The Book of Ruth, Part II

Now these are the generations of Pharez: Pharez begat Hezron, and Hezron begat Ram, and Ram begat Amminadab, and Amminadab begat Nahshon, and Nahshon begat Salmon, and Salmon begat Boaz, and Boaz through Naomi and on Ruth begat Obed, and Obed begat Jesse, and Jesse begat David. There was a great fault in the begetting of Obed, and in all the begettings thereafter.

Every day the woman Ruth went, and came, and gleaned in the field after the reapers in the field of Boaz, who was of the kindred of Elimelech. Every night the woman Ruth came into the tent, and called to me where I was sleeping, and broke my rest to make count of the barley she had gleaned; my sleep was ever stolen by the sweet hateful voice calling for her mother-husband. Ruth would not sleep until my hands had counted it. So Naomi did not sleep, but counted, while Ruth did not sleep, but crowed, and promised me sons I had not asked for.

“I want no more sons,” I said to her. “Your harvest is tallied, and I have given you already a son of my body and buried him. Now I want to sleep, do you sleep also.”

But she stretched herself out on my pillow and curled about Naomi like a cat. “I will make you a son of Boaz,” she said. “And from him I will get more sons, til all of Judah calls Naomi Mother.”

“I have seen how you get sons,” I said. “I mislike how you keep them.”

“Naomi is a hard mother,” Ruth said. “But how would Naomi eat, if not from Ruth’s hands?” She would not let anyone else serve me; I fed from her or not at all. “I have seen you go without, in Moab. You hate life a little less than you hate me, and so I think you will live to hate another meal. Are you hungry, mother-husband? Will you take a little something, or must you suffer first?”

To this I said nothing, which delighted her. So it went until the morning, when she left again.

While the women gleaned in the fields, I, Naomi, caught locusts. (“Pride-food,” Ruth called it, and took great delight in spilling the locust-meal out on the hearth when she caught a bowl unattended.) And Boaz came upon me of an afternoon and said, What damsel is this who lives in your tent and wanders my fields? I answered him and said, Kinsman, it is a Moabitish damsel that came back with Naomi (I did not bother with Mara then, as no one paid any mind the first time I changed my name) out of that country. The day was warm and the locusts thudded themselves against the lid of the barrel while he spoke to me.

The Lord be with you and her, he said.

The Lord bless you, I said. Is she to stay in the fields, then? You will not dismiss her?

And the fool said, No, let her not glean in another field neither go from hence, but abide here fast with the rest of the women, and keep her eyes on the field that she reaps. When she thirsts she might go among the vessels the young men have drawn, and you also, who is beloved-of-Ruth, for I have heard the great claim she has on you.

Then I knew I could not help him, for who can help a man who cannot wait for death to find him, but invites it to drink from his vessels? So you may say that I helped the woman Ruth when I fell on my face before Boaz and bowed myself to the ground, that I marked him as hers in the doing thereof. I say that I bowed myself in the presence of the spirit of the Lord, who had revealed the end of the man Boaz’ life to me that day. Whatever the reason, I went down to the earth, and said the proper things: “Why has she found grace in your eyes, that you should take knowledge of her, a stranger?”

Boaz answered: “It hath been fully shewed me, all she has done unto her mother-in-law since the death of her husband, how she left her mother and father, and the land of her nativity, and come unto a people which knew her not.” Now Naomi has seen the manner in which Ruth’s mother and father were kept in Moab, but Naomi said nothing, only pinched a few fat locusts between her fingers as she bowed in the dust. Boaz had been rich too long if he thought he had been shown the fullness of any woman’s history, or the manner in which she flees the scene of her birth.

Anyhow. Their man-and-woman foolishness continued. He invited her to eat of his bread, and dip her morsels in vinegar, and sit beside the reapers at mealtime with their parched corn. And she ate, and was sufficed, and left, and again spread herself on my pillows and ruined my sleep to tell me of it whether I would will or no. So Ruth gleaned, and harvested, and ate, and crowed, and Naomi pinched grasshoppers. “The man’s name with whom I wrought today is Boaz,” was ever only Ruth’s speech to me. “Will you accept a son from him?” And I who had already accepted meat and bread from her could not turn back now. Ruth brought forth.

“How shall it be that I should go to him,” she asked me, “that all may be well with us? For tonight he winnows the barley on the threshing-floor, it must be tonight that I make us a son.” Cousin, I was hungry for a child, I will not deny it. I was hungry so long in Moab.

“Wash first,” I said – she wrinkled her nose at that – “and anoint thee, and get down to the floor, but do not let yourself be known by him until he has eaten and drank. Keep it lawful. When he lies down, uncover him, and do what I tell you.” So she went down to the threshing-floor, and I lay on my pillow in silence, and Ruth did all according to how I bade her.

The man Boaz ate, and drank, and his heart was merry, and he went to lie down at the end of the heap of corn, and Ruth came softly and laid her down at his feet. Afterward she told me that it was at midnight when he turned, and was afraid, and beheld a woman crouched beneath him, and asked, “Who art thou?”

“And how did you answer him?” I asked her.

“I told him I was Ruth his handmaiden,” she said. “I told him to spread the hem of his garment over me, as a kinsman, and do what was required, and give me leave to lay at his feet until the morning.”

Did he struggle much? I asked her.

“He redeemed it, if that is what you mean, and I have brought you a son,” she said, and pointed at the locust-bowl on the hearth. I had covered it with a blanket the night before; now the blanket stirred as something turned inside it. “I have brought also his shoes. Did I do right?”

“Right enough,” I said, and got to work. I saw Boaz after the begetting only once. He smiled thickly at me, and tried to move his head a little.

“Rest a little,” I told her, and fed what was in the bowl, as I had once fed my sons, and so raised up the name of the dead on the living. She slept all day and well into the next night, breathing fast like a cat.

Now this was the manner, cousin, in former time concerning redeeming and concerning changing, for to confirm all things, a man plucked off his shoe, and gave it to his neighbor, and this was his testimony. Boaz is a testimony to the woman Ruth now, and so is Naomi, but Naomi lives to walk outside the fields and catch grasshoppers. This was the difference between the man Boaz and me, that he could only make a son once. Naomi will make more. And all the people that were in the gate, and in the household of Boaz, came to the tent to be witness to the lawful making of Boaz’ son, and if they misliked the manner in which the son was made, they held their tongues that day and all the days hereafter. I misliked the manner myself. We were famous in Bethlehem, Naomi and Ruth, for the Lord provided the seed and restored us to the living, and in such a manner did we build the house of Pharez. And if the Lord were against it, the house would not still be standing as it stands now, so if you have curses to make against me, make them to the Lord.

This is how Ruth took Boaz, and how I got a son: first his feet, then his right hand, then the thighs, and then the rest. And I laid the child in my bosom, and become nurse unto it, and did not smother it, for the love of Ruth, the child of Moab. And the child lives to this day, and has a name. From it we made Jesse, and from Jesse we made David, and from David we shall make ten thousand sons more. I lived too long in Moab.

Now these are the generations of Pharez: Pharez begat Hezron, and Hezron begat Ram, and Ram begat Amminadab, and Amminadab begat Nahshon, and Nahshon begat Salmon, and Salmon begat Boaz, and Boaz begat Obed, and Obed begat Jesse, and Jesse begat David, and so it was that everyone got what what was coming to them.