The novel builds toward its climax in Chapter 52, appropriately named "Converging Courses." Hardy divides the chapter into seven sections, charting the activities of Boldwood, Bathsheba, Gabriel, and Troy as they prepare for and attend Boldwood's Christmas Eve party.
The party is talked about all over Weatherbury, largely because it is so unusual for Boldwood to give a party. He has decorated his long hall meticulously, but, we are told, "In spite of all this, the spirit of revelry was wanting in the atmosphere of the house"; Boldwood is not a natural host.
Bathsheba is dressing for the party. She tells Liddy, "I am foolishly agitated: I am the cause of the party, and that upsets me!" She decides to continue to wear her mourning and dress in black for the festivities.
Boldwood, too, is dressing and has given an inordinate amount of attention to his clothes, hiring a tailor to alter everything. Gabriel visits him and Boldwood asks for his assistance in tying his tie. He asks, "'Does a woman keep her promise, Gabriel?'" and Gabriel answers, "If it is not inconvenient to her she may.'" Gabriel warns him not to build too much on promises, and it is clear that Boldwood harbors fear of Bathsheba's refusal; he is highly agitated.
We also see Troy and Pennyways as they prepare to go to Boldwood's party. Troy asks Pennyways about Bathsheba's relationships with Boldwood and Gabriel. Troy finally sets off for the party in disguise, thinking that Bathsheba is on the verge of marrying Boldwood. He plans to arrive at nine.
Now we are shown Boldwood at his farm again, as he offers Gabriel a larger part of the farm's profits, saying that he hopes to retire from the management altogether. Boldwood says he knows Gabriel loves Bathsheba and says he believes he has won the competition for Bathsheba, in part, because of Gabriel's "goodness of heart." As the guests arrive, Boldwood shows "feverish anxiety."