Chapter 145 A Second-class Maid Who Was Paid as a Third-class One
"Yu Lian must have played some tricks. Otherwise Qing'er wouldn't have been sent to Bright Frost Garden. It seems Yu Lian cares about her sister very much," Ning Xueyan said coldly.
Before, everyone knew that Qing'er would have been safe if she was in Bright Frost Garden, because Ning Xueyan was the young master here, and even she had found that this maid was weak and unable to work, she wouldn't say anything. Moreover, Madam Ling, who was in charge of the whole manor had never liked Ning Xueyan, so she wouldn't care even if a maid missing in Bright Frost Garden, let alone a maid couldn't work because of her poor health.
That was why Yu Lian had managed to send Qing'er to Bright Frost Garden. She was so smart that nobody had found this before.
"What does Qing'er do every day?" Ning Xueyan asked lazily, narrowing her eyes. The sun outside the window shone on her body. She felt warm and a faint flush came over her cream-like face.
"She is a third-class maid. Normally, she should be in charge of some rough works like watering flowers and sweeping floor. However, after she had fainted that day, Mother Han had no other choice, but asked her to do some fine work which needed more delicacy, less strength. Thankfully, she was good at embroidering, so she did the work of a second-class maid, but got the salary of a third-class one," Lanning answered.
She and Mother Han came up with this idea. Since they could neither send her away, nor ask her to do rough works, they had to ask her to do some fine work so that she wouldn't be so tired.
"Did Yu Lian visit her?" Ning Xueyan asked, her lip twitched.
"Yu Lian visited her about once a week, but secretly. Sometimes, she would have brought some invigorator to her. I asked Qing'er about it and she told me that her family worried that she was too weak, so they brought it to her. She never told me that Yu Lian, the maid of First Madam was her sister." Since Ning Xueyan asked her about Qing'er last time, Lanning had paid particular attention to her.
"Lanning, do you think Yu Lian is beautiful?" Ning Xueyan smiled and suddenly changed the topic.
Lanning was surprised and wondered why Ning Xueyan asked her about this. "She is very beautiful and more beautiful than most maids in our manor," she answered.
"Then why hasn't she realized her dream?" Ning Xueyan raised her head and took a sip of tea quietly, a trace of sarcasm could be found in the depth of her dark eyes.
"Her dream?" Lanning thought for a while and the answer suddenly popped in her mind. "Because Yu Lian is scared of First Madam!"
"You're right. Because she is scared, she has no guts," Ning Xueyan said and the irony in her smile grew more intense. With her beauty, Yu Lian had always wanted to serve Ning Zu'an in the bed, but she dared not to do so, because she was scared of Madam Ling. Ning Xueyan knew something else which she had asked Xinmei to investigate.
Except for Yu Lian herself, there was another person knew about this too. However, even Yu Lian didn't know what that person was thinking about.
"Which one was embroidered by Qing'er?" Ning Xueyan asked, pointing at a pile of clothes beside her. In order to highlight her position, Madam Dowager had many clothes made for her.
Ning Xueyan preferred plain colors, so most of her clothes were light-colored. Madam Dowager asked her to embroider some small flowers on the skirt hem, so she left the work to the maids of Bright Frost Garden who knew how to embroider.
Lanning and Qingyu were responsible for this work, because they were not assured to let other maids touch the skirts of Ning Xueyan. They had asked the second-class maids to sew several handkerchiefs with the cloth left over from making skirts. But Ning Xueyan herself wouldn't use these handkerchiefs. During the Spring Festival, the Young Ladies in the manor would give silver ingots to the maids and servants as gifts. Ning Xueyan could ask someone to wrap the silver ingots in the handkerchiefs and knotted in beautiful shapes before giving them out. They would be more delicate than perfume satchels.
"Miss, I didn't dare ask her to embroider on your new dresses, so I only asked her to embroider on some small stuff like handkerchiefs." With that, Lanning walked to the desk in the corner and put out a few handkerchiefs from a hidden drawer. The flowers and grass which were embroidered on the handkerchiefs looked pretty good. At a glance of them, one could tell that these exquisite stitcheries were made by a skilled embroiderer.
Ning Xueyan picked up a handkerchief with her fingers and touched a bunch of delicate small flower on it. Then she suddenly said coldly, "Tear them!"
Lanning was shocked and she looked at Ning Xueyan blankly.
"Cut all of them into pieces," Ning Xueyan ordered with a smile. She moved the handkerchief closer to her and stared at it coldly.
"Yes, miss! I'll cut them immediately!" Lanning knew Ning Xueyan must have her reason. She had been obedient to Ning Xueyan, so she didn't ask more, but cut a beautiful embroidered handkerchief into several pieces with a pair of scissors soon and the embroidery was completely destroyed.
"Give these cloth pieces to Qing'er and tell her that I don't like her embroidery. Ask her to practice more and embroider for me when she is more skilled," Ning Xueyan ordered. The sun outside the window shone on Ning Xueyan's face, a delicate face with a slight chill.
"Is Young Lady going to fire Qing'er?"
"But it seems it's not the right time. During the period Young Lady has left the manor, Madam Dowager asked First Madam to change a number of maids and servants of Bright Frost Garden. Now just after a short time, Young Lady wanted to change staffs again. Will this annoy Madam Dowager?"
Lanning wondered. She was nervous and couldn't figure out what Ning Xueyan meant.
She looked at Ning Xueyan silently. She was smart, but she was still unable to keep up with Ning Xueyan's thinking.
"Since she has always been scolded by me for nothing, she must feel very frustrated. As my personal maid, you're supposed to comfort her. Then you can tell her by the way that nothing happened to Concubine Ma after she had framed me." Ning Xueyan blinked to Lanning, and the chill on her face had been replaced by sarcasm.
