The second night after they leave Moscow, the Rostovs’ carriages stop in Mytishchi, 13 miles away. That night, Count Rostov’s servants speculate about a fire blazing in the distance. When the Count’s valet Danilo realizes the fire is in Moscow, he begins to cry. Soon the rest of the servants are also weeping and praying for God’s mercy on their city.
While Pierre watches the fire break out around him, the Rostovs watch it from a distance. The destruction of Moscow feels like a world-ending event.
The Count and Sonya go outside to look at the blaze; the Countess and Natasha stay inside. The Countess cries over the news, but Natasha doesn’t respond. She’s listening to the moaning of a wounded adjutant who’s boarded a few houses away. Sonya comes in and tries to distract Natasha by showing her the fire, but Natasha keeps staring into space. She’s been acting like this ever since Sonya inexplicably told her the news of Prince Andrei’s war injury and his presence nearby. Now she has a decisive expression on her face. She goes through the motions of preparing for bed, but her eyes stare widely as she continues listening to the suffering soldier. She knows it isn’t Andrei, but she’s tormented nevertheless.
Though Sonya initially refrained from telling Natasha the news, her loyalty to her friend seems to win out in the end. Fittingly, the moment of the revelation of Andrei’s presence isn’t shown—the novel only depicts its aftermath, against the catastrophic background of the Moscow fire. While others lament the destruction of their city, Natasha faces a different turning point.
Natasha lies still until she’s certain everyone else has fallen asleep. Then she creeps barefoot across the hall to the room where Prince Andrei is staying. All day she’s known that she needs to see him, though she isn’t sure why. In her imagination, he’s the embodiment of the wounded adjutant’s moaning. She sneaks past Timokhin (who has a wounded leg), the doctor, and the valet. She finds Prince Andrei looking the same as always, except boyishly innocent. When she kneels beside his bed, he smiles and gives her his hand.
Natasha reunites with Prince Andrei, feeling driven to his side. Besides the drama of his condition, there’s the fact that she hasn’t spoken to him since he left Russia during their engagement, and she doesn’t know if he’s forgiven her or whether they could have any future together.
It’s been seven days since Prince Andrei regained consciousness at Borodino. He’d been unconscious for a long time, and the doctor believed he’d die. Today, upon being moved into the cottage to sleep, Andrei had again lost consciousness, but when he revived, he asked for tea. The doctor fears Andrei’s improvement just means he’ll suffer greater agony later. Andrei also asked for a copy of the Gospels. Memories of his wounding, seeing Anatole Kuragin, and his newfound hope of happiness come back to him. But in his condition, his thoughts are unfocused.
Only a week has passed since Andrei’s initial injury. It’s clear that during that time, much has been stirring inside Andrei who, at the beginning of the book, had no interest in religion.
In delirium, Prince Andrei keeps thinking he hears a strange, rhythmic whispering and sees a delicate structure being raised above his face. He feels he has to maintain balance so that the structure won’t collapse. He also sees a white figure in the doorway. All of this troubles him. Then clear thoughts return, and he feels the bliss of loving both neighbors and enemies. He realizes an enemy can only be loved by divine love, not human love, and that’s why his love for Anatole gave him such joy. This train of thought also reminds him of Natasha, whom he both loves and hates more than anyone else. He pictures her soul and regrets the cruelty of refusing her. He wishes he could see her one more time.
Prince Andrei isn’t in a stable mental state, yet one central idea keeps coming back to him—the idea of eternal love, which he felt so strongly when he saw Anatole suffering. Though forgiving Natasha has been difficult, he wants to apply this newfound love to her as well, regarding her as both beloved and an enemy.
At first Prince Andrei thinks that Natasha is part of his delirium, but he gradually understands that she’s truly beside him. Natasha gently cradles Andrei’s head and kisses him, repeating, “Forgive me!” He doesn’t know what he has to forgive her for. He tells Natasha he loves her more than ever. But then the doctor wakes up and orders Natasha out of the room. She falls weeping into her own bed. For the rest of the journey, she takes care of Prince Andrei, never leaving his side.
When Andrei finally sees Natasha, he no longer regards her as an enemy, as the two are wordlessly reconciled, seemingly able to regard one another truly for the first time.