Summary: The story reaches is climax, and while Amanda and Darcy swan off into the future, George is left to look after a incapacitated Mr. Bennet.
Disclaimer: I don't own George, Amanda, Darcy or any of the others. No money is made from this tale and no irate fathers or drunken heartbroken lovers were injured during the making of it.
Actions and Consequences, a Lost in Austin fanfic
"It's time to take the weapons from the wall, Mr Bingly," Mr Bennet said furiously as he stripped off his jacket and dropped it on the floor. "Pick up your damned spear and take guard!"
George watched with horror as Mr. Bennet grabbed the sabre that sat atop the mantle piece. It was an ornament, nothing more, it was as blunt as a butter knife but would do very well to bludgeon an enemy to death. Near the window Mrs. Bennet fell into hysterics.
"Pick up your stick, damn you, you drivelling, anorchous imbecile!"
"NO!" screamed Miss Price, "Darcy, do something!"
Darcy stood there, flabbergasted, as the chaos unfolded in front of him, he shouted uselessly at the combatants, but was completely ignored.
"Imbecile is it!?" Charles replied as he grabbed up the stick he had been carving and faced Mr. Bennet.
"Drivelling, snivelling, imbecile!" Mr. Bennet shouted and swung clumsily at Charles who ducked out of the way just in time as Mrs. Bennet and Lydia screamed uselessly in a corner.
George tried to step in, stop the pair from the folly in which they were engaged, but Darcy was in the way and he couldn't get past. In an instant things went horribly wrong, Charles, in an attempt to defend himself from Lydia's furious father, hit him on the side with the stick and rammed his shoulder into his stomach. Mr. Bennet staggered back and hit the back of his head against the protruding mantle piece. For a moment he stood there, stunned, then slowly slid down the marble surrounds of the fire place to sit on the floor, a trail of blood staining the stone. Near the window Mrs. Bennet and Lydia cried and wailed.
George pushed Darcy out of the way and hurried to Mr. Bennet's side as he touched the back of his head, his hand coming away covered with blood. He had to compete with Mrs. Bennet's incompetent handling of her husband as he sought to discover the extent of the older man's injury.
Blood was pouring from a gash on his scalp, and he was murmuring incoherently. George pulled out his clean handkerchief, folded it and pressed it against the wound as he heard Darcy behind him instructing the landlord to send for his physician. Blood splashed onto his sleeve and he thanked whoever designed his uniform that they had chosen an appropriate colour to hide such stains.
Miss Price knelt down beside George, her hands full of torn up sheets ready to use as bandages. George took one wordlessly as his handkerchief became soaked and pressed the new pad against Mr. Bennet's wound.
"Shocking business," Mr. Bennet muttered, "Bleeding on a fellow's rugs at this time of year. What would Lady Catherine say?"
"This physician of yours, Mr Darcy, can he do stitches?" Miss Price asked.
"Stitches?" Darcy was surprised at the question, "He's not a dress maker."
George exchanged a glance with Miss Price and rolled his eyes a little, typical Darcy, and typical physicians, he would have to take more immediate action. He held the pad in place as Miss Price wrapped a bandage around Mr. Bennet's head. Behind them Charles was going all to pieces.
"Oh God, I've let the woman I love run through my fingers like mercury and now her father lies dying by my hand," he wailed.
It's about time that your actions came back to haunt you, Fitzwilliam Darcy, George thought uncharitably, this is all because of you and your cynical view of the world. He expertly secured the bandage, it was a temporary measure only until the wound could be treated properly, and he knew just the person to help.
He assisted Mr. Bennet to the bed and made sure he was comfortable with Mrs. Bennet in close attendance, then washed the blood off his hands at the wash stand against the wall. He turned to see Miss Price slip out of the room and followed her, rubbing his hands dry on a towel. Blood could be very hard to properly wash off skin, something he knew only too well.
"Mr. Bennet needs stitches," Miss Price said as she turned sharply towards him, her face stricken with the turn of events, "Please tell me you understand."
He understood all right. "There is a woman here, who has arranged medical matters for me in the past, I shall bring her here directly," he said.
Miss Price's face lit up, "Oh Wickham, you are a bastard, but you're the right bastard at the right time."
"One does one's best," George said, trading a small smile with her. God, but she fascinated him. She was so naive, yet so worldly, he longed to know her better, to find the real woman, to love her, to care for her, to make sure that she never unhappy again in her entire life. Wherever she came from she wouldn't survive long in the cut-throat world of society. "One day, Miss Price, everyone you know will prize your fingers from the raft and watch you drown, it's the way of the world, everyone… except me." I will be there for you, he added silently, no matter what, I will always be there for you, call for me and I will come. He didn't trust himself to say more, so gave her a tiny bow and left to fetch Sarah Cobb.
