouldn’t go back no matter what I said to him and insisted on keeping you company, finally falling asleep by the side of the bed when dawn broke.”
The cozy lantern light softened Qin Yining’s features. The old dowager had liked how the girl looked to begin with, since Qin Yining resembled her eldest son. The mama’s words drew her deep into her memories of how filial the child Qin Huaiyuan had been, and the contented bliss of being taken care of by a child was subconsciously projected onto Qin Yining as well. She put her arm around the girl and gently patted Qin Yining’s back. “Good girl. Your father was a good child, and you are very much like him in that. But you’ve suffered so much in the past, and grandmother spoke some ugly words when I was angry. They made you sad, didn’t they?”
Qin Yining couldn’t help but smile at those words, her eyes growing hot. No matter how the old dowager would treat her in the future, she could feel that in this moment, the family matriarch was treating her with genuine familial love.
“Don’t say that, grandmother.” She changed her form of address as well. “We’re family, and I’m your granddaughter. However you educate me is for my own good, so how would I be sad?”
“Good girl.” The old dowager settled her arm more firmly around Qin Yining and stroked her back, like comforting a child. “Grandmother will dote on you well from now on and make up for all those lost years. What do you say?”
“It’s enough that I can stay by grandmother’s side and keep you company.” Qin Yining snuggled further into the old dowager’s embrace. The atmosphere was quite warm inside the house, and even the candle’s flame seemed to dance in happiness. Qin-mama seemed infected by the happiness flowing between grandmother and granddaughter as even she smiled in contentment.
However, before the magical moment could continue further, a shrill scream shattered the peaceful happiness.
“Help! Anyone! Miss Huining is committing suicide!”
The old dowager almost fell off the bed. “What?! Did you hear them?! Darling Hui is committing suicide?!”
Qin-mama privately cursed the person screaming outside and hastily comforted the old dowager. “Don’t panic, mistress. This servant will go take a look.”
“No no no! I really heard that! Darling Hui is taking her own life!” The old dowager scrambled off the bed in a panic and started to run outside without even thinking about her shoes.
Qin Yining chased after her with shoes in hand. “Grandmother, please put your shoes on first. I’ll help you over.”
Qin-mama was quick enough to grab some thickly furred outerwear for the old dowager while Qin Yining put some shoes on the old dowager, and joined her in helping the old dowager out. Jixiang and Ruyi came running over with a serving girl holding a lantern. The group sped along the covered hallway to Qin Huining’s rooms.
The maids’ sobbing, begging pleas rang out before they reached the door. “Miss, don’t do anything foolish!”
“Think of the old dowager, you still have the old dowager!”
“Miss, this only makes your enemies rejoice and your family sorrow!”
What ‘family’? What ‘enemies’? Was this trying to persuade someone to come to their senses or adding fuel to the flame?! Qin-mama’s expression was dark and she looked questioningly at the old dowager. Her mistress’ expression wasn’t that pleasant either.
The doors to the warmed residence were thrown open, clearly framing the sight of Qin Huining standing on a black lacquer garden stool. She was grasping white damask silk 1 in her hands and on her tiptoes, trying to put her head through the loop. Cai-mama, Bitong, Bitao, and the other maids were grasping at her legs, feet, and kowtowing in front of their miss. Sobbing, begging, and sniffling sounds filled the air, completing the utterly chaotic scene.
“And what’s all this about?!” The old dowager trembled in her anger. “Granddaughter Hui, get down from there right now!”
“I, I have no face to keep on living! Grandmother, just let me go!” Qin Huining’s cheeks were a mess of tears. Wet streaks stained her clothes as well. “I lost so much face today and mother refuses to acknowledge me now. My heart is broken beyond hope! Grandmother, I am an unfilial granddaughter, so just let me go!”
“Go where?! You’re a miss of the Qin family, where on earth do you want to go?! Get down from there!” The old dowager was both angry and pained as she barked at the servants. “You there, why aren’t you helping your mistress down yet?!”
“Understood!” Cai-mama, Bitong, and Bitao scrambled to their feet. Having reached her goal, Qin Huining let her body soften, falling onto Bitong and Cai-mama. The two exerted a great deal of effort to ensure that Qin Huining wasn’t injured, the aches and bruises that appeared later on their own bodies bearing testament to how much care they took. Nonetheless, in the moment, Bitao took hold of her miss’ hands. “Miss, hurry and get up so that the old dowager isn’t distressed.”
Qin Huining flung aside the maid’s hands and slumped on her knees, holding onto the old dowager’s thigh as she sobbed. “Grandmother, why did you tell them to save me? Just let me die!”
The matriarch frowned. Although she was distressed for Qin Huining, she was also angered by the girl’s methods of getting attention. “Granddaughter Hui, what’s the meaning of this continued temper tantrum!? Your father has just been made Grand Preceptor of the Heir Apparent and it’s a time of great joy at home. Who are you trying to curse in this way?!”
Qin Huining raised her head violently and looked incredulously at the old dowager. Her grandmother’s brows were tightly knit together in an angry frown. “I know you’re going through a lot right now, but you should be more mature about it all. Don’t you know your mother’s character? Why did you set her off like that? Can’t grandmother’s love soothe over the uneasiness and envy in your heart?”
“No, that’s not it…” Qin Huining covered her face as she cried, using her hands to hide the rictus of disdain on her face. Like I thought, even the old dowager doesn’t care about me anymore.
“That’s not it? Then what’s this in front of me? You live in my residence but cause me pain by trying to commit suicide. What is this, but a display of resentment!?” The old dowager loved Qin Huining most of all after all, so she couldn’t bear to lecture the girl any further. But a ready target presented itself in those who served Qin Huining. “Née Cai, you’re her wet nurse. She may be acting out, but what about you?! Your mistress hung damask silk over the beams, and you didn’t bother stopping her?! Clinging onto her thighs and crying like a useless child, exactly who are you putting on a show for?! I might as well hang you up there instead!”
The color drained from Cai-mama’s face as she repeatedly kowtowed in fear. “This servant failed in her duties, this servant would never dare.”
A vein throbbed in the old dowager’s forehead as her emotions caused her hands to tremble again.
“Qin-mama, help grandmother back for now,” Qin Yining, finally stepping up from behind the old dowager, spoke when she saw the tremors in her grandmother’s figure. “Don’t let anger harm grandmother’s body. Miss Huining has always been a mature one, this is just an impulsive act. I’ll talk some sense into her, and I’m sure she’ll come to her senses soon.”
The mama nodded, completely at ease leaving the situation in Qin Yining’s hands, and coaxed the old dowager back to her own rooms. The old dowager wasn’t feeling well at all as she was escorted back, but was given some peace of mind when she saw how Qin Yining was giving Qin Huining a way out.
That left only the sniffling Qin Huining and kneeling Cai-mama, Bitong, and Bitao in the room after the old dowager’s departure. Qin Yining snorted derisively. “Crying, throwing a tantrum, and then threatening a suicide. Qin Huining, do you fancy yourself a stage actress? What, did you think things have been a tad too peaceful at home?”
“And who the hell do you think you are?! Get out!” Qin Huining bounded to her feet with bloodshot eyes, ready to push Qin Yining away. But Qin Yining’s hand blurred, closing around Qin Huining’s slender neck in a flash!
“You wanted to die? Then why don’t I help you along!?”
- Thin but fairly stiff silk frequently used for suicides in ancient China. ↩