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Authors: Susan Hill

The Service Of Clouds

BOOK: The Service Of Clouds
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Contents
 

Cover

About the Author

Also by Susan Hill

Praise

Dedication

Title Page

Epigraph

 

Part One

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-One

 

Part Two

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

 

Part Three

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

 

Copyright

About the Author

Susan Hill was born in Scarborough and educated at King’s College, London. Her novels include
Gentleman and Ladies, I’m the King of the Castle
(Somerset Maugham Award),
Strange Meeting, The Bird of Night
(Whitbread Award),
A Bit of Singing and Dancing, In the Springtime of the Year, The Woman in Black, Air and Angels, The Mist in the Mirror
and
Mrs de Winter. The Woman in Black
has been adapted for the stage and has been running in the West End since 1988. Her children’s books include
Can It Be True?
(Smarties Prize),
The Glass Angels
and
King of Kings
.

 

Susan Hill lives in Gloucestershire with her husband, the Shakespeare scholar, Stanley Wells, from where she runs her small publishing company, Long Barn Books.

ALSO BY SUSAN HILL

Fiction

 

Gentleman and Ladies

A Change for the Better

I’m the King of the Castle

The Albatross and Other Stories

Strange Meeting

The Bird of Night

A Bit of Singing and Dancing

In the Springtime of the Year

The Woman in Black

The Mist in the Mirror

Mrs de Winter

Air and Angels

Non-Fiction

 

The Magic Apple Tree

Family

Children’s Books

 

One Night at a Time

Can It Be True?

The Glass Angels

‘Remarkably enjoyable … Terrible, heart-stopping moments, and rendered by a master story-teller … Enjoy Susan Hill’s enduring sense of the numinous’

Sunday Telegraph

 

‘Beautifully written and intensely sad. Disappointment, evanescence, death, are seen poetically and so given dignity and calm’

Daily Telegraph

 

‘There is no denying the power of Hill’s work and the bravery of its unblinking gaze’

Evening Standard

 

‘Movingly and sensitively wrought, this latest novel from one of our most spiritually observant writers penetrates new layers of human entanglements and desires…Told through a carefully controlled double narrative, this compelling novel explores emotional deprivation and its effects through the generations’

Good Housekeeping

 

‘This beautifully written, unusual novel is a condemnation of what is done – or not done – for the dying … a tale of exquisite honesty. The writing is ravishing … The novel is a model of restraint, of nuance and of truthfulness’

Country Life

 

For Jessica and Simon

The brave ones.

Susan Hill
T
HE
S
ERVICE
OF
C
LOUDS
 

Out of perfect light and motionless air, we find ourselves on a sudden brought under sombre skies, and into drifting wind; and with fickle sunbeams flashing on our face, or utterly drenched with sweep of rain, we are reduced to track the changes of the shadows on the grass, or watch the rents of twilight through angry cloud … The aspects of sunset and sunrise, with all their attendant phenomena of cloud and mist, are watchfully delineated; and in ordinary daylight landscape, the sky is considered of so much importance, that a principal mass of foliage, or a whole foreground, is unhesitatingly thrown into shade merely to bring out the form of a white cloud. So that, if a general and characteristic name were needed for modern landscape art, none better could be invented than ‘the service of clouds’.

John Ruskin,
Modern Painters

PART ONE
 
One
 

‘Where am I?’

‘Well, you’re in your bed.’

‘Not my bed.’

‘Are you not comfortable, dear?’

‘Not your dear.’

A thread of spittle worked its way down a seam in the flesh beside her crumpled mouth.

‘Where am I?’

‘In the hospital. Let me just wipe your chin now.’

‘Who am I?’

‘Well, you’re Mrs Annie Hare.’

Silence then. The young nurse with red hair wiped the mouth of the old woman, Annie Hare, and looked at the clock, which made no sound either, and twitched the top sheet and the hand that rested there, yellow as a chicken’s claw, twitched with it.

‘Who am I?’

‘You’re Annie Hare.’ She hated to sit with the dying.

Rain beaded the windows, and slipped down them, making no sound.

‘Who was I?’

The girl panicked then and rang the bell and ran for Sister.

(Later, at home, the story would expand, puffed out by her own little hysteria. She would say that the old woman had known,
hadn’t she, had surely been given some vision or other premonition of her own impending death.
Who was I?
she said, not
Who am I?
‘which you could easily understand, oh, that happens almost every day with people who are delirious, in some bit of fever or other, you don’t have to be dying to lose yourself temporarily’. No, it was,
Who was I?
She knew then. They do.)

‘Who was I?’

They had telephoned him, even at half past one in the morning.

She was his patient; it was not that they needed him.

‘He’ll come,’ the Sister had said, snapping the curtains sharply around the bed rail.

The old woman did not start; she had slipped way down beyond sudden noises now.

‘There won’t be anything he can do, will there? Why ever would he bother coming?’

‘He likes death,’ she said, and turned her back on the girl and walked away down the long room.

(Which would make more to tell, in the confident, off-hand tone of one who knew about all such things, the tone of voice that impressed the girl’s father and made her mother proud and her brothers sneer. ‘He likes death, that doctor. Well, some do, it’s well known.’ Though she herself could not fathom it, not in any way.)

The ward was half empty. Flat, un-pillowed beds were lined against the window, with great spaces in shadow. The girl moved closer into the sheltering circle of light around the desk. She was nineteen. She hated the night duties when one of them was dying.

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