After a nervous four day wait, I got the telephone call I had hoped would come! It was a call from Mrs. Montgomery, the person in charge of hiring a maid for the 1860 mansion that captivated my thoughts awake and asleep! I had never been what you would call a “Southern Belle,” nor did I have that “Southern Accent” but Mobile, Alabama was truly my home. I had intensely searching the employment section of the newspaper hoping to find a job that would not only keep money in the bank but also be enjoyable.
That’s when by fate or accident, I came across the ad in search of a maid at a pristine mansion called Montgomery Estates. It was an evening position and that was perfect for me. I followed the directions in the paper and I was speechless. If I hadn’t known better I would have sworn that the mansion before me was straight out of the movie called, “Gone With The Wind!” From the wrought iron fence to the well-manicured lawns to the ivory white pillars it was truly a breathtaking estate.
I made my way to the front door, remembering the words spoken to me “so-matter-of-factly.” The lady on the phone said; “Miss Woods. I’m happy to inform you that your application has been accepted for the position of Maid; but there is still one more interview to be completed. Could you come by the estate between say 3 pm and 5 pm?” Before I let the meaning of ‘A second interview’ sink in; I asked her if 4 pm was agreeable and she said yes.
It was four hours before I was to arrive and the more I thought about this next interview; something kept bothering me. I was absolutely sure that she said that I got the job; yet why was there a second interview? If I failed this interview, did that mean that now, I didn’t get the job? I didn’t know at that moment if I should have felt excited or mad? So I did what I always did when I felt life was stressing me out.
I went to my easel, set out my paint colors and picked up my brush. Painting was my first love and without it, how could life ever be as enjoyable? Though it was easy for me to let time slip away when I was painting, this time was an exception. I kept a close eye on the time, cleaned up, and changed clothes and true to my word, I arrived just a few minutes before 4 pm. Why was my heart racing?
As my eyes looked over the mansion once more I could have sworn I was being watched from one of the upstairs windows. That was when my eyes saw a white curtain move. Perhaps it was once of the day maids or even Mrs. Montgomery herself, checking to see if I had arrived? Well; this was, ‘Show Time.’ I said to myself as I stepped out of my car and made my way to the front door.
Nervously I rang the bell and waited. A maid in a blue outfit with white apron and bonnet opened the door, and politely welcomed me inside. Even though this was my second time inside this historic mansion, the main staircase still took my breath away by its craftsmanship. From the chandeliers to the grand piano, to the four pillars to the hardwood floors, this home whispered elegance.
I was shown to what I would call a parlor and sat down nervously on a comfortable chair. A few minutes Mrs. Montgomery appeared and I stood. She smiled and motioned for me to relax and sit back down. “Now I can tell from the look in your eyes, that you’re wondering why I’m interviewing you a second time when I told you on the phone you were hired.” she said with a smile.
I’ve always been told that my face was an open book to my thoughts. “The truth is Emily, this is a quite unusual position and mansion as you will soon discover.” Mrs. Montgomery said. As I sat there she began telling me about the history of Montgomery Estates. I discovered the history of the mansion decade by decade as if I had lived in this house every moment. It was as if the house breathed its voice through her lips.
Time seemed to stop at that moment for both of us as I drank in all she shared with me. Then she stopped and I thought that was the end but it wasn’t. She lowered her eyes and took a deep breath and when she looked up into my eyes, I saw hesitation; almost fear. “Emily, do you believe in ghosts? You know the spirits of those who have departed. Do you believe they can stay in a physical place if they have unfinished business?” she asked.
All that came out of my mouth at that time was two words; “Unfinished business?” Then Mrs. Montgomery’s concern changed to a soft smile as she began to speak. “Well Emily, this interview is the most important one because you see, well, this house has a ghost; a female ghost. She doesn’t haunt this mansion. She’s just sort of waiting.” Mrs. Montgomery told me. “Waiting?” I asked. “Waiting for what?”
For the longest time there was silence in that parlor as Mrs. Montgomery looked for the best way to tell a story I would years later pass onto other maids who also came to work at Montgomery Estates. “In 1981 Mary Montgomery lived in this house and on her 22nd birthday she was to be wed to a handsome man named Scott Anderson, a fine boy. He was serving in the Army, stationed in Korea for his tour of duty.
