“The very thing that we have always been rather afraid of; for we should not have liked to have her at such a distance from us, for months together, not able to come if anything was to happen; but you see everything turns out for the best.” - Miss Bates in EMMA by Jane Austen
The small town of Forks, in the likeness of nearly all towns of it’s size and situation, had a very long memory. It was the sort of small town where all of it’s inhabitants were similarly situated and therefore intimately acquainted. The frequent occurrence of rain and storms which beleaguered the town played a considerable role in prompting such intimacy and promoting it's increase. There were many days of disagreeable weather where the women of Forks could find no greater employment than to visit one another on a nearly daily basis ‘to help pass the long and rainy afternoons.’
Said Mrs. Newton to her friend Mrs. Stanley on the occasion of their eighth visit to one another within a fortnight,
“I can’t stand to sit idly in my parlor observing the dreadful way in which the rain is spoiling my favorite part of the flower garden. I thought you, my dear friend, would have some pleasant news to occupy my mind.”
However Mrs. Newton was disappointed as there was seldom anything new or interesting to report; even by someone who boasted as many connections as Mrs. Stanley.
With all of the residents visiting one another so often, it seemed inevitable that the same stories would be told any number of times. If the visit lasted long enough, the terrible story of Mr. Charles Swan’s wife’s tragic and untimely death would always find it’s way into the conversation. Towns as small as Forks seldom suffered tragedies, and the story of Mrs. Swan’s death was one of it’s saddest. There were few stories that warranted so much retelling. In general, there were just few stories.
Mr. Swan did not remarry; this was the report that nearly always followed the story of his wife’s tragic passing. The tale of how no man had ever been more devastated. Despite his agreeable age and reasonable fortune; he could not bring himself to create another such union and so he instead lived in solitude. This decision earned him many sympathetic looks from his neighbors and a never ending supply of invitations to dine in the ‘agreeable company’ of his pitying acquaintances.
Miss Isabella Swan was Charles Swan’s only child. She was sent to live with her mother’s sister when it became evident that her father’s sorrow rendered him incapable of caring for her. She was only three years old at the time.
This was the part of the story where the person reporting these unfortunate circumstances would shake their head sadly, but admit that it was for the best. The room would not hesitate to agree. It was certainly in the young girl’s best interest to be brought up by such an aunt. It would be impossible for a man as devastated as Mr. Swan to bring up an accomplished daughter who possessed the delicacy of a well mannered woman which could only be taught through the example of another such woman.
It was a shame that the aunt lived so far away, this was the statement that was always added in a regretful tone. Mr. Charles Swan did not have occasion to see his daughter often. Miss Swan had visited her father exactly three times since her mother’s death, and the residents of Forks knew of only four times that he had been to visit her at his late wife’s sister’s estate.
On the rare occasions that Miss Swan visited, her father had many invitations for them to dine in the company of their curious neighbors. Many of Mr. Swan’s closest acquaintances had had occasion to observe them together, and could say with easy certainty that they seemed to possess genuine affection for one another.
The story would then come it a close with one or another of the women reporting that when last seen at the age of twelve; Isabella Swan had shown great potential and accomplishment and could only be described as an admirable young lady with a very agreeable countenance. Again the room would agree, and the conversation would turn; either to whether or not anyone had heard the latest story of Mr. Tyler Crowley’s run-away horse, or to the outrages price and meager selection of hat ribbon at Mr. Newton’s store. (Though the latter was never mentioned if Mrs. Newton was present, and she nearly always was.)
The news of Miss Isabella Swan’s expected visit to her father was one of the most exciting reports of the spring. It caused a considerable stir among the young people of Forks who immediately dashed to one another’s homes that afternoon in an attempt to be the first to communicate the news. As a result, almost no one was at home when their visitors arrived and many of them were only able to pass the news when they came across one another on the road.
Many reports passed.
Miss Angela Webber was told by Miss Jessica Stanley that Miss Swan was forced out of her aunt’s house because of a disagreeable attachment that was discovered between Miss Swan and a close acquaintance of her Uncle’s who had some questionable family connections and an uncertain history of his own.
“Are you quite sure?” Miss Weber replied to this report as they walked arm in arm down the lane. “Mrs. Crowley told my mother that Miss Swan is returning to live with her father because her dear aunt is now a widow and no longer has the means to care for her.”
Miss Stanley, however, was adamant about the truth of her story and the obvious falsities of the report Miss Webber had heard. “You are mistaken friend, for I have just had the news from my mother who had it from Mrs. Cheney. I came home just as she preparing to depart, my mother communicated all of the particulars to me with Mrs. Cheney nodding in agreement all the while. And you know how dreadfully boring Mrs. Cheney can be. She would never pass along a report that wasn’t confirmed as the absolute truth, which I daresay is extremely tiresome; and you must be aware of how Mrs. Crowley stretches the truth and spreads innocent falsehoods about town for no other reason than that it amuses her to cause a stir. You must never trust a thing that woman tells your mother. No my dear friend, I choose to believe my mother’s report from Mrs. Cheney above your mother‘s report from Mrs. Crowley. We must watch this Miss Swan carefully, I think, and keep a wary eye on her at all times. I expect she will be the cause of much trouble among our social circle.“
Miss Stanley didn’t look the least troubled as she communicated this alarming news accompanied by her own dark predictions to her horrified friend. On the contrary, she looked as though she would welcome any trouble Miss Isabella Swan saw occasion to cause among their circle of intimate acquaintances. She intended to stay close to the young lady for the duration of her visit. Miss Stanley knew how many residents would find Isabella Swan a fascinating addition to their limited and unvarying society, and she intended to stay very near her so as to receive her share of the attention.
She added a moment later, with her first real look of concern. “If Miss Swan has her sights set on marrying someone among her father‘s acquaintance, I expect Mr. Michael Newton will be of particular interest to her.” Another brief moment passed in which Miss Stanley convinced herself undoubtedly that this could be the only reason for Miss Swan's coming to Forks to visit her father. She made a resolve to herself and decided quite determinedly that she would warn Mr. Newton of Miss Swan’s reputation when next they met.
Miss Weber, in her sweet and quiet way, anxiously voiced her hope that the report Mrs. Cheney had communicated would turn out to be a harmless rumor and that Miss Swan would be as quiet and pleasant a girl as she had seemed on her last visit five years before. Miss Stanley vehemently discouraged such a hope and repeated her confidence that they would find Miss Swan quite manipulative and untrustworthy.
Miss Stanley returned from her long stroll with Miss Webber that afternoon, to her mother’s latest report that Miss Swan’s Uncle had indeed passed away. Her Aunt was forced to move in with her husband’s brother and his wife and it was no longer in her power to keep her niece, Miss Swan, as a companion.
These were confirmed as the true motivations behind Miss Swan’s upcoming visit to her father two days later when he was invited to dine with Mr. Stanley and his family.
Jessica Stanley though, could not escape the notion that Miss Isabella Swan had certainly heard of the agreeable and eligible Mr. Michael Newton of Forks and could not possibly have any objective other than to secure him in marriage at her earliest convenience.
Miss Stanley anxiously addressed Mr. Swan to inquire as to when they could expect Miss Swan’s “much looked forward to” arrival.
Mr. Swan replied that he had hopes of receiving his daughter at Rainier House within six weeks.
Miss Stanley breathed a sigh of relief, satisfied that six weeks was more than enough time to secure Mr. Newton for herself before Miss Swan so much as set eyes on him.