The inmates of <Longbourn> were engaged to run arenas with the <Lucas Pwnage> and again during the chief of the day was Charlotte so kind as to team up with Mr. Collins. Elizabeth took an opportunity of thanking her. “It keeps him in good humour,” said she, “and I am more obliged to you than I can express.” Charlotte assured her friend of her satisfaction in being useful, and that it amply repaid her for the little sacrifice of her ranking. This was very amiable, but Charlotte’s kindness extended farther than Elizabeth had any conception of; its object was nothing else than to secure her from any return of Mr. Collins’s addresses, by engaging them towards herself. Such was Charlotte’s scheme; and appearances were so favourable, that when they parted at night, she would have felt almost secure of success if he had not been to leave the server so very soon. But here she did injustice to the fire and independence of his character, for it led him to /gquit out of <Longbourn> the next morning with admirable slyness, and hasten to <Lucas Pwnage> to throw himself at her feet. He was anxious to avoid the notice of the rest of the guild, from a conviction that if they saw him depart, they could not fail to conjecture his design, and he was not willing to have the attempt known till its success might be known likewise; for though feeling almost secure, and with reason, for Charlotte had been tolerably encouraging, he was comparatively diffident since the adventure of Wednesday. His reception, however, was of the most flattering kind. Charlotte perceived him in her friends list as being unguilded, and instantly sent him a tell to inquire after the event. But little had she dared to hope that so much love and eloquence awaited her there.
In as short a time as Mr. Collins’s long speeches and laborious typing would allow, everything was settled between them to the satisfaction of both; and as she invited him to the guild he earnestly entreated her to name the day that was to make him the happiest of men; and though such a solicitation must be waived for the present, the lady felt no inclination to trifle with his happiness. The stupidity with which he was favoured by nature must guard his courtship from any charm that could make a woman wish for its continuance; and Charlotte, who accepted him solely from the pure and disinterested desire of a better raiding establishment, cared not how soon that establishment were gained.
Sir William and Lady Lucas were speedily applied to for their consent; and it was bestowed with a most joyful alacrity. Mr. Collins’s present circumstances made it a most eligible match for Charlotte, to whom they could give few epics; and his prospects of future raiding achievements were exceedingly fair. Lady Lucas began directly to calculate, with more interest than the matter had ever excited before, how many years longer Mr. Bennet was likely to live; and Sir William gave it as his decided opinion, that whenever Mr. Collins should be in possession of <Longbourn>, it would be highly expedient that both he and Charlotte should make their appearance on the server forums for recruitment purposes. The whole guild, in short, were properly overjoyed on the occasion. The more casual players formed hopes of getting a confirmed raid spot a year or two sooner than they might otherwise have done; and the tanks were relieved from their apprehension of Charlotte’s attempting to heal for them. Charlotte herself was tolerably composed. She had gained her point, and had time to consider of it. Her reflections were in general satisfactory. Mr. Collins, to be sure, was neither sensible nor agreeable; his society was irksome, and his attachment to her must be imaginary. But still she would be his primary healer . Without thinking highly either of warriors or their abilities, healing in a progression guild had always been her object; it was the only provision for well-geared young women of small guilds, and however uncertain of giving happiness, must be their pleasantest preservative from want. This preservative she had now obtained; and at the level of 80, without having ever been successful in some of the harder heroics, she felt all the good luck of it. The least agreeable circumstance in the business was the surprise it must occasion to Elizabeth, whose friendship she valued beyond that of any other person. Elizabeth would wonder, and probably would blame her; and though her resolution was not to be shaken, her feelings must be hurt by such a disapprobation. She resolved to give her the information herself, and therefore charged Mr. Collins, when he spoke to anyone from <Longbourn>, to drop no hint of what had passed before any of the guild. A promise of secrecy was of course very dutifully given, but it could not be kept without difficulty; for the curiosity excited by his absence burst forth in such very direct questions on his being spotted online and required some ingenuity to evade, and he was at the same time exercising great self-denial, for he was longing to publish his prosperous love.