He was on his way back to the states when the plane he was on crashed while attempting to land at Huntsville International Airport. One of its wheels collapsed and the plane tipped and skidded as it burst into flames. The newspaper said that Scott saved three passengers before going back inside the burning plane to rescue someone else, and died.” Mrs. Montgomery said. There was silence in that room for such a long time after those words were spoken.
Suddenly my train of thought became distracted as I saw a maid watering flowers outside the room I was in. The blue and white outfit looked very nice on her. As I turned my attention back to Mrs. Montgomery, I saw she was opening up a folder and looking through the pages before she looked back at me. “If you’re still interested in the position Emily I’d like to go through some of the many reports written about sightings of Mary!” she said.
I told Mrs. Montgomery I wasn’t frightened of Mary, if anything, I was captivated by her loneliness to stay and wait for the return of the young man she loved so deeply. For nearly an hour, Mrs. Montgomery read to me times when maids, servant, cooks and groundskeepers had seen Mary throughout the past 26 years. “Mary has been heard playing the piano at the bottom of the grand stairs, seen in the library reading a book, walking up or down the stairs.
But more often than anything she was heard.” she told me. I asked Mrs. Montgomery what Mary had said to the staff,” and she replied; “Nothing.” She saw the curious look on my face and pointed over to the door behind me. I turned and saw the small chime hanging next to the door. “Mary’s never spoken to any of us Emily. But we’ve always known when she was in a room or passing by us because, as you will discover later, the mansion is filled with chimes.
It was my idea to place chimes throughout the house, from the basement to the kitchen to the bedrooms on the second floor. It was my way of letting my daughter know she was not alone Emily. Yes Mary was and will always be my daughter.” she told me with tears in her eyes and mine as well. “You see, everyone in this mansion talks to Mary when they hear the chimes ring as she passes near.
We all love her and miss her deeply. And most importantly, because she has chosen to stay behind to wander this house for as long as she chooses too, I want her to know she’s not been forgotten.” Mrs. Montgomery told me. As we both wiped our eyes, Mrs. Montgomery had one last question to ask of me. “So know you know all that I’ve told every person hired at this estate since my daughter died.
And I ask you now, the same question I asked each new hire before you. Would you still like to accept the position of maid at Wellington Estate?” Mrs. Montgomery asked. At the same time she asked me, I blurted out the word; “Yes!” tears flowed down my cheeks. It was a time of comfort for both of us and I don’t know who needed that much needed hug more at that moment, me or she? “Well, congratulations Emily.” she told me with a smile.
“There is much to do before we assign you your first shift Emily. I did tell you it was to be a 4-midnight position swing-shift position?” Mrs. Montgomery asked. I nodded yes. “Good. Well, I’ll need a copy of your driver’s license and Social Security Number for tax purposes Emily.” Mrs. Montgomery said with a smile. I smiled at her as I reached into my purse and handed her a copy of both documents. As she laughed I heard her say that I was efficient and that we’d get along just fine.
She excused herself for a moment and asked me to wait. I couldn’t describe the feeling I had at that moment about this house, or the ghost of her daughter. I was in awe was as close as I could try to describe myself. When Mrs. Montgomery returned, she introduced, Savannah to me. She would become to be my mentor and friend. “Savannah’s been a housekeeper here for almost five years. She’ll show you to your room Emily and afterwards familiarize you with all the rooms and your duties.
Please don’t think that you’ll be tested or have to remember everything. Welcome to Montgomery Estates. Savannah will handle your scheduling when she feels you’re ready for your first shift. In the meantime, I know she'll introduce you to all the other staff. Please make sure you let her know when you plan on moving what belongings you have to your room.” Mrs. Montgomery told me as she reached out her hand. I shook Mrs. Montgomery’s hand and Savannah nodded her head in respect and she was gone.
Savannah was close to my age and she seemed excited that I was, ‘the new girl.’ She asked me my name again and I told her it was Emily. “That’s a pretty name and you’re going to love working here Emily. And your room, Oh my Gosh, you’re gonna faint when you see your room!” Savannah said. I saw a look of jealousy in her eyes when she said that. “Mary will like you too I’m sure though only on occasion does any of us hear her walking nearby. Did Mrs. Montgomery explain about all the chimes in the house to you?” Savannah asked.
