Meanwhile, in the hussar lines, Nicholas Rostov is awaiting his first battle impatiently. Suddenly he is unsure who the enemy is, and whether he is wounded, as he feels blood and is pinned down by his fallen horse. Nicholas sees the enemy approach and cannot believe that they would want to kill him, a person whom everyone likes. He awaits aid and dreams of home.
Dolokhov is wounded while capturing an enemy officer, and wishes to be remembered for his heroism. Andrew wanders among the wounded soldiers. One soldier asks for water and wonders whether he is to die like a dog. Andrew saves a captain named Tushin from wrongful accusations of incompetence Bagration has levied, but he is soured by the experience.
Back in Moscow, Pierre finds his former critics suddenly friendly now that he has become the wealthy Count Bezukhov. He naïvely believes these sycophants to be sincere. Vasili Kuragin has taken Pierre in hand with the ulterior motive of marrying him to his daughter, Helene, and borrowing forty thousand rubles. Anna Pavlovna Scherer invites Pierre to a party and sings the praises of Helene, whose beauty overwhelms Pierre even though he is aware she is stupid. Over time, Pierre’s infatuation with Helene deepens until he is convinced that marriage is inevitable. At Helene’s name day party, Vasili convinces everyone, including the dazed Pierre himself, that Pierre and Helene are engaged. They are married shortly afterwards. Vasili sends Prince Nicholas Bolkonski word that he will soon visit with his son Anatole, his ulterior motive being to arrange a marriage with Mary, the prince’s daughter. The prince disapproves of Vasili’s character and becomes grumpy.
As the idea of courtship appears before her, Mary is plagued by religious concerns about her desires of the flesh. She is overwhelmed by Anatole’s beauty and self-possession. The prince, not wanting his daughter to get married and leave him, doubts that Anatole is good enough for Mary. Anatole does, however, charm the women—Mary, Lise, and especially Mademoiselle Bourienne. The prince ultimately decides to give his daughter total freedom in choosing her husband. Finally, Mary decides to remain with her father, rejecting Anatole.
The Rostovs receive a letter from Nicholas, telling of his injuries and of his promotion to officer rank. The count and countess both weep, as does Sonya. The countess muses on Nicholas’s growth from infancy to manhood.
Meanwhile, back at the front, Nicholas enjoys a free existence, falling into debt and going to restaurants. He is joined by his friend Boris and by the officer Berg. Nicholas is a bit contemptuous of Berg’s diplomatic tendencies, as he prefers more blatant acts of heroism. Andrew joins Nicholas and the others, and Nicholas throws some thinly veiled insults at Andrew about being a distant officer far from the fray of battle. Later, the Austrian and Russian emperors review their troops together, with Tsar Alexander winning cheers from his men. Nicholas feels a wish to die for the tsar, and the men are inspired to fight valiantly.