Coffeehouses, Finances, Tom Bertram, and an Angel in Disguise

Coffeehouses, Finances, Tom Bertram, and an Angel in Disguise

There was comfort also in Tom, who gradually regained his health, without regaining the thoughtlessness and selfishness of his previous habits. He was the better forever for his illness. He had suffered, and he had learned to think: two advantages that he had never known before; and the self-reproach arising from the deplorable event in Wimpole Street, to which he felt himself accessory by all the dangerous intimacy of his unjustifiable theatre, made an impression on his mind which, at the age of six-and-twenty, with no want of sense or good companions, was durable in its happy effects. He became what he ought to be: useful to his father, steady and quiet, and not living merely for himself.

Austen, Jane. Mansfield Park

^^This is where Jane Austen left Tom Bertram, as a gentleman who was not lacking in sense or good friends but who was forever changed by illness.

Morning crept its way across the room, first spilling over the windowsill and then creeping across the floor before slipping through the gap in the bed curtains.

Tom Bertram tossed an arm across his eyes to block its advance. He did not wish to wake just yet. There was a beautiful angel singing to him as she blotted his face with a cool cloth, and if he waited just a moment longer, he might be able to open his eyes in his dream and finally see her face.

He groaned. It was no use.

His angel had flown away once again, and he was left with only a memory of her voice.

He stretched and slowly rose to a sitting position. He needed to get dressed and start his day. He knew he needed to, but he had little desire to do so. Being responsible was far less enjoyable than being reckless.

He groaned again as he straightened his leg. Being reckless did come with its own set of complaints. His leg hurt less than it used to, but it was still a trial. Thankfully, according to the physician, the break had knit together as it should. However, the leg was still not as strong as Tom would like it to be, and it did ache rather a lot in the mornings after being motionless for so long as he slept.

He pushed his way out of his covers and, taking up the cane that stood next to his bed, he rose. Within half an hour’s time, he would be able to rise without the use of the blasted thing, but first thing in the morning, he could not. It was as if his muscles protested rising more than his brain did.

^^And this is where I picked up my pen and took up his story, as he is striving to become all that he ought to be: useful, steady, quiet, and not living merely for himself.

It was time to begin in earnest his work of recouping his losses, although he had to admit that he was not entirely certain he understood all the workings of investing. Gabe would likely be able to help him find places to put his money that would earn him a healthy – but secure – return.

Gambling was not new to Tom. He had lost plenty of money at card tables, races, and the like. However, speculating on shares and such was different. There was still the possibility of gain or loss, but the money he was using seemed to be somehow more valuable.

It was not, of course.

The money had not changed one wit. It was Tom who had changed. He saw things in such a different way now since his angel had saved his life those many long months ago. Perhaps if he were very fortunate, one day, he would get to see her face and thank her for her service. But for now, he would have to satisfy himself with his memories of her care and her songs.

Of course, it will not be long until, in his quest to improve his financial standing, Tom happens across his angel — not that he knows she is his angel until sometime later. You see, Miss Faith Eldridge would tell you she’s a very proper sort of lady… unless impropriety is necessary. Then, a lady must take precautions to hide her identity and keep her reputation spotless.

The fellow was not only delicate looking, but he was also easily put out. However, Tom knew for a fact that Fredrick, if that was indeed his name, was not Robert Eldridge’s brother. Robert did not have a brother. He had only ever mentioned a sister.

Tom tilted his head and looked carefully at Fredrick. The youngster did bare a remarkable resemblance to Robert except Robert’s neck was not so graceful, nor did Robert have such lovely pink lips and long lashes. If Tom were to be asked to put a wager on it, he would bet that the young gentleman in front of him was not a gentleman at all, but rather a lady in gentlemen’s clothing.

“Robert has no brothers,” Tom said, breaking the silence in the room.

Mr. Clarke shifted some papers. “Quite right. I had forgotten.”

The gentleman had not forgotten a thing. Tom settled back in his chair, waiting and watching until one or the other of the people caught in this falsehood attempted to clear up the misunderstanding.

