Henchard grows more reserved toward Farfrae, no longer putting his arm around the young man, or inviting him to dinner. Otherwise, their business relationship continues in a similar vein until a day of celebration of a national holiday is proposed. Farfrae has the idea to create a tent for some small celebrations, and upon hearing his idea, Henchard feels that he has been remiss, as the mayor of the town, in not organizing some public festivities.
Henchard and Farfrae are able to maintain a professional relationship, although not a friendship, after the Abel Whittle incident. The role of organizing any public celebration would normally belong to the mayor, so Henchard creates a separate event, rather than help with Farfrae’s idea.
Henchard begins preparing for his celebrations, which everyone in the town applauds when they heard that he plans to pay for it all himself. Farfrae, on the other hand, plans to charge a small price per head for admission to his tent, an idea that Henchard scoffs at, wondering who would pay for such a thing.
Henchard believes his event will be superior to Farfrae’s because it will be free. Henchard, despite having been told of Farfrae’s popularity, is still blind to the type of draw Farfrae’s event could have.
Henchard’s celebrations feature a number of physical activities and games. He has greasy poles set up for climbing, a space for boxing and wrestling, and a tea free for everyone. Henchard views Farfrae’s awkward tent construction and feels confident that his own preparations are more exciting and extravagant.
Henchard’s event centers on physical activities, an area where he himself excels. Henchard’s self-confidence continues to blind him to Farfrae’s successes and the potential of his plan.
The appointed day arrives, overcast and gray, and it starts to rain at noon. Some people attend Henchard’s event, but the storm worsens, and the tent he had set up for the tea blows over. By six o’clock, however, the storm ends and Henchard hopes his celebrations will still continue. The townspeople, however, do not arrive, and Henchard learns upon questioning one man that nearly everyone is at Farfrae’s celebration.
The weather is against Henchard. Weather, later in the novel, will again function against Henchard’s hopes and plans. The weather is a force Henchard cannot control, and, because he overlooks this, the weather continues to cause him problems.
Henchard moodily closes down his celebrations and returns home. At dusk, he walks outside and follows others to Farfrae’s tent. The ingeniously constructed pavilion creates a space for a band and for the dance taking place. Henchard observes that Farfrae’s dancing is much admired and that he has an endless selection of dance partners. He overhears the villagers discussing himself and Farfrae, saying that he must have been a fool to plan an outdoor event that day. Farfrae is also praised for his management, which has greatly improved Henchard’s business.
Farfrae’s event features dancing, an area in which he excels. His dancing is praised, as well as his management. Farfrae too has created an event that plays to his strengths, but his graciousness, his skills, and his popularity turn the villagers against Henchard and toward Farfrae. They are not afraid to express their preference for the younger man.
Back in the tent, Elizabeth-Jane is dancing with Farfrae. After the dance, she looks to Henchard for fatherly approval, but instead he fixes an antagonistic glare on Farfrae. A few good-natured friends of Henchard’s tease him for having been bested by Farfrae in the creation of a town celebration. Henchard gloomily responds that Farfrae’s time as his manager is about to end, reinforcing his statement as Farfrae approaches and hears him.
Elizabeth-Jane dances with Farfrae, and when she seeks her father’s approval she does not receive it. This foreshadows the problems a falling out between the two men will create for Elizabeth-Jane, trapped in the middle. Henchard subtly dismisses Farfrae in front of everyone.
By the next morning, Henchard’s jealous temper has passed and he regrets his pronouncement that Farfrae would soon leave his employ. However, he finds that the young man is determined to do so after hearing Henchard’s statement the previous evening.
Henchard’s change of heart the next morning reflects his common tendency to react in a moment of anger or jealousy and regret these actions later.