7 The Fourth Miss is a Fraud?

    Hui'er was nervous as she stood in the marketplace, holding the painting in her hand. While other vendors had an entire rack of paintings hung up behind them or tables filled with scrolls, Hui'er was the only one in this market with nothing besides a thin blanket underneath her feet to signify that yes, this was indeed a stand and that she was selling the painting in her hand.

    Her Fourth Miss rushed her out of the room quickly, not giving much instructions on how to exactly sell the painting besides the fact that the painting had to be sold for fifty silver taels and that Hui'er should have some more confidence. But... how was she supposed to have confidence when she was the only one in the market who was only selling one single painting?

    Anxiously, her eyes scanned the surroundings, settling on one middle-aged man who was carefully examining all the goods at the markets, especially the paintings. Hui'er held the painting a little higher, hoping that the man would lay his eye on the painting. She didn't want to disappoint her Fourth Miss by returning without selling the painting, so she had to try her hardest to sell it to anyone.

    Sure enough, the middle-aged man stopped by her 'booth', staring carefully at the painting. His eyebrows raised, and stroking the wisps of his beard, he stared at the scroll intently. After a few moments of intense observation, he looked up at Hui'er, asking, "Say, girl, who painted this?"

    Hui'er didn't know what to say- surely she couldn't say that her eighteen year old Fourth Miss painted it? Sh decided to lie for the sake of business. "My- my old master, sir."

    "Why, is your old master a professional? This is not the work of an amateur, and I have viewed many paintings before, girl. If I didn't know better, perhaps I could compare this with the work of Zhan Ziqian, although their styles are a little too different to say so." The man nodded thoughtfully, his eyes returning back to the painting. "Though, what is the name of your old master? Is he well known as a painter?"

    Hui'er shook her head hastily. "My old master- he wishes to remain- anonymous." Right. That was a good response. "He's not well known, though. These can be considered as some of the first paintings he's releasing out to the public."

    "Ah. Sensible." The man pointed at a distant mountain in the painting, and Hui'er's eyes followed. "See those lines? The perspective? How expressive. Unique. It's hard to come across those who choose to paint landscape well. These lines are quite precise. A pity that it's only in black and white- if your old master chose to complement the trees with strokes of green and gold, that would bring the painting to a higher level."

    He sighed.

    "Nevertheless, I will still like to buy this painting. It is hard to come across a good one like this, with such simplicity yet detail. It will look good in my study. Girl, how much is your old master selling for this painting?"

    This man was interested in buying the painting! Hui'er's eyes lit up, and she put on a smile. "Sir, this painting will sell for- for- fifty silver taels."

    The last part came out awkwardly. She knew that it could not be a reasonable price.

    The middle-aged man seemed to agree, his posture stiffening. "Fifty taels? Unreasonable, unreasonable. This painting is certainly excellent, but for fifty taels, I cannot pay that much." He scrunched his face up, examining the painting again. "Look, there is not even an alias seal! How does your old master expect to sell such a painting if it has no seal? For all we know, your old master may be a fraud!"

    Hui'er shook her head vigorously. "This is not a fraud... my old master signed the painting himself!"

    This was true. Her Fourth Miss did scribble something at the bottom of the page that she referred to as a 'signature'. Hui'er didn't know what that meant, but she assumed it was something along artists that she didn't know about.

    "Signed? What do you mean?"

    Hui'er gestured to the corner of the page. "My old master... put his 'signature' on the bottom."

    Freezing, the middle-aged man looked to see what she was pointing at. When he laid his eyes on it, he couldn't help but let out a loud laugh. "What is that? When I saw the painting the first time, I thought it was a cockroach drawn in the corner on accident. Who ever heard of something called a- what did you say?- 'signature'?"

    Before Hui'er could reply, another man went up to her, looking at the painting. He seemed to have caught word of the conversation Hui'er was having with the middle-aged man and became interested. "Why, Brother Wang, it's nice to see you here." He greeted the middle-aged man Hui'er was arguing with.

    "Yes, yes, I am simply looking for paintings." 'Brother Wang' greeted the other back. "But- can you believe it? This little girl is saying that her old master is selling the painting for fifty taels!"

    "Fifty taels?" The man's eyes widened. "Why, fifty taels for a work without a seal? This must be a fraud."

    "Of course. I was thinking that as well. Why else would there not be a seal if it wasn't created by a fraud? Little girl, your old master is a fraud. This painting must be a fraud."

    At that moment, another man walked up, greeting the other two. "Isn't it Brother Wang and Brother Liu? What are you two looking at?"

    "Brother Li, it's great to see you! Can you believe that this painting is fifty taels? And without a seal either?"

    "Why, that's crazy!" The man, 'Brother Li', looked to the distance, waving at another man to come over. "Zhang Wen! Didn't you say that you have some knowledge in paintings? You should've come over here. This painting is fifty taels!"

    Zhang Wen walked over, nodding at the three men and greeting them by their names. Afterwards, he proceeded to analyze the painting and came out with the same conclusion- "The painting must be fraud for costing so much yet not having an artist's seal!"

    The ruckus made by the four men seemed to gather the attention of general crowd browsing the markets. More and more people gradually crowded around Hui'er, all of them calling out their opinions, which generally seemed to be that the painting- the Fourth Miss's painting- was a fraud. The painter was a fraud. Everything was a fraud.

    Of course, Hui'er knew the truth. The painting was not a fraud that copied the work of some other artist! Hui'er witnessed her Fourth Miss painting the picture from start to end. She could not have copied anything.

    Although Hui'er was nervous in the beginning, when no one would stop to take a look at the painting, she was even more nervous now! This large group of men were all unisonly insulting her Fourth Miss! What was she supposed to do? She doubted that she could even squeeze through the crowd to leave... but what if the men became violent? What if they tore the painting in their anger that the painting was a 'fraud'?

    'Fourth Miss, why did you put Hui'er in such a cruel situation...?'
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