太监 taijian: court or palace eunuch
府 fu: compound or estate; (jun)wang fu: prince’s estate/compound
嬷嬷 mama: old female servant
王妃 wang fei: princess consort; the official wife of a wang (first-rank prince)
郡王妃 junwang fei: the official wife of a junwang (second-rank prince)
氏 shi: clan/maiden name
堂嫂 tang sao: father’s brother’s (older) son’s wife
堂弟妹 tang dimei: father’s brother’s (younger) son’s wife
堂伯 tang bo: elder male cousin on father’s side (for a man) when referred to by a (female) speaker who has married in (as the aforementioned man’s wife)
Chapter Forty-Nine: The Miscarriage of Hou shi
Before the three had gone far from the Empress Dowager’s palace, the sound of clapping came from ahead. The three instantly stopped moving forward, hurriedly retreated a few steps to the side and stood next to the path with bowed heads.
Qilong Emperor was wearing a black and red outer robe, and a gold coronet on his head. He was surrounded by a group of taijian and female palace attendants as he walked towards this side. There were numerous female palace attendants and taijian kneeling on the ground.
When he passed in front of the Crown Princess and the others, Qilong Emperor tilted his head to look at the trio. His gaze swept across Hua Xi Wan and the others who were making proper bows and said faintly, “There is no need for so much courtesy.”
Hearing this, the three bobbed and then moved backwards. After they went a distance, they finally turned and hurried away.
“Emperor?” The taijian saw the Emperor was standing at his spot and reminded in a low voice. This was right outside the Empress Dowager’s residential palace. It was not appropriate for the Emperor to stare at his daughter-in-law and nieces-in-law.
“En.” Qilong Emperor moved his gaze away. Putting his hands behind his back, he walked without a word towards the Empress Dowager’s palace. The female palace attendants and taijian following him sighed in relief.
The Crown Princess and the others also sighed inside. It was not comfortable to be stared at by the Emperor like that. If some rumor spread in the future, it would be even worse.
The three separated at the palace gates, and all of them left on their own carriages.
When she got onto the carriage, Hua Xi Wan thought about the deliberate pause Qilong Emperor had performed just now. Even though Qilong Emperor had been increasingly arrogant, his mind was still in the range of normal people. Why would he act like that without a cause?
Was it on purpose or a momentary daze?
She didn’t know how long the carriage travelled when Hua Xi Wan heard the servant outside report that they had arrived at the wang fu. She neatened her clothing and then held Bai Xia’s hand to get off the carriage. Just as she prepared to sit onto the sedan to enter the inner compound, a mama hurried out. When the servant saw her, she knelt down. “Wang Fei, Sheng Junwang Fu has just sent a message. Sheng Junwang Fei‘s child is gone.”
“What did you say?” Hua Xi Wan’s expression changed slightly. She knew how much importance Hou shi placed on her child. How could she suddenly have a miscarriage?
She thought and then said to Bai Xia, “Go back and change. We will go visit Sheng Junwang Fu.” Her clothing right now was too complex and bright. It would not be appropriate to visit Hou shi like this.
Choosing a set of light-colored palace robes, she changed her jeweled hairpins to jade adornments that appeared steadier. Hua Xi Wan brought all kinds of replenishing medicines and then sat onto the carriage for Sheng Junwang Fu.
When Hua Xi Wan got to Sheng Junwang Fu, the Crown Princess was already at the door. The two exchanged greetings and then examined each other’s attire that was much simpler. They understood what the other was thinking, and put on grave expressions to walk together through the gates of Sheng Junwang Fu.
Hou shi‘s complexion was not good and was very pale. Even her expression was withered. However, when she saw Hua Xi Wan and the Crown Princess, she still wanted to struggle up to curtsy and only gave up after the Crown Princess pressed her down.
Hua Xi Wan saw that while Hou shi‘s speech was all right, the pain in her eyes could not be disguised. She said, “Tang Sao, ease your mind. You are still young and there are chances in the future.”
“Maybe it is that this child does not have karma with me.” Hou shi wanted to squeeze out a smile, but after trying for a while, she could not make a smile. In the end, she could only give up. “It is just when I think that he has stayed in my belly for more than two months and then left silently like this, I feel terrible inside.”
Hua Xi Wan’s feelings were complex. Watching Hou shi, who was usually proper and dignified, looking like this, she knew that Hou shi was feeling terrible right now and just forcing herself in front of other people. Thinking about this, she could only urge with good intentions, “Maybe after a while, he will return to you.”
The words were empty, and while Hou shi did not believe this, she seemed to take the words as hope. She looked dazedly at Hua Xi Wan. “Is what you say true?”
“Of course. That child would not be willing to leave a good mother like you.” Hua Xi Wan grasped Hou shi‘s hand and patted it. She found that Hou shi‘s hand was astoundingly cold. “No matter what, you have to take care of yourself, otherwise, you will be the one to suffer in the future.”
