The Good Earth Chapter 16
One night, Wang Lung discovers a bundle of jewels buried between O-lan's breasts. "There [are] such a mass of jewels as one [has] never dreamed could be together, jewels red as the inner flesh of watermelons, golden as wheat, green as young leaves in spring, clear as water tricking out of the earth." Chapter 16, pg. 104. She tells him that she found them in the rich man's house in the city. She saw a loose brick in the wall and knew that it was a secret hiding place for jewels. Wang Lung is astonished, but decides that it is safer to convert the jewels into land. O-lan hesitatingly asks Wang Lung if she can keep two of the jewels for herself. Wang Lung is surprised, but O-lan insists on asking so humbly and pitifully that he finally relents. "Then Wang Lung, without comprehending it, [looks] for an instant into the heart of this dull, and faithful creature, who [has] labored all her life at some task at which she [wins] no reward." Chapter 16, pg. 106. He does not understand her, but is moved to see her so earnest and wishful. When he gives the jewels, O-lan carefully picks out two pearls and hides them between her breasts.
Wang Lung then goes to the great House of Hwang with the jewels. When he pounds on the gate, the Old Lord himself comes to get the door. According to the lord, the agent of the house has left a long time ago. When Wang Lung talks about having come to pay to buy land, a good looking woman appears to let Wang Lung into the house. Wang Lung can tell that she is only a slave, but there seems to be none else in the house except the woman and the Old Lord.
Driving the Old Lord away, the slave is eager to discuss money with Wang Lung who does not know what to do because he is hesitant to do business with a woman. The slave tells him that there is no one else in the house except the Old Lord and herself. The Old Mistress died when the thieves came to loot the house, and the servants and the slaves were gone long before that. Many of the thieves were former servants including the gatekeeper who knew where the jewels and the secret treasures were stored. The slave further tells Wang Lung that this fall of the great house was inevitable because the lords stopped overseeing the land matters.
From what he can garner from the slave's talk, Wang Lung realizes that she is clinging to the Old Lord in the last years of his life for whatever she can get from him. Although the slave tells him that the Old Lord will do anything she tells him, Wang Lung is still uncertain. He tells her that he will return later.
At a teashop, Wang Lung is deep in thought about the fall of the great house. He thinks that it is all because they have left the land. He decides to make his two sons work in the fields so they will not turn out like the young lords of the great house who, separated from the land, did not know its worth and importance. From the shopkeeper, Wang Lung learns that the clever slave who is called Cuckoo is in complete control of the Old Lord. The Hwang land is for sale.
Coming out of the teashop, Wang Lung knocks on the door of the great house. Cuckoo opens the door, more than willing to sell the land for jewels.