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OK, let’s back up a bit to just before the battle of Borodino. Zoom away from Moscow and refocus on Petersburg.
On the day of the battle of Borodino, Anna Pavlovna is having one of her famous salons – this time featuring some bland patriotic letter from the head of the Petersburg Orthodox Church. Prince Vassily gets the honor of reading it because he supposedly has such a super fantastic reading voice. Mostly this means that he sometimes reads the words quietly and sometimes loudly, mostly at random.
Anyway, this is a good time to gossip about Helene, who is apparently so sick that she can’t go out in public. Not only that, she’s being treated by a new doctor, not her normal guy.
Everyone feels like this illness is mostly because she’s trying to marry two men at once, and there’s some veiled mockery.
But of course, since Prince Vassily (her dad) is there, and since her friend Bilibin sticks up for her a bit by saying that the new doctor is some hotshot from Spain, they leave it alone.
After the letter reading, Anna Pavlovna predicts that they’ll get news the next day.