If the obstacle to their marriage was fear that Mrs Churchill would disinherit Frank for marrying a girl with little money and no grand connections, it would be better for Jane to go to Ireland in the spring, while Frank persuaded his aunt to go to London for the season, and where they could arrange to meet in the summer, with the Campbells in all their respectablility, and the grand connection of the Dixons, and all the commendation of London society to showcase Jane Fairfax's elegance and acomplishments, and reconcile the Churchills to the match.
And why would Jane need to maintain the secrecy while living cheek by jowl with the Westons? How could keeping the secret from the Churchills at Enscombe, be used as a reason for keeping the secret from the good folk at Highbury, none of whom have been at Enscombe in their lives, or have anything to do with the Churchills?
On the other hand, if the plan was to declare their intentions to the Bates and Mr Weston, their closest relatives first (possibly while pretending that they met first in February); and the Churchills and Campbells only secondarily, then of course it makes sense for Jane to come to Highbury, and Frank to be introduced to the Bates and Mrs Weston and to build up his relationship with his father in preparation for the good news.
Really, the only basis we have for Mrs Churchill's inclination to disinherit, is Mr Weston's claims that her pride of rank had been the cause of his wife's and her husband's quarrel. He decides it is because of his being only a Captain of the Militia,as that was all they knew about him when they objected to the match. He does not consider things her brother might have known about her, prior to the event, or what her behavior to her brother might have been at the time. But we know that his wife was not a sweet tempered woman, "she had one sort of spirit, she had not the best. She had resolution enough to pursue her own will in spite of her brother, but not enough to refrain from unreasonable regrets at that brother's unreasonable anger, nor from missing the luxuries of her former home.(2)
Her determination to marry without consulting or inviting her brother might be another reason for the Churchill's alienation. There is also a sense that her family ought to have done something to compensate for her husbands inferior style of living, in spite of Mrs Weston "being of age, and with the full command of her fortune"(2) Being comparatively poor, and being in debt, might give the Westons the impression that their rich relatives are treating them ill by doing nothing for them, but the Churchills might think that they had always intended to live on his small fortune and her large one, and had not seen any need of their friendship or assistance in marriage.
Captain Weston does not see his wife's irritating obstinacy, or unreasonableness. He is more inclined to "think every thing due to her in return for the great goodness of being in love with him"(2)
We know, too, Mr Weston's opinion of Mrs Churchill: "the whole blame of it is to be laid on her. She was the instigator. Frank's mother would never have been slighted as she was but for her. Mr. Churchill has pride; but his pride is nothing to his wife's"(36)
Although three years later, when he was in debt, widowed and with a sick child, it was the Churchills who brought about the reconciliation, and who doted on the child. Certainly, we can be sure that Mr Weston utterly dislikes her, yet he entrusted his first born son and only child to her. Does Mrs Churchill really have the power to take his only son, impoverish his wife, alienate her from her brother? Or is it easier to blame all the difficulties he married on someone elses wife?
I think Mrs Churchills power is over-rated, especially in as far as it is applied to Frank Churchill's behavior and obligations. True, it is readily offered up and accepted as the excuse for his comings and goings, but always with inconsistencies - for example, at Donwell, Frank is determined to go back to Richmond that evening, "I could very ill be spared; but such a point had been made of my coming!"(42) but on nothing more substantial than Emma's urging him with the plea "These are difficulties which you must settle for yourself. Choose your own degree of crossness. I shall press you no more."(42), he turns around and decides "nothing less than a summons from Richmond was to take him back before the following evening." and when message arrives from Richmond the next evening "containing, upon the whole, a tolerable account of Mrs. Churchill"(44), Mr. Frank Churchill "resolved to go home directly, without waiting at all"(44). Such a home, indeed! such an Aunt!
The evidence is that she would deny Frank nothing, and is always proffered as an excuse for his being obliged to do as he chooses.
On the charge of being 'not even good at mending broken spectacles', Miss Bates has a warm refutation. "Mr. Frank Churchill, I must tell you my mother's spectacles have never been in fault since; the rivet never came out again."(38) But is there any reason to suppose Mrs Churchill's pride and joy would be in any danger of working for a living, even if he were to marry? We have Frank claiming "my difficulties in the then state of Enscombe must be too well known to require definition."(50), and we have Mr Weston's stories of the ill treatment he received at her hands, and this leads to the conclusion that Mrs Churchill would cut Frank off financially if she knew he wanted to marry the orphan of a lieutenant. Not exactly a well formed syllogism, is all I am saying.
