Cheng Yujin noticed Cheng Yumo’s gaze. She gave Cheng Yumo a slight glance, and guessed what’s probably in her mind.
Now there was no other person here, it was impossible for Cheng Yujin to stay silent. Out of politeness, she asked: “Second sister, how are you doing?”
Cheng Yumo sighed. She was about to speak, but finally stopped in time. “Good or bad, it doesn’t matter. No matter what, life still has to go on.”
Seeing Cheng Yumo’s expression, Cheng Yujin asked again with a sigh: “How does Madam Huo treat you?”
This sentence exactly hit Cheng Yumo’s sore spot. She fell silent for a while before finally whispered: “My mother-in-law is very demanding of me…she keeps saying that Huo family has a strict family style. They don’t indulge younger generations as others do, so the daughter-in-law has to follow the mother-in-law all the time to learn the rules. My mother-in-law gets up at the hour of the rabbit (5-7 am) every day, so I have to get up even earlier, wait outside her room, and go in to serve her as soon as she wakes up. If my mother-in-law wakes up and I haven’t arrived yet…she will get angry and punish me to copy the Admonishment For Women1 or confine me in my room. In the morning, my mother-in-law will have a housekeeping meeting with the servants in charge, so after I serve her the morning meal, I have to follow and listen to her preaching to the stewards and female managers. The time they arrive is fixed. As a young madam, I cannot be late, so I don’t even have enough time to eat my meal. I don’t like to eat in my room just after getting up in the morning. It was still so dark outside, and I don’t have an appetite…”
It seemed that Cheng Yumo rarely found a person to vent. Before Cheng Yujin could reply, Cheng Yumo already continued: “I have to stand up hungry behind my mother-in-law all the morning. When it is finally time for the noon meal, she still doesn’t allow me to sit down. I have to wait until the Marquis and my mother-in-law finish their meal before I can finally eat my meal in the ante-room. My meal has been separated in advance and kept warm on the stove. Only when taking the noon meal can I take a breather for half an hour. If I’m lucky, my mother-in-law will take a nap, and I can also take a longer rest. After my mother-in-law wakes up, I have to stand behind her to learn the rules again.”
“At night, after everyone had the evening meal and my mother-in-law retreated to bed, only then she allowed me to go back to my room. But I don’t have time to do anything because I have to get up early the next day. Back in my room, I take a quick bath and hurriedly go to bed so I won’t get up late.”
Cheng Yujin merely asked one word, but Cheng Yumo, seemingly found a long-awaited exit, began to pour her bitterness like a torrent. Cheng Yujin had some conjecture beforehand, but when she really heard it, she was still speechless in astonishment.
Cheng Yumo’s life was too miserable. From a pampered boudoir girl to a new bride, everyone had to adapt to great changes and endure hardships. However, Cheng Yumo’s situation, where she had to spin everywhere without resting all day, couldn’t even eat and sleep well, was rare.
Cheng Yujin recalled her situation in her previous life. Although she never truly ‘experienced’ the previous life, she could draw a conjecture based on the few fragments she saw in her dream. Based on those vague recollections, the ‘Cheng Yujin’ from the previous life should also be subjected to the same rules when she married into Huo family. However, Cheng Yujin was good at playing the rules and more importantly, had a brain. She never been entirely compliant, and used many tricks to make her life easier. In the end, she only went to Huo Xue-shi right before the morning meal, which was around the hour of the dragon (7-9 am), so she had plenty of time to have her meal in her own room and wouldn’t stand hungry all morning.
After the morning meal, like Cheng Yumo, Cheng Yujin also had to attend Huo Xue-shi’s housekeeping meeting. Huo Xue-shi was not a good matron in charge. After she was widowed, her methods became increasingly meaner and harsher. This was true for her daughter-in-law, and was equally so for the servants below. For example, every steward and female manager had to gather in her courtyard every day and listen to her preaching. She could preach for more than an hour. Not only the servant girls by Huo Xue-shi’s side felt tired and bored, but the stewards and female managers who were being preached also complained in secret. One day, two days, they could still bear it. But who would be willing to endure every day? They still had plenty of works to do.
To put it bluntly, Huo Xue-shi’s management method was simply stupid. She didn’t know how to use both punishments and rewards to manage the subordinates and only knew how to preach, set rules, and punish harshly. Cheng Yujin followed behind Huo Xue-shi, listening attentively and at the same time, carefully observing the servants below. In less than a month, she had figured out Huo family’s household situation.
Cheng Yujin endured for three months before her chance finally came. There was a big ceremony that Huo Xue-shi simply couldn’t handle, so Cheng Yujin took the initiative to manage it in Huo Xue-shi’s place. In the end, she did it thoroughly and perfectly. Huo Xue-shi breathed a sigh of relief. Afterward, due to the lack of skill and energy, Huo Xue-shi finally relegated the more trivial matters of household management to Cheng Yujin. Gradually, the housekeeping power of Jingyong Marquis Manor fell completely into Cheng Yujin’s hand.
After Cheng Yujin took over the housekeeping, Huo Xue-shi’s daily preaching session was naturally canceled. On the ground of “too busy with the housekeeping matters,” Cheng Yujin also stopped learning the rules in the afternoon. Gradually, she also stopped waiting upon Huo Xue-shi in the morning and only went to pay daily respect.
With power in her hands, her living standard naturally rose. The servants knew in whose hands their wages and foods came from and knew who they should please the most. And thanks to Huo Xue-shi, this terrible predecessor, the servants of Jingyong Marquis Manor were extremely fond of Cheng Yujin. They didn’t dare to deliberately make things difficult for her, for fear that the new Young Madam would no longer be in charge and return the household management to the Old Madam.
After all the calculations, in the end, Cheng Yujin had only attended to Huo Xue-shi for the first three months. After that, everything went according to her plan, and her life became more and more comfortable. Moreover, even during the initial period when Cheng Yujin still had to learn the rules with Huo Xue-shi every day, she never did the hard works personally. At least, she never let herself be as tired as Cheng Yumo.
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