Maria and Claudia climbed the steps to their train car. The sisters had flown to Montpelier. Now they were taking a train on the Central Vermont Railway. They were traveling to see their aunts who lived in a very old house near Highgate Springs.
"I am glad we will finally put an end to our disagreement," said Maria.
"So am I," agreed Claudia. "Let's hope our aunts will let us see the room."
As the train rumbled along by the Winsooki River, Maria and Claudia talked about their childhood visits with their aunts.
"Whenever I went by the little door off the kitchen, I saw bright sunshine under the door," said Maria. "One day, I quietly opened the door. The room was filled with sunshine. There was a big window. The furniture was brightly painted. There were shells everywhere."
"Did you go inside?" Claudia asked.
"I tried," Maria said. "I opened the door once. But Aunt Bedelia saw me and cried, 'Come away from there this instant!' I never was brave enough to open that door again."
"I remember the room," Claudia said. "It was not at all as you saw it, Maria. When I was little, the door off the kitchen always had a cool breeze blowing under it. I could smell flowers in the breeze. One day, I opened the door. The room was cool and dark. Red velvet curtains covered the window. The walls were covered with beautiful wallpaper. There were vases of deep red roses. The roses were the flowers I could smell when the breeze came under the door."
"Did you ever step inside the room?" Maria asked.
Claudia shook her head. "I tried, too. But Aunt Magnolia came up behind me and cried, 'Come away from there this instant!' I was never brave enough to open the door again," she said.
"Isn't it strange? We remember the room so differently," Maria said.
"I wonder why Aunt Bedelia and Aunt Magnolia did not want us to go into the room," Claudia said.
"It's quite a mystery," Maria answered.
The train clacked and creaked along the tracks.
"It will be good to see Aunt Bedelia and Aunt Magnolia again," Claudia said.
"I wonder if they have changed much since we last saw them," Maria said.
"I just hope they will finally let us see the room," Claudia said.
Maria and Claudia took a taxi to the old house where their aunts lived. The aunts were standing on the front porch when they arrived. The girls ran to the porch and hugged their aunts.
Maria said, "We hope you can solve a mystery for us. Both of us remember a little door off of the kitchen. I remember a room full of bright sunlight and seashells. Claudia remembers a room full of cool breezes, shadows, and roses. Who is right?"
The aunts looked at each other. Aunt Bedelia said, "Perhaps you are old enough to understand. Magnolia, please get the lamp."
Aunt Magnolia stood up. She picked up an oil lamp from the table.
Aunt Bedelia said, "The room you remember does not have shells in it. It does not have roses in it. Come and have a look."
The two young ladies followed their aunts to the little door off the kitchen. Aunt Magnolia held the lamp. Aunt Bedelia unlocked the door.
Claudia and Maria saw the stairs to the cellar. In the center of the cellar was a wooden marker that read:
Shelly and Rose
December 31, 1948
Maria and Claudia stared at the marker.
"One winter night," Aunt Bedelia began, "when your Aunt Magnolia and I were only a little older than you are now, there was a terrible snowstorm. We heard a knock at the door. It was a young woman. She had a little baby that was wrapped in a shawl."
Aunt Magnolia continued the story. "We took the young woman and her baby in. She was almost frozen from the storm. We bundled them into bed with extra blankets. We built up the fire to make the room warmer. We fed them hot soup. We did our best to take care of the young woman and her baby. When morning came, both the baby and the young woman had died in their sleep."
Aunt Bedelia said, "We did not know what to do. It was winter and the ground outside was frozen. We had to bury them in the cellar. The ground was softer because it was warmed by the house. The young woman had a note in her hand. The note said, 'Take care of my Rose -- Shelly.'"
Aunt Magnolia shook her head and said, "Some days this is just our cellar with a wooden marker in the center of it. On other days, it is a room filled with sunshine and seashells."
"Other days, it is a room filled with roses and shadows," said Aunt Bedelia.
"Did you ever find out who they were?" Claudia asked.
Aunt Bedelia answered, "We could not find anyone who knew the young woman. All we had was the note she was holding in her hand."
Aunt Magnolia said, "I think the young woman knew we tried to help her. Whenever the room appears, there is a happy feeling in it."
"If the room is sunny and bright, you feel like dancing and singing. If the room is filled with roses, you feel peaceful," said Aunt Bedelia.
Maria, Claudia, Aunt Bedelia, and Aunt Magnolia walked back up the stairs.
"I did not know your house was haunted. That would have scared me when I was little," Maria said.
"That is why we did not want you to go into the room," Aunt Bedelia said.
"We did not want you to be frightened," Aunt Magnolia said.
As the young women and their aunts stepped back into the kitchen, the steps began to fade.
If they had looked back, they would have seen that the room was bright and sunny. There were many seashells scattered about. There were vases of deep red roses on the tabletops. A young woman sat in a rocking chair and sang softly to a sweet little baby.
In the final section, we'll scare you silly when you read about a haunted restaurant in the next story, "Ghost Hunters."