The discussion of Mr. Collins’s offer was now nearly at an end, and Elizabeth had only to suffer from the uncomfortable feelings necessarily attending it, and occasionally from some peevish allusions of Mrs. Bennet. As for the gentleman himself, his feelings were chiefly expressed, not by embarrassment or dejection, or by trying to avoid her, but by stiffness of manner and resentful silence. He scarcely ever spoke to her, and the assiduous attentions which he had been so sensible of himself were transferred for the rest of the day to Charlotte, whose civility in listening to him was a seasonable relief to them all, and especially to her friend.
The morrow produced no abatement of Mrs. Bennet’s ill-humour or ill health. Mr. Collins was also in the same state of angry pride. Elizabeth had hoped that his resentment might shorten his visit, but his plan did not appear in the least affected by it. He was always to have transferred back on Saturday, and to Saturday he meant to stay.
After dailies, the girls performed a search on <The Meryton Militia> to inquire if Mr. Wickham were returned, and to lament over his absence from the ICC Raid. He joined them on their entering a random heroic, and attended them through the instance where his regret and vexation, and the concern of everybody, was well talked over. To Elizabeth, however, he voluntarily acknowledged that the necessity of his absence had been self-imposed.
“I found,” said he, “as the time drew near that I had better not meet Mr. Darcy; that to be in the same raid, the same party with him for so many hours together, might be more than I could bear, and that scenes might arise unpleasant to more than myself.”
She highly approved his forbearance, and they had leisure for a full discussion of it, and for all the commendation which they civilly bestowed on each other, as Wickham and another officer agreed to farm OS with <Longbourn>, and during the raid he particularly attended to her. His accompanying them was a double advantage; she felt all the compliment it offered to herself, and it was most acceptable as an occasion of introducing him to her GM.
Soon after their return, a letter was delivered to Jane; it came from Caroline. It was delivered in the usual fashion, through in-game mail, although it was marked as being from ‘Unknown’; and Elizabeth noticed that Jane grew suddenly quiet in Vent. Jane recollected herself soon, and tried to join with her usual cheerfulness in the general conversation; but Elizabeth felt an anxiety on the subject which drew off her attention even from Wickham; and no sooner had he and his companion taken leave, than a whisper from Jane invited her to follow her into another channel. When they had gained privacy, Jane, referenced the letter, saying:
“This is from Caroline Bingley; what it contains has surprised me a good deal. The whole party have left the server by this time, and are on their way back to their original server—and without any intention of coming back again. You shall hear what she says.”
She then read the first sentence aloud, which comprised the information of their having just resolved to follow their brother to their old server directly, and of their meaning to rejoin Mr. Darcy’s guild there. The next was in these words: “I do not pretend to regret anything I shall leave behind, except your society, my dearest friend; but we will hope, at some future period, to enjoy many returns of that delightful intercourse we have known, and in the meanwhile may lessen the pain of separation by a very frequent and most unreserved correspondence through RealID. I depend on you for that.” To these highflown expressions Elizabeth listened with all the insensibility of distrust; and though the suddenness of their removal surprised her, she saw nothing in it really to lament; it was not to be supposed that their absence from the server would prevent Mr. Bingley’s being able to contact Jane; and as to the loss of their society, she was persuaded that Jane must cease to regard it, in the enjoyment of his.
“It is unlucky,” said she, after a short pause, “that you should not be able to see your friends before they leave the server. But may we not hope that the period of future happiness to which Caroline looks forward may arrive earlier than she is aware, and that the delightful intercourse you have known as friends will be renewed with yet greater satisfaction as guild mates? Mr. Bingley will not be detained by them.”
“Caroline decidedly says that none of the party will return, even to roll alts. I will read it to you:”
“When Mr. Bingley left us yesterday, he imagined that the business which took him to our old server might be concluded in three or four days; but as we are certain it cannot be so, and at the same time convinced that when Mr. Bingley gets to the privileges of an established guild bank and healthier economy he will be in no hurry to leave it again, we have determined on following him thither, that he may not be obliged to spend his vacant hours in pick up groups. Many of my acquaintances are already there; I wish that I could hear that you, my dearest friend, had any intention of making one of the crowd—but of that I despair. I sincerely hope your raiding may abound in the epics which that exercise generally brings, and that your tanks will be so numerous as to prevent your feeling the loss of the three of whom we shall deprive you.”
“It is evident by this,” added Jane, “that he comes back no more.”
“It is only evident that Caroline does not mean that he should.”
“Why will you think so? It must be his own doing. He is his own master. But you do not know all. I will read you the passage which particularly hurts me. I will have no reserves from you.”
