The Good Earth Chapter 28
After sending the second daughter away to the house of her betrothed, Wang Lung is free of anxiety. One day, he offers his uncle some opium which he takes more than eagerly because it is something that only wealthy men smoke. After that day, Wang Lung makes sure that there are pipes of opium lying around the house because it brings him peace.
Winter passes by, and the waters in the fields recede. The eldest son breaks the news that Wang Lung's daughter-in-law is with child. The prospect of having a grandchild is a comforting one to Wang Lung when he is burdened with problems. Spring passes by, and summer brings back all the people who had left the village during the famine. Many seek Wang Lung to borrow money, and he willingly lends it at high interest. Others sell their lands when they can no longer borrow any money, and those without anything else sell their daughters.
One day, Wang Lung buys five daughters from men in exchange for seed, oxen, and plow. A few days after that, a man comes to Wang Lung, wanting to sell a girl of seven. Wang Lung is unwilling to buy her because the girl looks weak, but Lotus immediately likes her because of her pretty looks. Wang Lung finally agrees to buy the small girl to please Lotus and to see the frightened, hungry maid fed.
When Wang Lung goes to inspect his lands with Ching, he takes his third son along whom he wishes to keep on the land. Just when Wang Lung thinks there is peace in his house, trouble rises again because the eldest son and the son of the uncle do not get along. The son is suspicious of his cousin's conduct toward his wife as well as Lotus, and complains to Wang Lung. He scolds his son that it is not appropriate to be so fond of his wife as though she were a "harlot." When the son suggests that they move to a new house to leave the uncle and his family behind, Wang Lung is unaffected, reminding his son that without the land, the son would not have become such a polished young lord of a rich family.
Wang Lung harbors mixed feelings toward his son. On one hand, he is proud of the smooth, wealthy lord his son has become, but he is also scornful of the son. The eldest son continually insists that the family should move to the vacant inner courts of the great House of the Hwang. The mention of the great house piques Wang Lung's interest who has not forgotten the day he, a humble farmer, went there to get a slave for a wife. When he thinks that he can live in this great house, Wang Lung is thoughtful. He likes the idea that he can sit where the Old Mistress once sat as she gave O-lan away. Wang Lung is driven by these thoughts and his frustration with the lazy uncle's son. The uncle and his wife have been quieted with the opium, but their son is a constant source of trouble.
One day, Wang Lung consults his second son about moving into town and living in the great house, and the son is pleased with the idea. The son also expresses a wish to be wed. Unlike his older brother, however, the second son does not want a town maid who would constantly be badgering him about spending money. When Wang Lung asks the son what kind of a woman he wishes to marry, he tells his father in specific detail the kind of maid he would like to marry. Wang Lung is astonished at his son's wisdom and careful forethought and feels that the second son is quite different from his older sibling. He assures his son that he will have Ching look into the matter of his marriage.
As though seriously considering the idea of moving into the great house, Wang Lung goes to town to look at the house, remembering the time when he came for O-lan as a poor farmer. Dirty commoners inhabit the outer courts, but Wang Lung walks through the courts until he reaches a gate beside which sits a sleeping woman. Wang Lung looks carefully at the woman to realize that she is the wife of the gatekeeper of the great house many years ago. He is suddenly sad to think that so many years have passed since he came with O-lan with their firstborn. Waking the woman, Wang Lung asks to be let in. Going in and looking around to examine all the familiar places, Wang Lung shouts that he will have the house.