The spendthrift Anatole has been sent to Moscow in the hopes that he will moderate his expenditures and find an heiress wife. He lives a thoughtless and selfish life, hiding the fact that he is secretly married, and goes around in the company of Dolokhov. Anatole is attracted to Natasha, and Natasha is vaguely interested in Anatole as well, though she still waits for Andrew’s return. Helene visits Natasha, pays compliments that make Natasha love her, and invites Natasha to a gathering at which Anatole will be present. At Helene’s party, full of disreputable people, Anatole dances with Natasha and tells her he loves her madly. That night, Natasha is tormented by doubt as to whether she loves Andrew or Anatole, feeling she loves them both.

The Rostovs’ hostess, Marya Dmitrievna, decides it best for the Rostovs to return to Otradnoe in order to avoid fighting with the irritable old Prince Bolkonski. Natasha is upset, especially when she receives a letter from Mary begging forgiveness for her rudeness, and another from Anatole declaring love. Natasha decides she loves Anatole. While Natasha sleeps, Sonya reads Anatole’s love letter to Natasha, questions her, and threatens to reveal the secret love. Natasha becomes angry with Sonya and affirms her feelings for Anatole, resolving to break off the engagement with Andrew and elope with Anatole. Anatole and Dolokhov obtain money and horses for the elopement. But at the moment of departure, a footman arrives and orders Anatole to be brought to Marya Dmitrievna to forestall the elopement. Anatole barely escapes. Marya Dmitrievna is furious with Natasha for carrying on with Anatole in her own house, but she promises not to tell Count Rostov about the elopement plans. Pierre is summoned to Marya Dmitrievna’s house and is told of Anatole’s plans.

Pierre informs everyone at the house that Anatole is already married to a girl in Poland. The enraged Pierre hunts down Anatole and orders him out of Moscow immediately. Anatole is indignant, but leaves the next day. Natasha falls ill, and is discovered to have attempted to poison herself. Pierre visits Andrew, who is back in Moscow. Andrew’s connections with Speranski are finished, as Speranski has recently fallen from grace, accused of treachery and forced into exile.

Andrew returns Natasha’s portrait, absolutely refusing to forgive her for entertaining thoughts of elopement with Anatole. Andrew assigns Pierre the task of telling Natasha that Andrew has rejected her. Pierre visits Natasha, but she already knows the news he is delivering. She is full of self-blame. Pierre is tender toward Natasha. He watches the comet of 1812 with a sense of a new life blossoming.

Book Nine, Chapters 1–12

On June 12, 1812, the French forces cross Russia’s frontiers. The narrator explores the question of what caused this invasion, disagreeing with the historians’ answers to this problem. The invasion, the narrator argues, comes about not because of diplomatic errors or strategic decisions alone, but because of a coincidence of millions of small causal events. Even the great leaders Napoleon and Alexander are not responsible for the events of 1812. Like all men, they imagine themselves acting independently, but are really the slaves of circumstance. There is, therefore, no rational explanation for history.

In Prussia, Napoleon prepares to head eastward, and the sight of him inspires Polish officers to a suicidal plunge into the river, hoping to impress him. Forty officers die during this feat. Meanwhile, on the Russian side, confusion reigns at Vilna, and no defense strategy has yet been chosen. The tsar attends a ball his aides have thrown, at which Helene and Boris, now rich and powerful, are present.