More than once did Elizabeth, in her ramble within Dalaran, unexpectedly meet Mr. Darcy. She felt all the perverseness of the mischance that should bring him where no one else was brought, and, to prevent its ever happening again, took care to inform him at first that it was a favourite haunt of hers. How it could occur a second time, therefore, was very odd! Yet it did, and even a third. It seemed like wilful ill-nature, or a voluntary penance, for on these occasions it was not merely a few formal inquiries and an awkward pause and then away, but he actually thought it necessary to linger there and speak with her. He never said a great deal, nor did she give herself the trouble of talking or of listening much; but it struck her in the course of their third rencontre that he was asking some odd unconnected questions—about her pleasure in being on the server, her love of solitary questing, and her opinion of Mr. Collins’s and Charlotte’s happiness; and that in speaking of <Rosings> and her not perfectly understanding the guild, he seemed to expect that whenever she came into the server again she would be a part of the guild too. His words seemed to imply it. Could he have Colonel Fitzwilliam in his thoughts? She supposed, if he meant anything, he must mean an allusion to what might arise in that quarter. It distressed her a little, and she was quite glad to find her dailies over and be able to log off.
She was engaged one day when she logged in, in perusing Jane’s last letter, and dwelling on some passages which proved that Jane had written with QQ, when, instead of being again surprised by Mr. Darcy, she saw on looking at her chat pane that Colonel Fitzwilliam was sending her a tell. Putting away the letter immediately and forcing a smile, she typed:
“I did not know before that you ever logged on at this hour.”
“I have called in “sick,” he replied, “as I generally do every other month, and intend to get some dailies out of the way. Are you about to log?”
“No, I am about to get started on my own dailies.”
And accordingly she did turn away from the mailbox, and they walked towards Marcia Chase together.
“Do you certainly leave the server on Saturday?” said she.
“Yes—if Darcy does not put it off again. But I am at his disposal. He arranges the business just as he pleases.”
“And if not able to please himself in the arrangement, he has at least pleasure in the great power of choice. I do not know anybody who seems more to enjoy the power of doing what he likes than Mr. Darcy.”
“He likes to have his own way very well,” replied Colonel Fitzwilliam. “But so we all do. It is only that he has better means of having it than many others, because he is rich, and many others are poor. I speak feelingly. A tank, you know, must be inured to self-denial and dependence.”
“In my opinion, a diligent tank can know very little of either. Now srsly, what have you ever known of self-denial and dependence? When have you been prevented by want of gold from going wherever you chose, or procuring anything you had a fancy for?”
“These are home questions—and perhaps I cannot say that I have experienced many hardships of that nature. But in matters of greater weight, I may suffer from want of gold. Tanks cannot buy all the enchants they might like.”
“Unless where they apply to very serious raiding guilds who help pay for such things, which I think they very often do.”
“Our habits of expense make us too dependent, and there are not many in my rank of progression who can afford to be in a guild without some attention to gold.”
“Is this,” thought Elizabeth, “meant for me?” and she coloured at the idea; but, recovering herself, said, “And pray, what is the usual price of a progressed offtank? Unless the main tank is very bad at taunting, I suppose you would not ask above 300 gold.”
He answered her in the same style, and the subject dropped. To interrupt a silence which might make him fancy her affected with what had passed, she soon afterwards said:
“I imagine Mr. Darcy brought you with him chiefly for the sake of having someone at his disposal. I wonder he does not cease guild-hopping, to secure a lasting convenience of that kind. But, perhaps, his sister does as well for the present, and, as she is under his sole care, he may do what he likes with her.”
“No,” said Colonel Fitzwilliam, “that is an advantage which he must divide with me. I am joined with him in the guardianship of Miss Darcy.”
“Are you indeed? And pray what sort of guardians do you make? Does your charge give you much trouble? Young ladies of her age are sometimes a little difficult to manage, and if she has the true Darcy spirit, she may like to have her own way.”
As she spoke she observed him looking at her earnestly; and the manner in which he immediately asked her why she supposed Miss Darcy likely to give them any uneasiness, convinced her that she had somehow or other got pretty near the truth. She directly replied:
“You need not be frightened. I never heard any harm of her; and I dare say she is one of the most tractable creatures in the world. She is a very great favourite with some ladies of my acquaintance, Louisa and Caroline. I think I have heard you say that you know them.”
