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Carnegie’s Maid: A Novel: Chapter 45


April 6, 1867

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

My shoes echoed throughout Fairfield as I marched from the servants’ hall to the library. I didn’t care if the other servants, the new Mr. and Mrs. Carnegie, my mistress, or Andrew could hear me. There would be no more stealthy creeping behind the scenes for me.

I was done with being invisible. I was done with waiting. And I was angry.

Flinging open the door to the library, I found Andrew reclining on one of the leather chairs, smoking a cigar, and reading from his beloved Burns. He smiled at me and patted the matching chair next to him. “Come sit with me. Mother will not be home for over an hour, so we have time.”

“I think I’ll stand, Andrew.”

“What’s wrong, Clara?”

“I spent today with a distant relative of mine from Ireland on Rebecca Street—”

Andrew interrupted me. “That’s where we first lived when we came to Pittsburgh.”

I could not allow the unfathomable idea of Andrew and his family living in the slums of Rebecca Street to deter me. Returning to my purpose, I said, “My cousin used to work as an iron founder. Do you know what that is?”

“Of course. An iron founder works with the molten ferrous metal and supervises other men. It’s one of the more senior roles on the iron foundry floor.”

“My cousin Patrick used to work as an iron founder at Iron City Forge,” I emphasized.

“Ah, the company Tom once ran.”

“Yes, Tom ran Iron City before it was merged with Cyclops, the company you founded to compete with Iron Forge, to form Union Iron Company. I believe you orchestrated that merger?”

“Yes, I did. Excellent memory, Clara,” he said approvingly. “Although sadly, you had to learn about that plan by witnessing a rather unfortunate conversation with my brother.”

“Yes, this is all rather unfortunate,” I said, not bothering to hide my irritation. “Did you know that the merger that formed Union Iron led to the firing of hundreds of iron workers?”

He puffed on his pipe, seemingly oblivious to my anger. Was I not displaying it as clearly as I felt it? Perhaps my years as a placid servant had blunted my ability to show emotion. My anger mounted as I saw no evidence on his face of concern.

“Actually, Union Iron Mills itself was very recently reorganized into the venture of Carnegie, Kloman and Company, when one of our partners, Tom Miller, could not reach an accord with the other Union partners. I had been meaning to tell you so that you could update your chart. So to answer your question, technically, Carnegie, Kloman and Company fired hundreds of iron workers. A certain amount of redundancy in positions existed after the various mergers, necessitating the terminations.” He said these words matter-of-factly.

His calm only made me more furious.

“You do realize that those ‘terminations’ will devastate hundreds of families? They will lead directly to their homelessness and the starvation of their children. I thought you espoused equality and opportunity for all people, beliefs that you yourself benefitted from when you arrived in this country,” I yelled.

Andrew stood up. “Don’t you think you are being a bit dramatic, Clara?”

“Is it dramatic to watch your family members worry what will happen in four weeks when they can no longer afford living in a single room on the second floor of a shared ramshackle house? Is it dramatic to show concern about what will happen to your family when their money runs out in six weeks and they still cannot find jobs because they have no access to libraries or education to retrain themselves for some other sort of work?”

“I’ve never heard you talk about family in Pittsburgh before, Clara. Who are they? Why have you never mentioned them before? I would have liked to have met them.” He was changing the subject intentionally.

I almost blurted out the entire truth. Not only have I been hiding my family, but I have been hiding my real identity. Instead, I played his game and ignored his attempt at diversion. I asked, “Aren’t you troubled by the fact that, by undertaking all those iron company machinations to further your control and your income, you are hurting actual people? Immigrants like yourself. I thought you came from a Chartist family who cared about equality and who understood how the poorer folk are harmed when those in control—whether in business or in government—unwittingly alter the world around them.”

“Clara, in business, sometimes hard decisions have to be made. You know that. And unfortunately, sometimes people bear the brunt of those decisions. Anyway, you know we can help your cousin. I wouldn’t let family suffer.”

He hoped to placate me with an offer of help to my family. Once, his reference to my family as his own family would have elated me, but it didn’t now.

“Where is the concern, Andrew? The remorse? Not only for my cousin but for the other lives damaged by the ‘terminations of Carnegie, Kloman, and Company’ and for the human beings impacted by the stratagems you inflicted upon Keystone Telegraph, Keystone Bridge, Coleman Oil, Piper and Schiffler, and Woodruff Sleeping Car Company? I could go on and on. Don’t you want to find out how the people affected are faring? Offer them assistance, food, housing, money, training, anything? Don’t you want to find out how that poor Irish immigrant who took your place in the Civil War for a few hundred dollars is doing? Whether he survived? I bet that the Andrew who first came to this country would have done all those things. I feel like you’ve forgotten they are people, that they are you.” I paused and asked, “Have you forgotten who you are?”

We squared off against each other in a situation reminiscent of his fight with his younger brother about Cyclops Iron and Iron City Forge. Andrew’s face turned an angry shade of purple, and his fists clenched. His mouth opened, and his eyes narrowed, but before he could speak, a sound emanated from the entryway.

“Andra, is that you I hear?” The voice of his mother carried into the library.

We froze, midsentence and midgesture. The sound of my mistress’s footsteps grew louder, and before either of us spoke again, I turned away and walked toward the closed door. Swinging the door open wide, I almost ran directly into Mrs. Carnegie. Instead of curtsying in deference or apologizing for the collision, I marched straight past her, up the stairs, and into my tiny servant’s bedroom.


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