A House Divided

A House Divided

Only once Sheng said of Meng and his cause, “I am not one of them—I never shall be a revolutionist. I love my life too well, and I love only beauty. I am moved only by beauty. I have no wish to die in any cause. Some day I shall sail across the sea, and if it is more beautiful there than here, it may be I shall never come back again—how do I know? I have no wish to suffer for the common people. They are filthy and they smell of garlic. Let them die. Who will miss them?”

Pearl S. Buck, A House Divided. Kindle Edition. loc. 1054-1057. Accessed: 5/3/2018

Before long the farmer came by and he praised the clever way Yuan felled the weeds about his turnips and he laughed and said, “Do you remember that first day you hoed? If it had been today, you would have felled each turnip with the weeds!” And he laughed mightily, and then he said to comfort Yuan, “But you will make a farmer yet. It is told in the muscle of your arm and in the bigness of your back. Those other students—such a puny lot of pale weeds I never saw—their spectacles and dangling little arms and their gold teeth and their sticks of legs stuck into foreign trousers—if I had such bodies as they have I swear I’d wrap me in robes somehow and hide myself.” And the farmer laughed again and shouted, “Come and smoke awhile and rest yourself before my door!” And so Yuan did, and he listened, smiling, to the farmer’s loud constant voice and to all the farmer’s scorn of city men and especially did the farmer hate the young men and the revolutionists, and he cried down every mild good word Yuan said for them and he shouted, “And what good can they do me, then? I have my bit of land, my home, my cow. I want no more land than I have, and I have enough to eat. If the rulers would not tax me so hard, I would be glad, but men like me have always been so taxed. Why should they come and talk to me of doing good to me or mine? Whoever heard of good coming out of strangers? Who will do good for any man except those of his own blood? No, I know they have something they want for themselves—my cow, perhaps, or else my bit of land.”

Pearl S. Buck, A House Divided. Kindle Edition. loc. 1425-1435. Accessed: 5/26/2018

Now he saw why the Tiger was an enemy. For, now, to save his country meant to save himself, and now he saw how his father was his enemy, and none could save him if he did not save himself.

Pearl S. Buck, A House Divided. Kindle Edition. loc. 1624-1625. Accessed: 6/5/2018

Therefore he did his duty as it was appointed to him these days. He made flags ready for the days of parade, and he wrote out the petitions to teachers for this thing or that, because his writing was clear and better than most, and he made himself stay out of class on days of strike when teachers would not grant what had been asked, although he studied secretly that he might not miss the learning, and he went to certain laborers’ houses and gave them sheets of paper whereon were written for them sayings which told them how abused they were in their labor and how they were given too little wage and how their masters grew rich from them, and all such things they knew already. These men and women could not read, and Yuan read to them, but they heard him gladly and they looked at each other aghast to hear how they were oppressed even more than they had thought, and one and another would cry out, “Aye, it is true our bellies are never so full as they ought to be—” “Aye, we do work all the day and in the night and our children are not fed—” “There is no hope ahead for such as us. What is today is the same tomorrow and forever, for each day we eat all we make,” and they looked at each other fiercely and in despair when they found how cruelly they were used.

Pearl S. Buck, A House Divided. Kindle Edition. loc. 1678-1687. Accessed: 6/5/2018

He liked the talk with the farmers, and often he talked with them not to persuade them by force, but as he might talk to anyone and he listened to them when they said, “But whoever heard of such things as these, that the land is to be taken from the rich and given to us? We doubt it can be done, young sir, and we would rather it were not, lest afterwards we be punished somehow. We are better as we are. At least we know our troubles. They are old troubles and we know them.” And among them often only those who had no land at all were those who thought the new times welcome.

Pearl S. Buck, A House Divided. Kindle Edition. loc. 1723-1727. Accessed: 6/5/2018

He came himself, without his knowing it, to see his country as he said it was. He forgot that he had hated Wang the Tiger’s wars and all his lusty soldiery, and he came to think of the Tiger as a great noble general, sitting in his halls. And he forgot the humble little village where Wang Lung lived and starved and struggled up by labor and by guile, and he only remembered from his childhood the many courts of that great house in the town, which his grandfather had made. He forgot even the small old earthen house and all the millions like it, shaped out of earth and thatched with straw, and housing poor folk and sometimes even beasts with them, and he remembered clearly only the coastal town and all its riches and its pleasure houses.

Pearl S. Buck, A House Divided. Kindle Edition. loc. 2223-2228. Accessed: 7/14/2018

The old man listened to it all in his mild silent way and then he said, “I think not everyone can see the whole picture. It has long been said we each see what we look for. You and I, we look at land and think of seed and harvests. A builder looks at the same land and thinks of houses, and a painter of its colors. The priest sees men only as those who need to be saved, and so naturally he sees most clearly those who need to be saved.”

