The Good Earth Chapter 31
Wang Lung always hears of wars, but has never seen one nor has he ever been close to one. He hears of men going to wars, but it is always a distant thing in a faraway place for him. However, one day, it is near, and he hears it first from his second son who tells Wang Lung that the price of grain has risen because of the war.
One day, Wang Lung's grandson is standing at the gate, watching a swarm of fierce looking, dangerous men passing through the town. Before Wang Lung is able to go inside the house and lock the gate, however, he is hailed by the son of the uncle. He and other soldiers barge into Wang Lung's house before he can say anything, settling themselves on Wang Lung's floors and filling every corner of the house.
Wang Lung's eldest son is notified of what has happened. The son, seeing every man with a knife, is courteous to his cousin who tells him that he and the soldiers will rest for an indeterminate number of days until there is another war. The second son comes home running to inform his brother and father that they must be courteous to the soldiers. A man he used to know was killed by some soldiers for protesting. Although Wang Lung and his sons put all the women in the inner courts to protect them, the cousin is free to come and go as he wishes because he is a relative. The cousin looks at all the women, commenting on the wives of the sons. The wife of the first son is demure and timid, but the wife of the second son answers back to the cousin. Watching this, the first son is ashamed and uncomfortable because they should not be conversing so freely.
The cousin says maliciously that he prefers the wife of the second son to the wife of the first son, and the wife of the eldest son becomes angry, quickly retiring into an inner room.
The cousin also visits Lotus whom he calls "Old Mistress," and Lotus is pleased. After, the cousin goes to see his mother who lies on her bed, drowsy and hazy. She looks at him for a long time, but does not know what to do except offer him opium which he will not take. The uncle's wife has been reduced to a yellow-skinned, haggard woman. For a moment, Wang Lung is afraid that the cousin will blame him for what has happened to his mother, but the cousin says nothing.
The soldiers destroy and abuse Wang Lung's house, crushing the chairs and stepping on the flowers in the garden. But the family hates the cousin the most because he goes around the house, eyeing all the slaves. Cuckoo suggests that there is nothing else to do but give the cousin a slave for pleasure. The cousin wishes to have Pear Blossom, the pale small girl that Wang Lung bought during the famine, but the girl is terrified. Lotus is peeved because of the fuss that the girl is making over an unimportant matter, but Wang Lung does not want to send the frightened, weeping maid to the coarse, lustful cousin. After having pacified the angry Lotus, Wang Lung finds a way to avoid sending Pear Blossom to the cousin. Instead of Pear Blossom, another slave volunteers to go, and the matter is resolved. Wang Lung is kind and gentle to the little slave who is still cowering in fear.
The cousin stays in Wang Lung's house for almost two months before going to another war. The slave who was given to him conceives, and the cousin is happy to be leaving a child behind him. After he and the rest of the soldiers leave, there is only ruin and confusion in Wang Lung's house.