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It’s been a month since her dad died, so Marya is less overcome with guilt and grief than before. Plus, she’s been repressing all her feelings for Nikolai.
After coming to Moscow, she got a letter from Andrei telling her and the gang to head on over to Voronezh to stay with her aunt (her mother’s sister), who had pretty much hated old Prince Bolkonsky. (Oh, really? We like her already.)
The governor’s wife comes to talk to the aunt, and they agree to get the young people together quietly and see what shakes out.
Two days later, Nikolai is supposed to come visit Marya.
Marya is tense and nervous and doesn’t know how to act. Then she sees Nikolai and instinctively starts to be as graceful and pretty and captivating as anyone could be. Even Mlle. Bourienne is impressed, and she has the seductress act down cold.
Marya feels wonderful in Nikolai’s presence. He’s bowled over by her, too. But of course, for appearances, they have meaningless chitchat about nothing – about the war, about how Andrei’s son, Nikolushka, is doing (remember him?), and so on. They don’t talk about Andrei, since that’s an actual serious conversation and can’t be joked about (and they don’t even know yet that he’s been wounded at Borodino).
Afterward, Nikolai has some weird thoughts trying to picture a future life with Marya. Usually he can imagine a pretend home life – with Sonya for instance – but Marya is such an unknown quantity that his fantasies of married life don’t work. This worries him. Is it a good sign? A bad sign? It’s hard to tell, and the text doesn’t clue us in about what to think.