The Narrator walks on the river, against the flow of the current. After walking for an hour, he’s moved a few hundred yards. Eventually, he reaches a large waterfall. As the Narrator approaches the waterfall, he realizes that, were he on Earth, he’d be terrified by the sight of the waterfall—it’s huge and deafeningly loud. But now, the Narrator finds that he can “take” the waterfall in the same way that a ship can “take” a huge wave.
The Narrator makes slow, steady progress against the flow of the current—perhaps symbolizing the good Christian’s progress toward salvation. By the same token, the waterfall, evoking the ritual of baptism, might symbolize this Christian salvation. At times, the concept of salvation can be intimidating and even frightening—thus, the Narrator is intimidated by the waterfall and yet also attracted to it.
The Narrator sees a ghost crouched near a hawthorn bush. The ghost is trying to move toward a big, beautiful tree, but because of the heaviness and stiffness of the grass, it’s very difficult to move toward the tree. Moving closer, the Narrator realizes that the ghost is the “intelligent man” from the bus—Ikey. Ikey has been trying to approach the tree for hours, and now he’s almost there—but there is a heavy wind that keeps pushing him back. As the wind blows, golden apples fall from the tree, and a few hit Ikey, causing him to cry out in pain. Ikey fills his pockets with apples, and then begins limping back to the bus.
Like the Narrator, Ikey is fighting a battle against nature—just as the Narrator is walking against the current, Ikey is pushing through the immovable grass, carrying apples that seem impossibly heavy in his ghostlike state. And yet Ikey’s struggle is very different from the Narrator’s, because it causes him enormous physical pain—so much pain, indeed, that it’s not clear why Ikey is so intent on plucking the golden apples. The apples themselves could be an allusion to the Biblical story of Adam and Eve, in which the apples represent humanity’s sinful nature (they could also be an allusion to ancient Greek mythology, in which the hero Paris’s offer of a golden apple caused a feud between the three most powerful Greek goddesses).
Suddenly, a voice cries, “Fool. Put it down.” The voice seems to come from the waterfall—and the Narrator realizes that what he’d thought was a waterfall is really a bright angel, who floats “like one crucified” in the air. The “Water-Giant” tells Ikey that there is no room for apples in Hell. Instead, Ikey should learn to stay here and eat the apples. Instead of responding, Ikey continues to carry his apples back to the bus, limping in pain.
In this surprising passage, we learn that the waterfall was really an angel (reinforcing the waterfall as a symbol of salvation). Ikey, a materialistic man, is trying to sell apples in Hell (“turn a tidy profit,” as he told the Narrator earlier). Notice that the golden apples themselves aren’t the true source of evil here: Ikey’s desire to sell the apples is evil (as the angel says, he could stay by the river and eat as many apples as he wants). Ikey’s actions illustrate the folly of living for material gain: no amount of “profit” can redeem one’s soul. Moreover, the pursuit of profit for its own sake causes the soul tremendous pain—symbolized by Ikey’s agonizing walk back to the bus. Note also how the Water-Giant’s holy power and “crucified” position evoke Jesus Christ.