The next morning Arabella tells Jude that she had married a hotel manager in Australia, and she asks Jude to keep this a secret, as it is a crime. Jude is upset but agrees to keep his silence. The two part ways and Jude wanders around Christminster, waiting for the train. He feels “degraded” by having resumed his relations with Arabella.
Arabella is also inconvenienced by her first marriage, but she has remarried for respectability and comfort instead of true love. In a great irony, Hardy convincingly portrays Jude’s lawfully and religiously-sanctioned wedded relations with Arabella as a kind of adultery against Sue.
Jude returns to the station and encounters Sue, who is distraught. She thought that Jude had missed their meeting because he was drinking away his sorrow. Jude feels whole again in Sue’s presence, and he compares her “ethereal” spirit to Arabella’s low worldliness. Again he feels ashamed of sleeping with Arabella.
Jude has succumbed to his lesser nature in returning to both Arabella and alcohol. Though she is forbidden to him by society and fate, Sue is just as lofty a dream for Jude as studying at the university was. This begins many descriptions of Sue as a kind of unearthly spirit – holy, but also asexual.
Sue and Jude ride the train to Alfredston together, and Jude asks her about her marriage to Phillotson. Sue deflects the question for a while, claiming to be a “happy wife,” but finally admits that she is unhappy. They visit Drusilla, who laments that Sue has gotten married just like Jude. Sue is upset by this, and she tells Jude that she does indeed regret her marriage.
Sue is reluctant to admit it, but she has made the same mistake Jude did, and created a lifetime of misfortune through one act of bad judgment. Sue has also succumbed to the “Fawley curse” despite Drusilla’s many warnings.
Jude takes Sue to the train station so she can return to Melchester. He asks if he can visit her sometime, but Sue says he can’t yet, and she rides off. Afterwards Jude devotes himself to his religious studies. He gets a letter from Arabella, who says that her Australian husband has come to England for her, and they have gone to London to run a bar. Arabella says that she feels she “belongs” to her second husband more than to Jude, and now she has a chance at a better life.
Arabella seems to be gone again, but in the novel’s world the binding contract of marriage never really lets someone go. Even as Hardy calls for progressive changes, the language of marriage is still inherently sexist – the wife is always spoken of as “belonging” to the husband, just as she must be “given away” by a male relation.