Upon the news of Natasha and Andrew’s engagement and the death of his Masonic benefactor Bazdeev, Pierre loses interest in his life and becomes depressed, abandoning his Masonic activities. He moves to Moscow, but does little besides read and party. He feels disappointed in himself and in the world of falsity around him.
Meanwhile, old Prince Bolkonski also moves his household to Moscow. The anti-French sentiment prevalent in the city puts him in the center of the opposition to the government. He is more crotchety than ever, and is growing senile and forgetful. Mary regrets the move. She feels isolated, is alienated by her friend Julie’s whirlwind social life, and misses the visits from the religious pilgrims. Mary becomes irritable in her lessons with her little nephew. Despite her promise to Andrew to prepare their father for Andrew’s marriage to Natasha, Mary is afraid to bring up the subject.
The old Prince Bolkonski continues to show great affection toward Mademoiselle Bourienne, whom he may seriously consider marrying. He churlishly kicks out of his house a renowned French doctor who has been sent to care for him, accusing the man of being a spy. The prince continues to socialize with old acquaintances, imposing his spy stories and his anti-French ideas upon them.
Pierre warns Mary that Boris is paying court to her in hopes of winning her heiress’s fortune in marriage—just as he is with Julie. Mary confides to Pierre her wish to marry anyone in order to escape her overcritical father. Boris, while preferring Mary to Julie, is pushed to propose to the artificial and aging Julie, due to a threat that Anatole Kuragin will propose if Boris does not. Julie delightedly accepts Boris’s proposal, and the wedding plans are announced.
Count Rostov, accompanied by Sonya and Natasha, goes to Moscow to complete the sale of Otradnoe, to order Natasha’s wedding trousseau, and to present Natasha to Andrew, who is expected soon. As their home is unheated, the Rostovs stay with their old friend Marya Dmitrievna, who helps Natasha select wedding clothes and gives her advice on how to handle her future father-in-law. The next day, Count Rostov takes Natasha to visit the old Prince Bolkonski. Despite her self-confidence, Natasha is wary. Princess Mary takes an instant dislike to Natasha, whom she views as frivolous, and the prince grumpily refuses to meet with the Rostovs. Natasha, for her part, finds Mary dry and boring. After a long silence, Mary forces herself to wish Natasha well, but both women feel the falseness of the words. Natasha leaves, and cries about the meeting.
At the opera that evening, Natasha muses that everything would be fine if only Andrew returned. She sees Boris, Julie, and Helene, and is conscious that all of them are staring at her. Natasha turns her attention to the opera, but Anatole Kuragin addresses her, eyeing her shoulders with interest. Natasha is agitated, and tries to watch the opera but sees only absurd falsity in it.