For a while Jude and Sue are happy together, though Little Father Time remains gloomy and world-weary. One day there is an agricultural show in the town of Stoke-Barehills, and Arabella arrives there with her husband Cartlett. She soon notices Jude and Sue with Little Father Time, though they don’t see Arabella. Cartlett has clearly grown less enamoured of Arabella, and he points out how happy Jude’s family looks.
Arabella continues to illustrate the negatives of marriage, and her discontented, pragmatic marriage to Cartlett is contrasted with Jude and Sue’s romantic love. Jude and Sue seem to have found a lifestyle that suits them, but Little Father Time is a constant reminder of their past mistakes and their tragic fates.
Arabella scornfully says that Little Father Time can’t be Sue’s child, as Sue and Jude haven’t been married long enough. Cartlett still has no idea that Arabella has a child at all, and she remains silent about it. Meanwhile Jude and Sue are at the fair to try and inspire some curiosity and happiness in Little Father Time, but the child remains glum. By now Jude and Sue are so in sync that they can communicate almost without speaking.
With her comment Arabella vaguely claims motherhood over Little Father Time, but Cartlett doesn’t notice this. Jude and Sue are affirmed as “twins” who are meant to be together despite the obstacles of law and religion.
Arabella follows the couple, noting that they must not be married because they are still so enamoured of each other. Cartlett grows bored, so Arabella leaves him and keeps following Jude. She runs into her old friend Anny and then Physician Vilbert, and they all discuss Sue and Jude.
Arabella seems to agree with Sue about how marriage kills romance, but Arabella is more concerned with personal financial security and comfort than with preserving true love, so she always tries to “trap” her targets with marriage.
Arabella watches Sue and Jude observing a model of Christminster that they themselves built, and Arabella mocks Jude’s love for that town. Anny and Vilbert comment on Arabella’s renewed interest in Jude, and Vilbert offers her a love potion. After a while Arabella, now in a bad mood, leaves to find Cartlett. The narrator calls Arabella and Cartlett “the average husband and wife of Christendom.”
Vilbert returns, and his “love potion” will lead to him taking advantage of a powerless Jude later. Hardy’s statement about Arabella and Cartlett is heavy-handed and supremely sarcastic, but is a good summation of his criticism that marriage prohibits voluntary love and leads to stagnation.
Meanwhile Jude and Sue keep admiring things at the agricultural show and commenting on their own happiness. Sue is reluctant to say that she is happy because she and Jude are a couple now, but Jude declares that he feels they have “returned to Greek joyousness” and have forgotten all the gloom of Christianity. The only stain on their happiness is Little Father Time, who apologizes for his pessimism – he likes the flowers at the fair, but can only think of how they will soon wither.
Though Jude and Sue seem to have found true joy, they also seem to comment on or look forward to their own happiness rather than simply experience it. Their “Greek joyousness” is only temporary, as all the legalistic, life-denying aspects of Christianity (and little else) reign supreme in Victorian society. Little Father Time now offers a voice for Hardy’s moments of extreme pessimism.