Sarah was a good friend. She was a few years older than him, a widow of the war against Napoleon in Spain, where her husband had been junior officer in Wellington's army. George and Thomas had become great friends and when Tom had died in his arms, George had decided it was time to come home, fulfilling Tom's last request to pass his love on to his wife. The trip back was far from uneventful, the ship upon which he was travelling was attacked by the French and he was injured by a falling spar while taking part in the defence.
He had been on his way to Hammersmith to see Tom's wife, Sarah, when he had suffered a black out, a result of the head wound he had suffered and fallen off his horse. He had been taking a short cut through a woodland area and by pure chance Sarah had come across him, taking the same short cut.
Sarah had helped him to her home where she had sewn up wound on his scalp where he had struck his head on an inconvenient root and nursed him through his recovery. They had shared become firm friends and she was the only one to whom George could speak without hiding behind his carefully constructed facade. She was the one he approached when things went wrong, when he needed someone to patch up his injuries, and sometimes those of others who required discrete treatment. She never judged him, but accepted him for what he was. She was very like Miss Price in that respect.
There was a thin line of smoke rising from the chimney, so she was home. He pounded on her door until she opened it, a vigorous woman of middle years with dark hair around a handsome, but not beautiful face, as hard as rock and as soft as butter. Behind her, her eight year old daughter peered out at him with curiosity.
"George!" she exclaimed, "You gave me such a fright banging like that. What's wrong? Are you hurt?" She looked him up and down, surprised that he was in one piece. Usually when he called upon her it was because he had gained an injury of some kind and needed medical care. Last time had been after an altercation with a drunk in a public house, he had come out victorious but with a much bruised face and a couple of cracked ribs after being hit by a bench. He had told his companions in the King's Militia that he had fallen off his horse and had suffered intense discomfort, not to mention teasing, for weeks.
"Not this time, Sarah, but your skills are needed," George said, "There is a man in the Jerusalem that is in grave need of your talent, can you come?"
Sarah pulled him inside and closed the door before tearing off her flour covered apron and dashing around gathering up her needles, thread and potions. "Bridget, you stay here, love, and look after the baking. The bread will need to come out in half an hour, can you do that for me?" she said to her daughter, who nodded, then planted a kiss on the top of the girl's head before picking up her bag, "I'll be back as soon as I can."
Sarah quickly followed George to the Jerusalem with George filling her in on the details as they went, to the room where Mrs. Bennet and Lydia were sitting beside the bed on which Mr. Bennet lay, comforting each other.
"I'm Sarah Cobb," Sarah introduced herself, "I have some experience with head wounds. Are you Mrs. Bennet?"
Mrs. Bennet nodded, "Can you help him? Please help him."
"I shall examine him and see what needs to be done," Sarah said quickly unwrapped the bandage around Mr. Bennet's head. She examined the wound and Mr. Bennet's eyes, shining the light of a candle in them and watching how the pupils reacted. "Head wounds bleed profusely for a short amount of time," she told the assemblage, "And stop bleeding fairly quickly, but this will need stitches. Mrs. Bennet, can you assist me?"
Mrs. Bennet wiped away her tears, pulled herself together and nodded firmly. George was impressed, he didn't think that she had that type of backbone.
Sarah took some scissors out of her bag and cut away the hair surrounding the wound. It was long and still bled sluggishly, the danger came from it reopening and Mr. Bennet loosing more blood than he could spare. "Captain Wickham, can you fetch some boiling water please?"
George quickly took himself off and found the land lord.
"How is the gentleman?" the landlord asked.
"Mrs. Cobb is with him," George said. "She asks for boiling water."
"Ah well, if Mrs. Cobb is there, he'll be fine. Mr. Darcy has sent for his doctor from Mayfair, I s'pose that there won't be much left for him to do when he gets here," the landlord said.
"Mrs. Cobb knows her business," George agreed, "The water?"
"I'll have it brought up at once," the landlord agreed and hurried off to the kitchen.
George returned to the guest room and found Sarah crushing herbs in a mortar and pestle to make a paste. "The water is coming soon," he said. "What can I do to help?"
"Finish mixing this for me," Sarah said.
George took the stone vessel and continued crushing the leaves and roots into a smooth paste while Sarah threaded a needle and ran it through the flame of a candle a few times to sterilize it.
"Captain Wickham, I don't know how to thank you," Mrs. Bennet said.
"Thank me when we have your husband safe and home, Mrs. Bennet," George said with a small smile. The landlord came in with a large pitcher of steaming water which Sarah used to clean the wound. George held Mr. Bennet's head steady as Sarah quickly and expertly sewed the wound closed, pasted on the poultice she had concocted and wrapped it in fresh bandages.