"Nothing happened to Concubine Ma after she had framed Young Lady?" Lanning was smart and she suddenly thought of something. It seemed she had understood what her young master was planning. Since she wasn't confused any more, her brows unfurled. She grinned and nodded hard.
"Oh! I got it!" she thought.
In the afternoon, a muffled cry came from a small room on the left of Bright Frost Garden intermittently. The sound of the cry was so faint that no one could hear it if they didn't listen carefully. A thin, weak young maid wearing a cyan cotton-padded jacket was sobbing bitterly, lying on the edge of her bed. Many cloth pieces scattered on the floor and the bed.
The embroidery flosses on the cloth pieces were in a total mess.
"Bang! Bang!" Someone was knocking at the door. "Qing'er, may I come in?"
Qing'er, the young maid who was sobbing raised her head and wiped tears off her cheeks when she heard the voice. She opened the door and saw it was Lanning, the first maid of Bright Frost Garden who was standing in front of her. She immediately nodded hard and promised, crying,
"Sister Lanning, are you here to drive me away? Can you give me an opportunity to stay? I'll work hard in the future. I can do any kinds of work."
She lived in a poor family. Her stepfather didn't treat her and her mother well. Now her mother was made ill by his stepfather, so she had to sell herself to the Lord Protector's Manor and became a maid.
"But Young Lady doesn't like your embroidery," Lanning said with a sigh. She picked up several pieces of cloth from the floor and moved them closer to her to examine.
"Sister Lanning, could you please tell me what kind of embroidery Young Lady likes? As long as Young Lady doesn't drive me away, I will embroider whatever she likes. Sister Lanning, could you please plead Young Lady for me?" Qing'er said with tears in her eyes. She was so weak that she couldn't do any rough work. If Yu Lian hadn't played tricks, nobody would have bought a sick and weak maid.
So if she was driven away from the Lord Protector's Manor, she wouldn't be able to find a new job.
She looked extremely miserable. "Your embroidery is actually very good..." Lanning said, but she stopped in the middle.
"Then... why did Young Lady cut the handkerchiefs I embroidered and try to drive me away?" Qing'er's eyes brightened up and she immediately grabbed Lanning's sleeve.
"In fact, it's not Young Lady who doesn't like your embroidery, but Concubine Ma..." Lanning said, as if she was in a dilemma. She pushed away Qing'er's hand from her sleeve and pattered her on the shoulder, as if she had decided not to continue the topic. "Come on! Just collect your belongs. Don't put me in a dilemma. After all, we're only maids and can't compare with Concubine Ma. She is a master of the manor, not like us."
"Sister Lanning, I know you're a kind person. Please tell me who wants to drive me away. Even I have to leave, I want to know the truth." Hearing there was something inside, Qing'er was anxious. She pleaded Lanning with red eyes and was reluctant to let go of her grip on Lanning's skirt.
Lanning was moved by her pleading and her miserable look. She sat on the edge of the bed, holding Qing'er's hand. "You should know what kind of person Young Lady is. How could she be mad of you for no reason? It's all because of Concubine Ma!" she said.
Mother Han and Lanning had been helping Ning Xueyan to manage Bright Frost Garden. Ning Xueyan never scolded or beat servants, like the other Young Ladies did, so everyone in Bright Frost Garden thought that she was good-tempered. It was the first time that she was mad of Qing'er. Hearing what Lanning said, Qing'er had found something wrong. She then sat down next to Lanning.
"Sister Lanning, please tell me the truth. I won't tell anyone else about it to put you in a dilemma," she promised, wiping tears away from her eyes.
"Young Lady has been helping Madam Dowager to manage the manor recently. She asked a maid to send silver ingots to Concubine Ma this morning. Because she didn't have perfume satchel at hand at the moment, she used the handkerchief you embroidered to wrap the silver ingots. Surprisingly, Concubine Ma beat the maid who sent the silver ingots to her because she thought our Young Lady looked down upon her by using such an ugly embroidery to wrap the silver ingots. She cut the handkerchief into pieces and threatened to punish the person who embroidered the handkerchief. Obviously, she wanted to stir up trouble. Since Young Lady is managing the inner courtyard, she doesn't want the others to make trouble because of this, so..."
Lanning told Qing'er what had happened and then said with a sincere look, "Anyway, Concubine Ma is our master too!"
"A concubine can only be regarded as half a master at most. How can she be compared to Young Lady?" Qing'er said resentfully. At the thought of herself being driven away because of Concubine Ma, she couldn't help being annoyed.
"Although she is just a concubine, marquis dotes on her. She was found to have framed Young Lady last time, but marquis didn't blame her. Now since First Madam was shut up in the Buddha Hall and Second Madam has passed away, Concubine Ma is likely to become a co-wife in the future relying on her beautiful face. If that's the case, her families will get benefits and become powerful too. How lucky they will be!"
Lanning didn't hide her admiration for Concubine Ma when spoke.
"She is likely to be Second Madam?" Qing'er's eyes sparkled.
"Yes. If she can give birth to a child, then it would be regarded as the child of a madam of our manor. Even her descendants will enjoy prosperity too in the future!" Lanning paused for a while, and then stood up and said, "Qing'er, don't cry. I'll persuade Young Lady again. Maybe she would like to keep you. Concubine Ma is the one who should be blamed. How could she meddle in affairs of Bright Frost Garden! I hope Concubine Ma will forget you, then she won't get you into trouble anymore."
"Thank you, Sister Lanning!" Qing'er was delighted. She wiped tears off her cheeks and said gratefully, "I'll do anything if you don't drive me away!"