Darl and Cash take the wagon along the river to the ford, with Jewel accompanying them on horseback. The trees break, and they spot Tull with Anse, Dewey Dell, and Vardaman on the other side of the river. The brothers argue about how they should cross. Finally, they come to an agreement. Jewel crosses upstream on horseback with a support rope, while Cash takes control of the wagon, with Darl inside. As they enter the ford, a log comes rushing at them, upsetting their progress. On Cash’s advice, Darl jumps from the wagon downstream. Jewel struggles with his horse while Cash clutches at the coffin and his tools. Anse’s mules float up out of the water, drowned.
Vardaman, watching from the opposite shore, sees Cash lose his grip on the coffin. Vardaman begins running along the bank, yelling at Darl to catch the coffin before it floats away. Vardaman runs past Tull, who hesitates to jump in, and rushes into the water to help Darl. Darl dodges the mules to grab hold of the coffin and struggles with it beneath the surface. When he comes up out of the water, his hands are empty. Vardaman rushes back to the bank and runs farther downstream.
Tull sees the log upset the progress of the wagon, and watches the chaos that ensues. Vardaman runs past him. Tull chastises Anse for the whole situation. Tull sees Jewel keeping hold of the coffin and the wagon by gripping a rope tied to them. Cash grabs a horse and is pulled to shore.
Darl sees Cash washed up on the riverside, unconscious, lying with a pool of vomit beside him. The other men are pulling the wreckage of the wagon out of the river. Tull ties a rope between himself and a tree to avoid being swept away by the current as he searches for things that have fallen out of the wagon. Tull asks Vardaman to keep the rope steady while he ventures into the water. Jewel is diving into the water in an effort to gather Cash’s scattered tools. With several of the tools in hand, the men hover over Cash, who opens his eyes. Unable to speak, he turns his head and vomits again. Dewey Dell squats over him and calls his name. Jewel and Tull return to the river to search for Cash’s saw set.
Cash remembers how he told the other family members that the coffin was not balanced, and how they should balance it.
Cora remembers a discussion she had with Addie about religion in which she criticized Addie for presuming to judge what is right and what is wrong, rather than leaving such judgment to God. Cora realizes that Addie was proud and vain, more driven by her love for the thankless Jewel than by her love for God. She remembers Addie speaking of Jewel in terms more appropriate to discussions of God, saying, “He is my cross and he will be my salvation.”