"He needs to rest," Sarah said firmly as she washed the blood off her hands, "Head wounds can be tricky and we will need to see if there are any on going complications."
"I will take care of him," Mrs. Bennet said determinedly. "Thankyou for your help. What do I owe you for your skills?"
"But a few pennies will cover the cost of the herbs and linens," Sarah said.
Mrs. Bennet opened her purse and drew out three shillings, pressing them into Sarah's hand before turning back to her still stricken husband. Sarah took George's hand and drew him out of the room.
"Will he recover?" George asked.
"I imagine so, but keep careful watch on him, George, he may be confused, dizzy, loose memories and speak incoherently for a time, remember how you were, it took you weeks to recover properly," Sarah said quietly.
"I was unconscious for hours," George commented, "Surely there must be degrees of injury, he remained conscious throughout, if groggy and confused."
"The location of the injury could prove a problem. Some in the medical profession believe that all the functions of the body take place in the back part of the brain," Sarah said, "And that could prove dangerous in the long run. Make sure he rests and doesn't partake in any strenuous activity."
"I will watch over him," George promised.
Sarah cupped his cheek with her hand, "You are a good man, George Wickham, despite what people think of you. Take care of yourself and visit me again soon, preferably for a social visit only."
George chuckled a little and bent to kiss her cheek. There was no passion between then, Sarah was still deeply in love with the memory of her lost husband, but they had a strong, almost familial affection and enjoyed each others company. "I value your good opinion of me, Sarah," he said lightly, "However undeserved it is."
She slapped him very lightly, "You are a rogue, but an honourable one. Now, I must go and make sure Bridget took the bread out of the oven."
George watched her go. The landlord passed her on the stairs and greeted her respectfully before going to George.
"Mr. Darcy's physician is here, Captain Wickham," he said, "Although I can't imagine there is much left for him to do."
"No, I don't imagine there is. Have you seen Miss Price, Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingly anywhere?" George had only barely registered that neither Darcy or Miss Price had been seen since he had gone to fetch Sarah.
"Well, Mr. Bingly's down in saloon with my wife, sir," the landlord said, "The gentleman has quite gone to pieces, I thought that them rich types would have more spine than that."
George gave a cynical snort and the landlord gave a brief chuckle of agreement.
"As for Mr. Darcy and Miss Price, there hasn't been hide or hair of them, and Mr. Darcy's horse is still in the stable. It's most peculiar." He spoke the last word slowly, revelling in the newly learned word.
"Well, if you see them, please let Mr. Darcy know that Mr. Bennet should make a full recovery."
"I'll be the judge of that," an acerbic voice said from the top of the stairs. A man dressed impeccably in the serious garb of a professional man and carrying a large case looked at George as though he had found him stuck to the bottom of his shoe.
George gave a small sneer, "Doctor Hamilton, how good to see you again," he said, dripping insincerity with every word. He knew the man of old and there was no love lost between them.
"Indeed," Doctor Hamilton replied coldly. "Where is the patient?"
"Through here, sir," George said, bowing him through with the utmost courtesy, every exaggerated action a deliberate impertinence. When the doctor was past he gave a final instruction to the landlord, "When Mr. Bingly is sober and in greater control of his faculties, get one of your grooms to take him home, and make sure they see him safely to Netherfield Hall, he's in no condition to look after himself."
"I'll see it done, sir," the landlord said, and scurried away from the snobbish doctor who was bending to examine Mr. Bennet.
Doctor Hamilton unwound the bandage Sarah had so skilfully applied and examined the stitching. "Who did this?" he demanded.
"A woman of my acquaintance," George said, "Who is skilled in dealing with wounds."
"A herb wife," the Doctor said scornfully. "I'm surprised she didn't kill him. Such people have no place in the medical profession."
George clenched his fist. Rudeness directed towards him he could cope with, rudeness directed towards his friends made him livid with fury. Sarah and her sisters past and present had been the bulwark of the medical profession, taking care of those who couldn't afford the services of the physician and, for the most part, taking care of them very well.
"Mrs. Cobb saved my husband's life," Mrs. Bennet said in staunch defence of her heroine, "And I will not hear a word against her."
George raised a surprised eyebrow. Mrs. Bennet appeared to be gaining more backbone with every passing hour.
"Well, all things considered, she had done a very neat job," Doctor Hamilton said. "Make sure he rests, drinks plenty of fluids and avoids strenuous activity. I shall forward my fee to Mr. Darcy."
Almost word for word what Sarah said, George thought with glee as he watched Doctor Hamilton re-wrap the bandage, almost as neatly as Sarah had, and slink out of the room with poor grace. Now Darcy would have to pay for a useless house call. Where was Darcy, anyway?