Kitty hears the guests laughing and is somewhat vexed that Levin isn’t there. Levin has been spending a great deal of time at the apiary with the bees. Kitty knows that his unbelief has been tormenting him and that he has been reading philosophy books all year without finding any answers. She reflects that he’ll enjoy having guests, and thinking of guests reminds her to make sure that Agafya does not give them unwashed linen to sleep in; the idea makes her blush. Kitty would rather that Levin be an honest unbeliever than a hypocrite like Madame Stahl. She knows her husband is kind and good because of all his help with the Oblonskys’ financial strain: he persuaded the desperate Dolly to sell part of her estate rather than divorce Oblonsky.
Bees have been a symbol since antiquity of industry and harmonious behavior. For instance, Virgil’s Georgics, his long poem on agricultural life, has an important section on bees. When Kitty thinks that her guests might receive unwashed sheets, she blushes, always a thing of some deep, instinctive emotion—this time, the emotion is shame for her humble household. Though Kitty might be frustrated at times with her modest surroundings, she ultimately believes firmly that an honest, non-hypocritical life is worth far more than material comforts. Meanwhile, Levin may be awkward in the city, but his knowledge of country life has helped Oblonsky to preserve his marriage (for at least a while longer).