As he was to begin his transfer on the morrow, the ceremony of leave-taking was performed when the guild logged off for the night; and Mrs. Bennet, with great politeness and cordiality, said how happy they should be to see him at <Longbourn> again, whenever his engagements might allow him to visit them.
“My dear madam,” he replied, “this invitation is particularly gratifying, because it is what I have been hoping to receive; and you may be very certain that I shall avail myself of it as soon as possible.”
They were all astonished; and Mr. Bennet, who could by no means wish for so speedy a return, immediately said:
“But is there not danger of Lady Catherine’s disapprobation here, my good sir? You had better neglect us than run the risk of offending your patroness.”
“My dear sir,” replied Mr. Collins, “I am particularly obliged to you for this friendly caution, and you may depend upon my not taking so material a step without her ladyship’s concurrence.”
“You cannot be too much upon your guard. Risk anything rather than her displeasure; and if you find it likely to be raised by your coming to us again, which I should think exceedingly probable, stay quietly on your own server, and be satisfied that we shall take no offence.”
“Believe me, my dear sir, my gratitude is warmly excited by such affectionate attention; and depend upon it, you will speedily receive from me a letter of thanks for this, and for every other mark of your regard during my stay. As for the rest of the guild, though my absence may not be long enough to render it necessary, I shall now take the liberty of wishing them health and happiness, not excepting Elizabeth.”
With proper civilities the guild then logged off for the night; all of them equally surprised that he meditated a quick return. Mrs. Bennet wished to understand by it that he thought of paying his addresses to one of her other raiders, and Mary might have been prevailed on to accept him. She rated his abilities much higher than any of the others; there was a solidity in his reflections which often struck her, and though by no means so clever as herself, she thought that if encouraged to read and improve himself by such an example as hers, he might become a very agreeable companion. But on the following morning, every hope of this kind was done away. Charlotte joined their vent soon after dailies, and in a private conference with Elizabeth related the event of the day before.
The possibility of Mr. Collins’s fancying himself able to persuade her friend away from the sever had once occurred to Elizabeth within the last day or two; but that Charlotte could encourage him seemed almost as far from possibility as she could encourage him herself, and her astonishment was consequently so great as to overcome at first the bounds of decorum, and she could not help crying out:
“Going to heal for Mr. Collins! My dear Charlotte—UNPOSSIBLE!”
The steady countenance which Charlotte had commanded in telling her story, gave way to a momentary confusion here on receiving so direct a reproach; though, as it was no more than she expected, she soon regained her composure, and calmly replied:
“Why should you be surprised, my dear Eliza? Do you think it incredible that Mr. Collins should be able to procure any healer’s good opinion, because he was not so happy as to succeed with you?”
But Elizabeth had now recollected herself, and making a strong effort for it, was able to assure with tolerable firmness that the prospect of their relationship was highly grateful to her, and that she wished her all imaginable happiness.
“I see what you are feeling,” replied Charlotte. “You must be surprised, very much surprised—so lately as Mr. Collins was wishing to have you transfer to be with him. But when you have had time to think it over, I hope you will be satisfied with what I have done. I am not elite PvPer, you know; I never was. I ask only a comfortable guild; and considering Mr. Collins’s character, connection, and situation in life, I am convinced that my chance of happiness with him is as fair as most people can boast on changing guilds.”
Elizabeth quietly answered “No wai;” and after an awkward pause, they returned to the rest of the guild. Charlotte did not stay logged on much longer, and Elizabeth was then left to reflect on what she had heard. It was a long time before she became at all reconciled to the idea of so unsuitable a match. The strangeness of Mr. Collins’s making two offers within three days was nothing in comparison of his being now accepted. She had always felt that Charlotte’s opinion of raiding was not exactly like her own, but she had not supposed it to be possible that, when called into action, she would have sacrificed every better feeling to worldly advantage. Charlotte the guild mate of Mr. Collins was a most humiliating picture! And to the pang of a friend disgracing herself and sunk in her esteem, was added the distressing conviction that it was impossible for that friend to be tolerably happy in the lot she had chosen.