Later, in 1806, Nicholas and his friend Denisov visit the Rostov home in Moscow while they are on leave. Nicholas’s family greets him with enthusiasm. He is reminded of his promise to marry Sonya, who is now sixteen and beautiful. Meanwhile, Natasha, now fifteen, declares she does not wish to marry Boris. Denisov creates a fine impression in the Rostov house, to Nicholas’s surprise.
Nicholas enjoys the high life as an eligible Moscow bachelor, drifting a bit away from Sonya. Count Rostov arranges a dinner for Bagration at the English Club. The Rostovs plan to invite Pierre, and are informed that Pierre’s wife, Helene, has been compromising her virtue with Dolokhov, to Pierre’s great sadness. Muscovite society finds it difficult to accept that the Russians might be defeated. It is presumed that Andrew has died, leaving behind a pregnant wife.
Pierre looks unhappy during the party at the English Club, concerned about rumors of his wife’s adulterous liaisons. A poet reads verses in honor of Bagration, who arrives looking much less grand than he appears on the battlefield. Drinks are poured, toasts are made, and Count Rostov weeps with emotion. When Dolokhov toasts beautiful women, Pierre takes it as an insult and challenges Dolokhov to a duel, taking Nicholas as his second. The next day in the woods, Pierre reconsiders, believing he has acted hastily. Nonetheless, the duel must continue. Pierre pulls the trigger and wounds Dolokhov severely, but is himself unhurt.
Pierre wrongly assumes that he has killed Dolokhov, and reflects that the death is ultimately due to his own original decision to marry Helene when he did not actually love her—a decision that led to a life of lies with a cold wife. Helene, hearing about the duel, accuses Pierre of being an idiot and exposing them both to ridicule. Pierre announces that they must separate, and Helene agrees on condition that she receive a part of his fortune. He erupts in violence, but later cedes his lands to her and departs alone for St. Petersburg.
At Bald Hills, Prince Bolkonski receives news from Kutuzov about the apparent death of his son Andrew. The news is given to Mary, but withheld from Andrew’s widow, Lise, for fear of harming her unborn baby. Not long after, Lise reports feeling unwell, and the midwife is called. Lise lies waiting. Suddenly, a carriage is heard in the drive—it is Andrew, who appears to Mary on the landing of the staircase. He arrives as Lise is in labor. Soon after, Andrew’s son is born, and his wife dies in childbirth.
In Moscow, Dolokhov convalesces and befriends Nicholas. At the Rostov home, everyone likes Dolokhov except Natasha, who sees him as a bad man. Dolokhov develops an interest in Sonya.