Both Faith (or Fredrick) and Tom, as well as Faith’s brother Robert, are at a coffeehouse visiting a stockbroker who has his office within the building. But what exactly was a coffeehouse in the early 1800s?

English coffeehouses in the 17th and 18th centuries were public social places where men would meet for conversation and commerce. For the price of a penny, customers purchased a cup of coffee and admission. Travellers introduced coffee as a beverage to England during the mid-17th century; previously it had been consumed mainly for its supposed medicinal properties. Coffeehouses also served tea and hot chocolate as well as a light meal.

The historian Brian Cowan describes English coffeehouses as “places where people gathered to drink coffee, learn the news of the day, and perhaps to meet with other local residents and discuss matters of mutual concern.” Topics like the Yellow Fever would also be discussed. The absence of alcohol created an atmosphere in which it was possible to engage in more serious conversation than in an alehouse. Coffeehouses also played an important role in the development of financial markets and newspapers.

Topics discussed included politics and political scandals, daily gossip, fashion, current events, and debates surrounding philosophy and the natural sciences. Historians often associate English coffeehouses, during the 17th and 18th centuries, with the intellectual and cultural history of the Age of Enlightenment: they were an alternate sphere, supplementary to the university. Political groups frequently used coffeehouses as meeting places. 

[English coffeehouses in the 17th and 18th centuries, Wikipedia]

A coffeehouse was a natural place for Tom and Robert to be. They were men who were interested in financial matters — because both of them had lost a good deal of money through living foolishly. However, a coffeehouse seems a strange place for Faith to be, and, to some extent, it is, even though it is not outside the realm of possibility that a lady might be involved in financial concerns.

In the following excerpt from the comedy, The Refusal; or, the Ladies’ Philosophy, produced in 1720, which “abounds in allusions to the doings in ‘Change Alley,” you will notice that there is a diverse mixture of people buy and selling financial certificates. One of those people is a “young woman of quality.”  

There (in the Alley) you’ll see a duke dangling after a director; here a peer and a ‘prentice haggling for an eighth; there a Jew and a parson making up differences; there a young woman of quality buying bears of a Quaker; and there an old one selling refusals to a lieutenant of grenadiers.

[The Stock Exchange, British History Online]

Change Alley here refers to the area in which the London Stock Exchange began in the late 1600s as a coffeehouse.

Jonathan’s Coffee-House was a significant meeting place in London in the 17th and 18th centuries, famous as the original site of the London Stock Exchange.

The coffee house was opened around 1680 by Jonathan Miles in Change (or Exchange) Alley, in the City of London. In 1696, several patrons were implicated in a plot to assassinate William III, and it was thought to be associated with the Popish Plots.

In 1698, it was used by John Castaing to post the prices of stocks and commodities, the first evidence of systematic exchange of securities in London. That year, dealers expelled from the Royal Exchange for rowdiness migrated to Jonathan’s (as well as to Garraway’s Coffee-House).

It was the scene of a number of critical events in the history of share trading, including the South Sea Bubble and the panic of 1745. It was destroyed by fire in 1748, and rebuilt. In 1761 a club of 150 brokers and jobbers was formed to trade stocks. The club built its own building in 1773 in Sweeting’s Alley, which was dubbed the New Jonathan’s, but was renamed the Stock Exchange. 

[Jonathan’s Coffee-House, Wikipedia]

And we’re back to the coffeehouse — the same exact sort of establishment where Tom has caught Faith wearing a disguise and claiming to be Fredrick. Below is a little bit more from the Wikipedia article about English coffeehouses. This excerpt talks about women at coffeehouses and should help you understand why Faith has chosen to pose as Fredrick to visit Mr. Clarke.

Historians disagree on the role and participation of women within the English coffeehouse. Bramah states that women were forbidden from partaking in coffeehouse activity as customers. Cowan, on the other hand, explains that while coffeehouses were free and open to all subjects despite class, gender, or merit, conversation revolved around male-centred issues such as politics, business and cultural criticism, which were not supposed to concern women and thus their participation within coffeehouses was unwelcomedHistorians depict coffeehouses as a gentlemanly sphere where men could partake in conversation without associating with women; coffeehouses were consequently not considered a place for a lady who wished to preserve her respectability.

