As they drive to Count Kirill Vladimirovich Bezukhov’s, Princess Anna Mikhailovna tells Boris to be respectful toward his godfather. When they arrive, the porter tells them the Count is too ill to receive anyone, but Anna Mikhailovna gets him to summon Prince Vassily, who’s currently staying there. Though the Prince indicates that Count Bezukhov is on his deathbed, Anna Mikhailovna, undeterred, insists on seeing him. Meanwhile, she sends Boris to invite Pierre to dinner at the Rostovs’.
Though Anna Mikhailovna has just bemoaned her humiliation at having to ask Prince Vassily for help on Boris’s behalf, she shows no hesitation to use that connection once again—this time to force her way into the dying Count’s presence. She’s always working multiple angles of an issue: she makes sure Boris is currying Pierre’s favor, too.
Pierre returned several days ago, after being banished to Moscow for his part in the antics with the bear. (He still hasn’t chosen a career.) His cousins, the three young Bezukhov princesses, are cold toward him. When Boris comes in, he finds Pierre pacing his room, pretending he’s Napoleon in the act of conquering London. Pierre doesn’t recognize Boris at first and mistakes him for a Rostov son.
Pierre remains at loose ends, unsure what to do with his life and seemingly unwanted by everyone, in both Moscow and Petersburg. He still idolizes Napoleon and occupies himself with fantasies about Napoleon’s rumored invasion of Britain (something that never materialized).
Pierre engages Boris in conversation about Napoleon’s Villeneuve expedition, but Boris isn’t familiar with the news. He tells Pierre that people in Moscow only care about gossip—which currently revolves around Count Bezukhov and his fortune, though Boris assures Pierre that he and his mother, though poor, will never ask the Count for anything. Pierre agrees to come for dinner at the Rostovs’. Boris rejoins Anna Mikhailovna, who is in a flutter about the Count’s condition and wants to spend the night to care for him.
In 1805, Napoleon planned to land troops in England, but the English blocked Admiral Villeneuve in the Mediterranean, halting the invasion. Despite the fact that Boris, unlike Pierre, is actually enlisted in the army, he doesn’t know much about the war. This suggests that for him, like his mother, the war is more about social advancement than military glory. Tolstoy suggests that such was the case for many noble families.