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The next day, Cheng Yujin went to pay respect to Old Madam Cheng early in the morning.
A servant girl greeted Cheng Yujin and opened the door for her. The earth dragon’ s(1) heat burst into her face. The servant girl helped Cheng Yujin took off her cloak and said, “Last night, the Old Madam let second young master Xu and several young misses stay overnight in the main wing. Now they were still sleeping inside the green gauze cabinet. The Old Madam was afraid that second young master Xu might feel cold, and ordered the earth dragon to be ignited. Eldest miss has just arrived from outside and may still not accustomed to the heat. Please wait for a while.”
Cheng Yujin nodded. “I understand. Except for biao elder brother, who else stayed? There is only one bed inside the green gauze cabinet, can they sleep well?”
“Yes. Second miss and fourth biao miss were sleeping on the same bed, and another person could sleep on the kang bed inside the warmth chamber. The second young master almost went into the green gauze cabinet and was laughed by us. Now he was sleeping in the warmth chamber.”
Cheng Yujin was surprised. Male and female cousins of different surnames actually sleeping together in the same room. Although the main wing was under the Old Madam’s watch, they were improperly too close. She rolled her eyes, withdrew her look, and nodded to the servant girl with a smile: “Sister has worked hard. Has grandmother woke up?”
“The Old Madam has woke up. It’s just that second young master Xu slept late yesterday and hasn’t got up yet.”
Cheng Yujin’s steps stopped abruptly: “Second biao elder brother is still asleep?”
The warmth chamber was a small separated room outside the Old Madam’s bedroom. The surrounding walls were hollowed out, and during the winter, the heat was being circulated day and night. It was as warm as spring, and thus was called the warmth chamber. If Cheng Yujin wanted to enter the inner rooms to pay respect to Old Madam Cheng, she would inevitably have to pass through the warmth chamber where Xu Zhixian was now still sleeping.
If it was Cheng Yumo, she would already run in and even wake Xu Zhixian up with her still-cold hands. But Cheng Yujin wouldn’t. Her method was to stop outside the door and said, “Since second biao elder brother is inconvenient now, then I will wait.”
The servant girl inside saw the eldest miss coming and quickly hurried Xu Zhixian to get up. Xu Zhixian originally didn’t want to wake up. Half-asleep and half-awoke, he heard the servant girl said, “Eldest miss is waiting outside.” Xu Zhixian was scared out of his pants and jumped out. He hurriedly grabbed his robe from the bedside and put it on.
Xu Zhixian has always been careless and informal, but for an unknown reason, in front of Cheng Yujin, he was very disciplined, and always had to be dressed well. As if he couldn’t be calm if Cheng Yujin saw himself in a disorderly attire.
Xu Zhixian hastily tidied up his clothes, then came out to greet Cheng Yujin: “Elder sister Jin…ah, no, younger biao sister, good morning.”
Several servant girls laughed at this scene and quipped: “Second young master, it clearly that eldest young miss is the young girl, why are you the one who blushes? Like a boudoir girl who just walked out from her marriage sedan.”
Being made fun of, Xu Zhixian blushed even more. Seeing Cheng Yujin also pursed her lips and smiled, somehow he felt even more embarrassed. Xu Zhixian hurriedly said: “I’ll go outside to cool my face. You go in first to pay respect to the elders.”
The movement outside has long been reported to Old Madam Cheng. She walked out of her canopied bed that was wide enough to be a small bedroom. When Cheng Yujin entered, she quickly went to help Old Madam Cheng.
Old Madam’s personal servant girl has prepared the water long ago. Cheng Yujin reached out and tested the water. The temperature was just right, obviously has been kept warm on the stove. Cheng Yujin handed over a handkerchief, and from time to time did some light and conspicuous work to help the Old Madam with her morning ablutions.
Zhang Mama, who came together with the Old Madam as her dowry maid, praised Cheng Yujin: “Eldest miss is really filial. Other family’s daughters-in-law who have been married for more than ten years aren’t as meticulous and considerate as our eldest miss.”
Cheng Yujin smiled: “Serving elders is my blessing.”
Zhang Mama smiled brighter when she heard Cheng Yujin’s words. The two other young misses were still sleeping in the green gauzed cabinet. They were staying in the main wing, only three to four steps away from the Old Madam’s bedroom. But Zhang Mama didn’t find their figure standing by the Old Madam side to serve. Obviously, they didn’t have the intention to do so. Not to mention the young misses, Old Madam’s own two daughters-in-law also haven’t yet arrived.
People really needed a comparison to know who was truly better.
Last night, Cheng Yumo spent the night in the Old Madam’s courtyard, and Ruan-shi quickly hurried over early in the morning to check on her daughter’s situation. Unexpectedly, as soon as she entered the door, she saw Cheng Yujin was already there. Looking at her posture, it seemed that the girl had been serving the Old Madam for some time.
Ruan-shi expression suddenly turned a bit ugly.
Old Madam Cheng glanced at Ruan Shi and said indifferently: “Come in.”
Ruan-shi’s expression was awful. Being compared with others has never been a good thing. What did it mean when a daughter-in-law wasn’t as good as the granddaughter? Ruan-shi couldn’t wait to see her daughter in the west green gauzed cabinet. She quickly pulled up her sleeves and to serve Old Madam Cheng.
The place was only so big. When Ruan-shi crowded over, many people were blocked. Cheng Yujin stepped back in time and gave the space to Ruan-shi.
Zhang Mama once again praised Cheng Yujin’s thoughtfulness secretly.
Cheng Yujin watched Ruan-shi busily moved her hands and feet, giving Old Madam Cheng a handkerchief, helping her gargling. Still, Ruan-shi wasn’t as experienced as the Old Madam’s personal servants who were used to this task. The water either too cold or too hot, and she was scolded by the Old Madam several times. There were so many servants around. Old Madam Cheng was not happy, and Ruan-shi also did not have a good expression.
Cheng Yujin shook her head secretly. How muddle-headed. When serving the elders for the name of ‘filial piety’, did one really had to do menial works like carrying the teapot and fetching water? To put it bluntly, it was merely a show. The impression of the performance was much important than the actual work.
Therefore, Cheng Yujin never went to wring the handkerchief or hold the spittoon. It was dirty and tiring. Just let whoever willing to do it. Cheng Yujin only had to wait until the servant wrung the handkerchief, and then naturally reached out to hand it to the Old Madam. Later, just let the servant girls did the rest. In this way, although Cheng Yujin did nothing, her role seemed to be very important and indispensable.
To really pulled up one’s sleeves and took upon the actual jobs like Ruan-shi, that was too sincere.
(1) Earth dragon: Traditional floor heating system. A hole was dug on the ground outside to burn fire, and the heat was transmitted into the rooms via underground passages called earth dragon.
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