The Good Earth
Pearl S. Buck
Contributed by Bobbie Heil
Chapter 28

Wang presents the opium to his uncle, saying that the uncle should partake in it since he is more worthy than Wang to smoke the luxury drug. Wang’s uncle takes it greedily and smokes it daily. To add to the scheme, Wang pretends to smoke himself but leaves his pipes lying around for the uncle to pick up. However, Wang cautions his sons and Lotus from taking in the drug all the while urging his uncle to smoke more.

Wang’s eldest son shares the good news that his new wife is pregnant, and Wang is comforted by the great news. The floods have receded by then, and the families that had left are returning. Wang loans money to them in order to fix their houses and tend their fields, and with the profits, he buys even more land. For those who had no money, they offer their daughters for sale. Wang agrees to buy five slaves who will tend to Lotus and to the rest of the family. Lotus takes a liking to one slave in particular, a small maid about seven years old.

Wang hopes for peace, but problems still exist. When he walks his fields, his youngest son trails behind him, but Wang does not know how he feels. Back in the house, the resentment between the eldest son and his uncle’s son grows, and the former suspects the latter of evil doing with the slaves and even Lotus. When the son approaches Wang and implores that he act against the uncle’s son, Wang tells him to stop being foolish and loving his wife so greatly. Wang’s son says the real reason is to protect the reputation of his father’s house and suggests that the immediate family go into town to live while the uncle’s family remains out in the country. Wang is obstinate about leaving the land, but when his son suggests that they can reside in the old house of the Hwangs, Wang is fascinated with the idea, never forgetting how humiliated he had been by that House, and gives in. The situation remains pressing: the uncle and his wife have taken easily to the opium, but their son does not yield as quickly to the drug and remains lustful.

Wang consults with his second son, who concurs on the move since it will be a good time for him to wed. Wang, who has not paid much heed to this son, asks what kind of wife he will have, and he is surprised that the son has a good idea of his ideal bride: one from the village with no poor relatives, a good dowry, and the ability to cook well. Wang is delighted and says Ching will look for someone of that description among the villages.

Wang walks to the House of Hwang and grows disdainful at the sight of so many common people swarming around the courts. Whereas before, he would have hated the rich family inside the gate, now that he is rich himself, he hates the poor families whom he feels are filthy and annoyances.

He notices the wife of the old gatekeeper dozing, and he wakes her, informing her that he is interested in renting the courts, although he has not yet fully decided. He follows her through the house and remembers clearly from his first visit so many years ago. On impulse, he sits in the chair of the Old Mistress, and overpowered by his satisfaction, he decides to rent the house.

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