Finishing, she put Hou shi‘s hand under the blanket. “You have to keep an open mind about all things in the word. If you cannot do this, it will not be possible to live.”
It was probably because Hua Xi Wan’s movements were too natural that Hou shi could not see any sign that she was acting. Her heart warmed slightly and she said, “I know, Tang Dimei. Thank you for your concern.”
“We are one family; there is no need to be so polite.” Hua Xi Wan saw a servant girl come in with medicine and took the bowl of medicine from the hands of the servant girl. She tested the temperature of the medicine and felt that it was at a perfect temperature, so she was going to feed it to Hou shi.
Hou shi naturally refused and so Hua Xi Wan did not persist. She handed the bowl to Hou shi for her to finish drinking before taking the bowl and handing it to the servant girl. “Tang Sao, you have good fortune. Have a good rest and do not think so much.”
Hou shi thought of Yan Bo Yi who had not yet returned to the fu, and the child that she had lost. Seeing the sincere worry on Hua Xi Wan’s face, she felt complex. “Thank you.”
Hua Xi Wan saw her act like this and a slight smile appeared. “This is right. As a woman, you have to be good to yourself. Otherwise, are you not wasting the grace of your parents in raising you?”
Hearing this, the Crown Princess’ expression stilled, and then she smiled bitterly. Xian Wang Fei could say this because she lived in Yi’an Marquis Fu who truly loved their daughter. But she was raised from childhood according to the standards of a crown princess. She was not born as the daughter of the family but as the future crown princess.
After Hua Xi Wan gave a few more words of comfort, she looked around the room. Her gaze landed on a decoration of jade stones and agate arranged into a tray landscape.
This tray landscape had great craftsmanship, but the material for the vines of grapes seemed to be problematic. She adjusted the expression on her face. “Tang Sao, your tray landscape is very beautiful, but why are the grapes carved from night pearls?”
When Hou shi heard the word grapes, she said with a bitter smile, “This is an auspicious item that the Crown Princess has given me, but I have failed Crown Princess’ good wishes.”
Grapes represented having many children, and it really was a good present to give to Hou shi who was pregnant. However, why would the Crown Princess give something made from night pearls? To speak of nothing else, it was not very appropriate to use the color of the night pearls as grapes.
“What are you saying—it is just a plaything,” the Crown Princess said with a normal expression. “Its greatest merit is to get you to smile.”
Hua Xi Wan looked at the Crown Princess’ proper conduct, and a question appeared in her mind. Did the Crown Princess know that night pearls in a room were not good for a pregnant woman?
After comforting Hou shi‘s emotions, Hua Xi Wan and the Crown Princess bid farewell at the same time. When she stepped out of the gate of Sheng Junwang Fu, she sighed. This junwang fu had good etiquette, but it was filled with an unspeakable heaviness.
“Goodbye, Crown Princess.” Hua Xi Wan watched as the Crown Princess got on the carriage. After her procession left, she turned to get onto the carriage. Just as her foot was on the stool, she saw a carriage with the insignia of Sheng Junwang Fu hurry towards her.
Just as she was dazed, a person jumped off the carriage. It was Sheng Junwang Yan Bo Yi.
“Xian Wang Fei.” Yan Bo Yi had not expected to encounter Hua Xi Wan in a setting such as this. He said politely with a bow, “This one has matters and cannot attend to you.”
“Tang Bo, walk slowly.” Hua Xi Wan turned her body sideways and returned the greeting. Seeing Yan Bo Yi enter the junwang fu in large strides, she also got onto the carriage.
This was very interesting. Even the sisters-in-law and other female relatives such as her knew that Hou shi had miscarried, yet Yan Bo Yi, the husband, only managed to come back at this time.
It was probably that men thought what was most important was their work. Her thinking was probably the one that was unorthodox.
When she returned to the wang fu, Yan Jin Qiu had already returned. Seeing her come in from outside, he asked in concern, “How come you only returned now—did you eat a noon meal?” Seeing her shake her head, he had people go prepare food in the kitchen. “What happened, that your complexion is so terrible?”
Hua Xi Wan shook her head. “Sheng Junwang Fei miscarried, so I went to visit the junwang fu.”
Yan Jin Qiu lowered his face and then poured a cup of tea for Hua Xi Wan. “Is Tang Sao all right?”
“She is not very energetic. ” Hua Xi Wan took the teacup and then took a sip. “When I got there, the Crown Princess was already there. Sheng Junwang Fei is also a dignified person, so we were very courteous and did not say much.”
Yan Jin Qiu smiled. “The Crown Princess is very attentive this time.”
When Hua Xi Wan heard this, her brow furrowed. She thought of the night pearl grape decoration again.