Pearl S. Buck, A House Divided. Kindle Edition. loc. 2532-2535. Accessed: 7/22/2018

Yet even today he had not much to say to this lady except the little talk of flowers or vegetables she planted. For he soon knew her mind was as simple in its own way as his own country mother’s mind, a kindly narrow mind which dwelt on a dish to be cooked or a friend’s gossip or the garden and its welfare, or on a bowl of flowers upon the dining table. Her loves were love of God and of her own two, and in these loves she lived most faithfully and so simply that Yuan was confounded sometimes by this simplicity. For he found that this lady, who could read well enough to take up any book and comprehend it, was as filled with strange beliefs as any villager in his own land. By her own talk with him he knew it, for she spoke of a certain festival in spring and she said, “We call it Easter, Yuan, and on this day our dear Lord rose from the dead again and ascended into heaven.”

Pearl S. Buck, A House Divided. Kindle Edition. loc. 2923-2929. Accessed: 8/6/2018

“This is your first love, son, and it comes hardly. I know what your nature is, and it is very much like your father’s and they all tell me he was like his mother who was a grave quiet soul, always holding too hard to those she loved. Yes, and Ai-lan is like your grandfather, and your uncle tells me she has his merry eye …

Pearl S. Buck, A House Divided. Kindle Edition. loc. 4129-4131. Accessed: 8/11/2018

Now Yuan very well saw this, and he felt with Meng that these huts ought not to be there, and it was true these men and women were very low to see, and something should be done to put them out of sight. He pondered on this for a while and at last he said, “I suppose they could be put to work,” and Meng said gustily, “Of course they can be put to work, and sent home to their fields, and so they shall be—” And then Meng’s look changed as though at some old remembered grievance and he cried very passionately, “Oh, it is these people who hold back our country! I wish we could sweep the country clean and build it only of the young! I want to tear this whole city down—this old foolish wall which is no use now when we make war with cannon instead of arrows! What wall can guard against an airplane dropping bombs? Away with it, and let us use the bricks to make factories and schools and places for the young to work and learn! But these people, they understand nothing—they will not let the wall be torn away—they threaten—”

Pearl S. Buck, A House Divided. Kindle Edition. loc. 4244-4251. Accessed: 8/11/2018

I know that the chief hindrance against all we do is these very poor for whom we do it. There are too many—Who can teach them anything? There is no hope for them. So I say, let famine take them and flood and war. Let us keep only their children and shape them in the ways of revolution.

Pearl S. Buck, A House Divided. Kindle Edition. loc. 4256-4258. Accessed: 8/11/2018

Now what would have been the end of Yuan’s despair in this dull spring he did not know. That night he lay and sobbed on his bed he was so melancholy, although he wept for no one single cause. It seemed to him as he sobbed that he grieved because the times were so hopeless, the poor still poor, the new city unfinished and drab and dreary in the rains, the wheat rotted, the revolution weakened and new wars threatening, his work delayed by the strife of the students. There was nothing not awry to Yuan that night, but deepest awry of all was this, that for forty days there was no letter from Mei-ling and her last words still were as clear in his mind as the moment she spoke them, and he had not seen her again after she had cried, “Oh, I hate you!”

Pearl S. Buck, A House Divided. Kindle Edition. loc. 4865-4870. Accessed: 8/12/2018

And once he heard the other rail against the serving man for the blackness of the rag he hung across his shoulder with which he wiped the tea bowls, and they both threw fiery looks at the merchant who sat next to Yuan when he coughed and spat upon the floor. These things Yuan saw and understood, for so had he spoken and felt once, too. But now he watched the fat man cough and cough and spit at last upon the floor and he let it be. Now he could see it and feel no shame nor outrage, but only let it be. Yes, though he could not so do himself, he could let others do as they would these days. He could see the serving man’s black rag and not cry out against it, and he could bear at least in silence the filth of vendors at the stations. He was numbed and yet he did not know why he was, except it seemed without hope to change so many people. Yet he knew he could not be like Sheng and live for his pleasures only, nor like Meng and forget his old duty to his father. Better for him, if he could, doubtless, be wholly new and careless as they were each in his own way and see nothing they did not like to see, and feel no tie which was irksome. But he was as he was, and his father was his father still. He could not so lay aside his duty to that old which was his own past, too, and still somehow part of him. And so he went patiently to the long journey’s end.

Pearl S. Buck, A House Divided. Kindle Edition. loc. 4974-4983. Accessed: 8/12/2018

His heart began to mount and mount until his body was full of all his beating heart. He laughed into the night. What was it he had feared a little while ago? “We two,” he said—“we two—we need not be afraid of anything.”

Pearl S. Buck, A House Divided. Kindle Edition. loc. 5121-5123. Accessed: 8/12/2018