I nodded yes and she replied; “Good, then let me show you to your room.” We walked up the beautiful stairs, turned left and stopped at the third door on the right. When she gently opened the door I could have fainted. At that moment I felt like I had been dreaming. Never before seen such a breathtakingly beautiful and spacious room in my life. From the canopy bed to the fireplace to the blue chairs and private desk, everything was absolutely perfect.
As we walked inside I couldn’t see a single thing out of place and not a spot of dust. “I know the position doesn’t pay that well but would you ever believe that this would be where you would call home Emily?” Savannah asked with a grin. At that moment, I hadn’t heard a word of what Savannah had said. I was in shock. That was when she touched my arm and said; “Come, let me show you all the rooms. I’ll even show you Mary’s room. Then I’ll introduce you to the rest of the staff. We all live here Emily.
Oh, and if ya need any help moving your clothes and stuff I’d be happy to help if I can.” Savannah said. I thanked Savannah but reassured her that I’d be just fine. Room after room we visited, including Mary’s room. Nothing was out of place and I loved how each room was decorated. I was shown so much stuff that Savannah was quick to laugh and tell me with a soft laughter; “Everyone who gets hired thinks that it’s overwhelming at first Emily but it isn’t really.
Everyone will be glad to answer your questions. We all had to learn.” As we continued the tour, from time to time we ran into other staff busy in their tasks and they stopped for a moment, shook my hand and welcomed me to Montgomery Estates. In truth, I had never been made to feel so welcome in any job I had ever had. It was a house and job I hoped I would never give up. At that instant, the chime by the kitchen window closest to Amelia, the cook began to sound and all three of us were quiet.
It was Amelia, who greeted Mary first. “Good afternoon Mary, I’m so glad you’re here. It’s a beautiful day indeed. Mary, this is Emily; she’ll be the maid during the evenings in a few days. She’s very nice Mary and I hope you’ll make her feel welcome too.” Amelia said with a smile as she nodded at me. Only silence could be heard but there were three smiles I could see for sure in that kitchen.
I never heard her leave; so in a way maybe I envisioned her looking out the window at the beautiful trees and fine trimmed lawns. When Savannah and I left the kitchen, she said; “Well that’s your first tour of the house. When I see you again, after you’ve moved your things in, I’ll show you around some more and even give you a map of the house. We eat breakfast, lunch and supper at set times so don’t be late, unless you’re away from the house, seeing you’ll be working evenings.
But you’re welcome to drop by the kitchen for a snack anytime if you want to. Just make yourself at home.” She gave me a short hug and handed me a piece of paper. “That’s the address of Annie’s Alterations down on 42nd street Emily. They’re expecting you tomorrow so you can be fitted for your maid outfits. You get three sets and don’t worry. Someone will clean them for you each week.” she told me with a wide smile.
Just as I was walking towards the front door Savannah asked me one last question. “Emily; is the job all you could imagine?” All I could say was; “Yes, and so much more.” We waved goodbye to each other and I got into my car and went back to my apartment. A million thoughts raced through my mind as I drove down the street towards home. I was so excited, I talked with my sister Betty on my cell phone almost all the way back to my apartment. It wasn't even 15 minutes after I had opened my front door and opened the windows to let fresh air in that Betty arrived.
Over two tall glasses of sweet tea, I re-told her everything that had happened to me at Wellington Estates, including the chimes moving by themselves. Betty tried to tell me it must have been some kind of prank but I assured her there was no one near the chimes and no wires. I really saw the chimes move. I really heard them. I asked her if she would help bring over boxes and help me put things in storage. I planned to pay the storage company for 12 months’ rent.
At the end of that time I was sure I would know whether I wanted to stay on at Montgomery Estates. Betty and I discussed my options and plans for my future as an artist. But I assured her that the hours would be perfect for me to pursue my painting career and more importantly, being able to display my paintings in local shop windows. She agreed that I could work and make money which was a win-win situation.
But I could see there was a certain level of nervousness in her eyes about my living in a mansion that was haunted. I told Betty all that I could remember that Mrs. Montgomery had shared with me about Mary. A part of me shared the same sadness that Mrs. Montgomery had. Both Betty and I had lost our mother and father in 1972 in a plane crash. It was to be a wonderful vacation for them in the mountains of Tennessee.