“Why do they still use iron railings, Mr Benson?” Ollie worked his shoulders before getting back to rubbing the paint down.
“Hm?” Mr Benson was checking the cans of paint. “Make sure you get a good surface on those railings. Get all the gloss off before we paint it.”
“But why don’t they put in those Perspex panels?” Ollie said. He tried to find a better angle. “Lots of places have those panels. And they don’t need much upkeep.”
“Never try and talk yourself out of a job, lad.” Mr Benson squinted at the fine print on the tins of paint. “It may only be work experience, but it’s better than nothing at all, and it gets you out in the fresh air. If it was them new panels then you wouldn’t need someone to paint them. No, they have to be cold iron.”
Ollie changed hands, now thankful that Mr Benson had insisted on gloves. “Why iron, Mr Benson. Why not wood, if you need to make jobs and keep people out of the ruins.”
“Iron is special.” Mr Benson said, shaking the tin. “It’s long lasting, if you look after it. You can shape it more or less how you like, and it’s been around for a while so you know what to expect.” He looked down at the young lad. “You’re doing alright there, lad. Yes, iron is special. There’s a lot of superstitions about iron, you know. They say fairies and elves can’t stand it.” He paused. “I suppose I can tell you what I learned as an apprentice, when I was about your age. I don’t know how true it is, but it’s what Mr Harvey, the old gaffer, used to say. You see, this was a fine Abbey, very rich, with lots of monks and servants and despite what they say, a lot of good was done as well as a lot of bad. But when the Abbey was closed down by King Henry, something odd happened.” He paused. “Don’t forget to rub under than ledge there with the glass paper.”
Ollie shifted, changing the paper from one hand to the other again as cramp set in. “You mean, like witchcraft?”
“I don’t know about that, just that strange things happened.” Mr Benson looked between the railings. “All I know is that people still see strange lights inside the Abbey at night, when no-one’s supposed to be there. Sometimes iron railings aren’t there to keep people out. Sometimes they’re there to keep something in.”