[English coffeehouses in the 17th and 18th centuries, Wikipedia]

Coffeehouses were not entirely devoid of women, and, of course, there were women who worked at coffeehouses and even some who were the proprietress of such establishments, but the underlined portions in the above quote are why Faith is dressed as a gentleman. She desires to maintain her respectability, but she also wishes to ensure both her and her brother’s financial futures are secure. While love for her brother might be one motivation for Faith to be at this coffeehouse, it is not her only motivations. She has reasons to worry for her future, and she’s not the sort of lady to just let things happen by chance. She likes to be prepared and tends to be frugal and practical. While she is willing to push bounds to take care of those things she sees as necessary to her own happiness as well as the happiness of others around her, she is by no means the sort of lady to head a movement — she is doing what she is doing out of need and with her brother’s permission.

“I do not know why you do not just spend your days in a tea room,” Robert Eldridge said as he climbed into the hired hack after his sister, Faith — not that the person entering the carriage looked like a sister.

“And in gentleman’s clothes?” He shook his head. “I am likely the daftest brother ever to allow you to do this.”

“If it were not for your inability to keep money in its proper place rather than in the hands of your friends and any barmaid who will have you, I could spend my days in tea rooms, wearing a proper day dress.” Faith crossed her arms and glared at him. “You know as well as I do that, as a lady, to be seen in a coffeehouse conducting business on the behalf of my family would not be spoken of in a favourable fashion. Therefore, I must disguise myself.”

Being an intellectual sort of woman and being interested in things which were not normally the pursuits of a young gently-bred lady, Faith is what some might call a bluestocking, but she is not only that. Let’s go back to that meeting in Mr. Clarke’s office between her and Tom and discover who else Faith might be. 

Fredrick, whose voice was no longer low but rather pleasantly womanly, placed a hand on his – or rather, her hat but hesitated. “Not a word of this must leave this room. There are those who would use it to ruin me – not that I can name anyone in particular at this very moment. My friends are quite lovely, but there are others…” She pressed her lips together as if she realized she had been rambling. Her shoulders lifted and lowered as she drew a deliberate breath and took off her hat. “My name is Faith, and Robert is, just as Mr. Clarke has said, my brother.”

Beneath that hat was a neatly styled knot of hair the colour of golden sunshine with a few shades of brown and a tinge of a fiery sunset. It was set softly so that some hair would be seen below the brim of her hat just as a gentleman’s would be.

“Do you sing?” Tom whispered.

Faith is just the intelligent young lady Tom needs to help him sort out his finances, as well as the one he has been attempting to see more clearly in his dreams. Again, as I said before, it will take Tom a while to put all the pieces together, but Faith is his angel.

However, finding his angel and securing his legacy will not be a straightforward business because both he and Faith have some lessons to learn about the important role love has to play in the creation of a secure future.


Tom: To Secure His Legacy is available now on Amazon and in Kindle Unlimited.

I hope you will give this lovely story a try.

From now until the end of this week, you can pick this story up for the introductory price of  $2.99 USD*

After Friday, the price will go up to the regular price of $4.99 USD*

*other currencies also adjusted based on the US price


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8 Responses to Coffeehouses, Finances, Tom Bertram, and an Angel in Disguise

  1. Congratulations on the launch of this new book. I pre-ordered it and look forward to reading it. I loved this post. It was so interesting how things were. Having a woman disguised as a man is hilarious. Blessings on its success.

    • Thank you! I find the research into these things quite fascinating. Oh, Faith is quite the young woman who likes disguises. 😉 If something needs doing, that girl is going to do it! 😀

  2. Congratulations on your newest book release, it sounds like another really good story that I look forward to reading. Sadly I still need to read Mary’s story since I somehow managed to fall behind in reading this series. I loved the first two books in the series and bought Mary’s story early planning to read it right away but somehow time got away from me.

    • I can understand how that can happen. Life gets busy! (Way too busy sometimes 😉 ) I hope you get a chance to read Mary’s story soon, and I’m happy to hear you enjoyed the first two books 🙂

  3. Interesting post! I will have to keep an eye on these side characters as I reread my Austen

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