After he and Jane quarrel at Donwell, Frank talks of going to Swisserland,""As soon as my aunt gets well, I shall go abroad,"(42) and again the next day "I shall go abroad for a couple of years"(43) This was one of the one of the two points he could not persuade his aunt on: "He had wanted very much to go abroad -- had been very eager indeed to be allowed to travel -- but she would not hear of it."(26)If Emma was correct in guessing the other point to be "good behaviour to his father."(26), Frank has clearly grown confident of his ability to convince his aunt of anything, as he has seen his father whenever he wished, since he moved to Richmond, and is confident that he can get his Aunt to the continent, although he seems to have forgotten by chapter 42 that since last year "he was beginning to have no longer the same wish."(26) to travel.
I don't know if Jane Fairfax could or would have waited two years for him, but she could have managed to put off all expectations of governessing if she wished, without great difficulty. After all, "she was too much beloved to be parted with. Neither father nor mother could promote, and the daughter could not endure it. The evil day was put off. It was easy to decide that she was still too young"(20) and as far as the Campbells were concerned "As long as they lived, no exertions would be necessary, their home might be her's for ever; and for their own comfort they would have retained her wholly" and "affection was glad to catch at any reasonable excuse for not hurrying on the wretched moment."(20) Even Jane, who is the sole source of these expectations of beginning her career that summer, has decided "Col. and Mrs. Campbell are to be in town again by mid-summer,...I must spend some time with them; I am sure they will want it"(35) And I am sure they could easily persuade her to delay her governessing just as long as she wanted them to. Nobody but herself and Mrs Elton would hasten her being sent out.
Frank implies that his manner towards Emma was at least a part of his quarrel with Jane, in his letter. He does not give specifics about what they did quarrel over, but he bookends the mention of their tiff with "I behaved shamefully. And here I can admit, that my manners to Miss W., in being unpleasant to Miss F., were highly blamable. She disapproved them, which ought to have been enough. My plea of concealing the truth she did not think sufficient" and "While I, to blind the world to our engagement, was behaving one hour with objectionable particularity to another woman, was she to be consenting the next to a proposal which might have made every previous caution useless?". He claims the argument continues "the next day on Box-Hill; when, provoked by such conduct on my side, such shameful, insolent neglect of her, and such apparent devotion to Miss W., as it would have been impossible for any woman of sense to endure, she spoke her resentment in a form of words perfectly intelligible to me."(50) But comparing the story in this letter, with the ones given in chapters 42, 43 and 44, shows inconsistencies.
For instance, Frank seems to have forgotten that Jane Fairfax had left Donwell before he arrived, and so could not possibly object to his behaving with objectionable particularity to Emma the hour before, as he was not there to behave with objectional particularity towards Emma the hour before, and she was not there to witness any objectionable particularity the hour after.
And there was Jane and Emma had parted at Donwell on more intimate and cordial terms than ever before. Emma "watched her safely off with the zeal of a friend. Her parting look was grateful; and her parting words, "Oh! Miss Woodhouse, the comfort of being sometimes alone!" seemed to burst from an over-charged heart."(42)
Nor do I think that Frank's behavior to Jane was as selfish or intolerable as his letter implies - his arrangements concerning the gift of the piano, for instance: "Here is something quite new to me. Do you know it? Cramer. And here are a new set of Irish melodies. That, from such a quarter, one might expect. This was all sent with the instrument. Very thoughtful of Col. Campbell, was not it? He knew Miss Fairfax could have no music here. I honour that part of the attention particularly; it shews it to have been so thoroughly from the heart. Nothing hastily done; nothing incomplete. True affection only could have prompted it." (28)
To remember not only that Jane needed music to play, but that she would appreciate difficult Cramer etudes, as well as Thomas Moores hugely popular Irish melodies, shows some ablilty to think of Jane. Whatever of honour Mrs Elton or Miss Woodhouse claim for themselves from the ball at the Crown, it was really organized for Jane, and at least partly organized for her by Frank. And it is not as if he gets to see a lot of Jane. Half a dozen times in February, and another half dozen times in the next four months. There is a lot of effort, moving the Churchills to London and then to Richmond, and from the 'Blunder' game onward, not a lot of fun to be had by Frank when he is with Jane. Up until that time, there is evidence that Jane felt as much pleasure as pain from his company. From Jane's behavior at Donwell before Frank arrived, and her quarrel with him as soon as he did arrive, I suspect that it was not Frank's games and intrigues that were testing her patience - apart from the 'Dixon' puzzle there had been very little that Jane seemed to resent in his treatment of her. Nearly every time she blushes, it seems to be rather because she is obliged to dissemble their relationship, not because he has just been trying to have a bit of fun in the here and now. Apart from the 'Blunder' and the 'Three things very dull indeed' challenge, she seemed even to enjoy his games and intrigues.