“I know them a little. Their tank is a pleasant gentlemanlike man—he is a great friend of Darcy’s.”
“Oh! yes,” said Elizabeth drily; “Mr. Darcy is uncommonly kind to Mr. Bingley, and takes a prodigious deal of care of him.”
“Care of him! Yes, I really believe Darcy does take care of him in those points where he most wants care. From something that he told me, I have reason to think Bingley very much indebted to him. But I ought to beg his pardon, for I have no right to suppose that Bingley was the person meant. It was all conjecture.”
“What is it you mean?”
“It is a circumstance which Darcy could not wish to be generally known, because if it were to get round to the lady’s guild, it would be an unpleasant thing.”
“You may depend upon my not mentioning it.”
“And remember that I have not much reason for supposing it to be Bingley. What he told me was merely this: that he congratulated himself on having lately saved a friend from the inconveniences of a most imprudent guild alliance, but without mentioning names or any other particulars, and I only suspected it to be Bingley from believing him the kind of young man to get into a scrape of that sort, and from knowing them to have been together the whole of last summer.”
“Did Mr. Darcy give you reasons for this interference?”
“I understood that there were some very strong objections against the lady.”
“And what arts did he use to separate them?”
“He did not talk to me of his own arts,” said Fitzwilliam. “:D He only told me what I have now told you.”
Elizabeth made no answer, and walked on, her heart swelling with indignation. After questing in silence for a little, Fitzwilliam asked her why she was so thoughtful.
“I am thinking of what you have been telling me,” said she. “Mr. Darcy’s conduct does not suit my feelings. Why was he to be the judge?”
“You are rather disposed to call his interference officious?”
“I do not see what right Mr. Darcy had to decide on the propriety of his friend’s inclination, or why, upon his own judgement alone, he was to determine and direct in what manner his friend was to be happy. But,” she continued, recollecting herself, “as we know none of the particulars, it is not fair to condemn him. It is not to be supposed that there was much promise for progression in the case.”
“That is not an unnatural surmise,” said Fitzwilliam, “but it is a lessening of the honour of Darcy’s triumph very sadly.”
This was spoken jestingly; but it appeared to her so just a picture of Mr. Darcy, that she would not trust herself with an answer, and therefore, abruptly changing the conversation talked on indifferent matters until they reached the end of their dailies. Then, logging off, she could think without interruption of all that she had read. It was not to be supposed that any other people could be meant than those with whom she was connected. There could not exist in Azeroth two men over whom Mr. Darcy could have such boundless influence. That he had been concerned in the measures taken to separate Bingley and Jane she had never doubted; but she had always attributed to Caroline the principal design and arrangement of them. If his own vanity, however, did not mislead him, he was the cause, his pride and caprice were the cause, of all that Jane had suffered, and still continued to suffer. He had ruined for a while every hope of happiness for the most affectionate, generous heart in the world; and no one could say how lasting an evil he might have inflicted.
“There were some very strong objections against the lady,” were Colonel Fitzwilliam’s words; and those strong objections probably were, her having a very casual background.
“To Jane herself,” she exclaimed, “there could be no possibility of objection; all skill and talented as she is!—her understanding excellent, her gear improved, and her gemming and enchanting spot on. Neither could anything be urged against my GM, who, though with some peculiarities, has abilities Mr. Darcy himself need not disdain, and respectability which he will probably never reach.” When she thought of her GM’s wife, her confidence gave way a little; but she would not allow that any objections there had material weight with Mr. Darcy, whose pride, she was convinced, would receive a deeper wound from the want of importance in his friend’s connections, than from their want of sense; and she was quite decided, at last, that he had been partly governed by this worst kind of pride, and partly by the wish of retaining Mr. Bingley for his sister.
The agitation and tears which the subject occasioned, brought on a headache; and it grew so much worse towards the evening, that, added to her unwillingness to see Mr. Darcy, it determined her not to attend log on to join <Rosings>, where they were engaged to run heroics. Charlotte, getting an IM that she was really unwell, did not press her to log on and as much as possible prevented Mr. Collins from pressing her; but Mr. Collins could not conceal his apprehension of Lady Catherine’s being rather displeased by her not making an appearance.