Jude meets Sue at the train station in Melchester, and he tells her that they are traveling on to Aldbrickham, a larger town where no one knows them. Sue feels bad for ruining Jude’s work with the Church, but Jude declares that he has lost his religious faith and now lives only for Sue. They take the train and Sue describes how kind Phillotson was to her. Jude tells her that Arabella wrote requesting a formal divorce.
Jude thinks that Sue has come to him as a wife of sorts, but Sue is still trying to think of Jude as a protector and intellectual companion, and she is still distraught by the horrors of being trapped in a marriage. Jude embraces his loss of faith and makes Sue his new ideal.
As they approach Aldbrickham Jude reveals that he has booked one room for them at the Temperance Hotel, and Sue is upset by this. She hints that she doesn’t want to have a sexual relationship yet, which saddens Jude. Sue still can’t say outright whether she loves Jude or not. For now she says that out of respect for Phillotson she would prefer that she and Jude remain platonic. Sue also comments that in a “proper state of society” the father of a woman’s children will be her own business and not judged by all.
Sue’s statement about who fathers a woman’s children is one of Hardy’s most revolutionary ideas, but he only mentions it here as a sort of side-note. Sue remains emotionally inconsistent and sensitive – though she is basically a feminist before her time, she still has many of the weaknesses that Victorian men associated with women.
Jude shows Sue a note he received from Phillotson, asking that Jude be kind to Sue and affirming that the two are “made for each other.” Jude tells Sue that he fears she is incapable of loving anyone. Sue is offended by this and describes her love as a “supremely delicate kind” that doesn’t involve sexual relations. Jude still worries that Sue is tricking him, but he believes her when she pleads with him.
Phillotson affirms that Jude and Sue are “made for each other,” which means that their inevitable separation is all the more tragic. Sue’s feelings remain unclear. Part of Hardy’s critique of marriage is that it is too heavy-handed for “delicate” natures like Sue’s.
Sue then asks Jude if they can stay at a different hotel, and Jude accuses her of being a slave to social conventions despite all of her unorthodox ideas. Still he affirms his love for her, using a Biblical quote to emphasize how they can never be divided.
Though they have both given up religion now, Jude and Sue continue to speak in the language of Christianity, and in this way Hardy never totally rejects religion.
They reach Aldbrickham and decide to stay at a different hotel. It is the one Jude stayed at with Arabella, though he doesn’t notice this. When Jude is out of the room, a maid tells Sue that she saw Jude there with a different woman a month or two earlier. Sue immediately accuses Jude of deceiving her with Arabella. Jude doesn’t deny it, but he reminds Sue that Arabella is his legal wife.
Though Sue is rebellious and unorthodox, she is still nervous in the face of society’s scrutiny. Even though Jude and Arabella are legally married, it was emotional adultery for Jude to sleep with Arabella. Jude’s argument is hypocritical, as he has been previously denying the validity of his first marriage.
Sue breaks down crying, saying that she jumped out the window rather than sleep with Phillotson. Sue is clearly jealous, so Jude tells her that Arabella has taken a second husband. He vows to never inform against Arabella, but he assures Sue that Arabella is truly no longer his wife. Jude says that he is still “comparatively happy” just to be in Sue’s presence, as she is such a beautiful, “tantalizing phantom.” Sue is pleased and she lets Jude kiss her cheeks.
The world of the novel is small, and Jude and Sue suffer many bad coincidences like returning to this specific hotel. Sue affirms her love for Jude in this roundabout way, by lamenting that she would rather jump out the window than sleep with her husband, but Jude easily succumbed to his wife.