“Mr. Darcy is impatient to see his sister; and, to confess the truth, we are scarcely less eager to meet her again. I really do not think Georgiana has her equal for gear, ability, and achievements; and the affection she inspires in Louisa and myself is heightened into something still more interesting, from the hope we dare entertain of her being hereafter our primary healer. I do not know whether I ever before mentioned to you my feelings on this subject; but I will not leave the server without confiding them, and I trust you will not esteem them unreasonable. Mr. Bingley admires her greatly already; he will have frequent opportunity now of seeing her on the most intimate footing; her friends all wish the connection as much as his own; and a guild mate’s partiality is not misleading me, I think, when I call Mr. Bingley most capable of engaging any healer’s mana pool. With all these circumstances to favour an attachment, and nothing to prevent it, am I wrong, my dearest Jane, in indulging the hope of an event which will secure the happiness of so many?”
“What do you think of this sentence, my dear Lizzy?” said Jane as she finished it. “Is it not clear enough? Does it not expressly declare that Caroline neither expects nor wishes me to be her raid healer; that she is perfectly convinced of her Mr. Bingley’s indifference; and that if she suspects the nature of my feelings for him, she means (most kindly!) to put me on my guard? Can there be any other opinion on the subject?”
“Yes, there can; for mine is totally different. Will you hear it?”
“You shall have it in a few words. Caroline sees that Mr. Bingley wants you for his healer, and wants him to engage Georgiana for the service instead. She follows him to their old server in hope of keeping him there, and tries to persuade you that he does not care about you.”
Jane shook her head.
“Indeed, Jane, you ought to believe me. No one who has ever seen you together can doubt his affection. Caroline, I am sure, cannot. She is not such a simpleton. Could she have seen half as much love in Mr. Darcy for herself, she would have rerolled by now. But the case is this: We are not rich enough or grand enough for them; and she is the more anxious to get Georgiana for Bingley, from the notion that when there has been one connection to the <Pemberly> bank accounts, she may have less trouble in achieving a second; in which there is certainly some ingenuity, and I dare say it would succeed, if Miss de Bourgh were out of the way. But, my dearest Jane, you cannot seriously imagine that because Caroline tells you Mr. Bingley greatly admires Georgiana, he is in the smallest degree less sensible of your merit than when he took leave of you on Tuesday, or that it will be in her power to persuade him that, instead of bwanting you to heal him, he is very much wanting her friend to perform that office.”
“If we thought alike of Caroline,” replied Jane, “your representation of all this might make me quite easy. But I know the foundation is unjust. Caroline is incapable of wilfully deceiving anyone; and all that I can hope in this case is that she is deceiving herself.”
“That is right. You could not have started a more happy idea, since you will not take comfort in mine. Believe her to be deceived, by all means. You have now done your duty by her, and must fret no longer.”
“But, my dear Lizzy, can I be happy, even supposing the best, in accepting a tank whose guild mates and friends are all wishing him to recruit elsewhere?”
“You must decide for yourself,” said Elizabeth; “and if, upon mature deliberation, you find that the misery of disobliging his two guild mates is more than equivalent to the happiness of being his main healer, I advise you by all means to refuse him.”
“How can you talk so?” said Jane, faintly smiling. “You must know that though I should be exceedingly grieved at their disapprobation, I could not hesitate.”
“I did not think you would; and that being the case, I cannot consider your situation with much compassion.”
“But if he returns no more, my choice will never be required. A thousand things may arise while he is away!”
The idea of his returning no more Elizabeth treated with the utmost contempt. It appeared to her merely the suggestion of Caroline’s interested wishes, and she could not for a moment suppose that those wishes, however openly or artfully spoken, could influence a tank so totally independent of everyone.
She represented to Jane as forcibly as possible what she felt on the subject, and had soon the pleasure of seeing its happy effect. Jane’s temper was not desponding, and she was gradually led to hope, though the diffidence of affection sometimes overcame the hope, that Bingley would return to the server and answer every wish of her heart.
They agreed that Mrs. Bennet should only hear of the departure of the guild, without being alarmed on the score of the tank’s conduct; but even this partial communication gave her a great deal of concern, and she bewailed it as exceedingly unlucky that they should happen to go away just as they were all getting so intimate together. After lamenting it, however, at some length, she had the consolation that Mr. Bingley would be soon over again and soon dining on fish feast crafted in <Longbourn>, and the conclusion of all was the comfortable declaration, that though he had been invited only to a guild raid, she would take care to have two types of feasts and extra flasks.