Jude grows depressed after the wedding, and finds that he can’t stand staying in Melchester any longer. He learns that his great-aunt is ill again, and he returns to Marygreen to see her. Jude writes to Sue, as Drusilla is her relation as well, and he suggests that they meet in Alfredston, as Jude plans to visit Christminster and look for work again.
Jude doesn’t turn to alcohol this time, but he still lets Sue’s decisions stifle his own life. Even though Christminster has rejected him, Jude can never stay away for long. The novel is divided by different settings, but Christminster never disappears.
The next day Jude goes to Christminster and is haunted by Sue’s “phantom” presence there, which affects him much more than the philosophers he used to imagine. He suddenly feels that he doesn’t want to find work in Christminster after all, and he visits the old tavern where he once recited the Creed in Latin.
Because he met Sue in Christminster, the place is now doubly haunted by her (unmarried) presence and the ghosts of Jude’s failed dreams of scholarship. Jude finally succumbs to temptation and goes off to drink.
Jude then notices that Arabella is one of the barmaids, and he gets her attention. Arabella is surprised, as she thought Jude had died long ago. She says she returned from Australia three months before. She makes Jude wait and meet her at nine, after she gets off work. Jude misses his train and his meeting with Sue, but he recognizes that his lawful duty is to show preference to Arabella over Sue, despite his real feelings. Jude and Arabella drink together and then spend the night at an inn in Aldbrickham.
Arabella returns as an agent of discord, antagonizing Jude and Sue’s relationship for her own personal gain. At the same time she is still sympathetic and human, though of a very different character type from Jude and Sue. She returns to his life at a low point, and seduces him through alcohol and his own despair.