Mary sleeps in a clearing by the railroad tracks. Joe returns with water and quandongs. He wakes Mary. Her feet hurt, and he washes and rubs them as she tries to eat a quandong, but it is too sour. Joe tells her it is better with sugar. Suddenly, Mary jumps up and begins to vomit. Joe comforts her and wraps her in their blanket.
The quandongs are bitter, just like Joe and Mary fear their future will be. Although it appears to be sweet, and the fruit occasionally is, its bitterness reflects the play’s title, and suggests there is little hope for a couple alone in a hostile, racist world.
As Mary and Joe sit, Billy sneaks up on them from the cover of the tree line. He tries to grab Joe, who manages to avoid him. The two men circle each other, Billy with whip in hand. Billy insists that Mary, who is his countryman, must return with him.
Billy is more interested in returning Mary to the camp than he is returning Joe, because he feels connected to Mary because of their shared ancestry.
Billy says Mr. Neal wants them to return, but Joe doesn’t care. Joe grabs Billy’s whip and chokes him with it. Mary begs him not to kill the older man, and so Joe has her throw him Billy’s handcuffs, which the older man has dropped, and he uses them to restrain Billy. Mary runs for the train and Joe follows, but first he throws away Billy’s handcuff keys, and stuffs the man’s pockets with fruit. Billy, unable to chase after Joe and Mary, begins to hobble home.
Joe, like his uncle Jimmy, has grown skeptical of authority. Instead of complying with Billy and Neal’s requests, Joe fights back aggressively, doing his best to ensure his freedom and Mary’s, which he hopes will lead to a better life for both of them.