Read The African Queen Online

Authors: C. S. Forester

The African Queen

A classic story of adventure and romance—
the novel that inspired the legendary movie starring
Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart

“A fast-moving tale and a very good yarn . . . Mr. Forester
again and again proves himself a master of suspense.”

— New York Times Book Review

As World War I reaches the heart of the African jungle, Charlie Allnutt and Rose Sayer, a disheveled trader and an English spinster missionary, find themselves thrown together by circumstance. Fighting time, heat, malaria, and bullets, they make their escape on the rickety steamboat
The African Queen
. . . and hatch their own outrageous military plan. Originally published in 1935,
The African Queen
is a tale replete with vintage Forester drama—unrelenting suspense, reckless heroism, impromptu military maneuvers, near-death experiences—and a good old-fashioned love story to boot.

In praise of C. S. Forester
and
The African Queen

“I recommend Forester to every literate I know.”

— Ernest Hemingway

“The
African Queen
was certainly no lady in Kipling’s sense . . . The
Queen
was probably as ugly, incompetent, and dilapidated a thirty-foot launch as one would be likely to find afloat . . . But under the deft hand of C. S. Forester she becomes the instrument of high adventure.”

— Percy Hutchison,
New York Times Book Review

“The African Queen
is an excellent and exciting novel of action ... Here is somebody who has an undeniable gift for telling a rattling yarn but who tells it in a clean, direct, and supple prose—sound prose, without affectation or bravado. Forester can construct a tight and exciting plot ... He can handle history with vivid accuracy and yet never bog down in historical detail ... And in spite of success, Foresters books still stay unpredictable—which is one of the essential virtues of C. S. Forester.”

— Stephen Vincent and Rosemary Benet,

New York Herald Tribune

“Mr. Forester very likely has never seen Central Africa, and knows of the River Uganda merely by hearsay, but he can create an atmosphere that is what the fiction lover demands.”

— Amy Lovemen,
Saturday Review of Literature

“C. S. Forester is one of the great masters of narrative.”


San Francisco Chronicle

A Note about Cecil Scott Forester
and
The African Queen

C. S. Forester (1899-1966) was an accomplished biographer, journalist, and sometime screenwriter, as well as the author of many popular novels, including
The African Queen, The Barbary Pirates, The General, The Good Shepherd, The Gun, The Last Nine Days of the “Bismarck,”
and
Rifleman Dodd.
But Forester is probably best known as the creator of Horatio Hornblower, a British naval genius of the Napoleonic era, whose exploits and adventures on the high seas Forester chronicled in a series of eleven acclaimed historical novels.

Born Cecil Louis Troughton Smith in Cairo, Egypt, C. S. Forester grew up in England. After a brief stint as a poet, he was able to devote himself exclusively to his writing thanks to the great success of the stage and screen versions of his novel
Payment Deferred
(which also helped launch Charles Laughton’s career as an actor).

Equal parts adventure and romance, Forester’s
The African Queen
has won the hearts of generations of readers and moviegoers. The novel received both critical and popular acclaim when it first appeared in 1932; the legendary film, based on the novel, was released in 1951. Directed by John Huston, starring Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart, the film won Bogart his sole Academy Award and went on to become one of the most popular films of all time.

At the start of World War II Forester traveled on behalf of the British government to America, where he produced propaganda encouraging the United States to remain on Britain’s side. After the war, he remained in America and made Berkeley, California, his home. Forester died in 1966 while writing the last of the Hornblower novels,
Hornblower During the Crisis.

By C. S. Forester

The Hornblower Saga

MR. MIDSHIPMAN HORNBLOWER
LIEUTENANT HORNBLOWER
HORNBLOWER AND THE
HOTSPUR
HORNBLOWER DURING THE CRISIS
HORNBLOWER AND THE
ATROPOS
BEAT TO QUARTERS
SHIP OF THE LINE
FLYING COLOURS
COMMODORE HORNBLOWER
LORD HORNBLOWER
ADMIRAL HORNBLOWER IN THE WEST INDIES

Also

RIFLEMAN DODD
THE GUN
THE PEACEMAKER
THE AFRICAN QUEEN
THE GENERAL
BROWN ON RESOLUTION
TO THE INDIES
THE CAPTAIN FROM CONNECTICUT
PAYMENT DEFERRED
THE SHIP
THE SKY AND THE FOREST
RANDALL AND THE RIVER OF TIME
THE BARBARY PIRATES
THE NIGHTMARE
THE GOOD SHEPHERD
THE AGE OF FIGHTING SAIL
THE LAST NINE DAYS OF THE
BISMARCK

COPYRIGHT 1935 BY CECIL SCOTT FORESTER; COPYRIGHT 1940
BY RANDOM HOUSE, INC.; COPYRIGHT © RENEWED 1963 BY
CECIL SCOTT FORESTER; COPYRIGHT © RENEWED 1968
BY DOROTHY E. FORESTER

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. NO PART OF THIS BOOK MAY BE REPRODUCED IN ANY FORM OR BY ANY ELECTRONIC OR MECHANICAL MEANS, INCLUDING INFORMATION STORAGE AND RETRIEVAL SYSTEMS, WITHOUT PERMISSION IN WRITING FROM THE PUBLISHER, EXCEPT BY A REVIEWER WHO MAY QUOTE BRIEF PASSAGES IN A REVIEW.

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN HARDCOVER IN THE UNITED STATES
BY LITTLE, BROWN AND COMPANY
REISSUED IN PAPERBACK BY BACK BAY BOOKS, NOVEMBER 2000

ISBN 0-316-28910-8
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CONTROL NO. 83-83340

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Q-FF

TEXT DESIGN BY MERYL SUSSMAN LEVAVI/DIGITEXT
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

CONTENTS

THE AFRICAN QUEEN

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 1

A
LTHOUGH
she herself was ill enough to justify being in bed had she been a person weak-minded enough to give up, Rose Sayer could see that her brother, the Reverend Samuel Sayer, was far more ill. He was very, very weak indeed, and when he knelt to offer up the evening prayer the movement was more like an involuntary collapse than a purposed gesture, and the hands which he raised trembled violently. Rose could see, in the moment before she devoutly closed her eyes, how thin and transparent those hands were, and how the bones of the wrists could be seen with almost the definition of a skeleton’s.

The damp heat of the African forest seemed to be intensified with the coming of the night, which closed in upon them while they prayed. The hands which Rose clasped together were wet as though dipped in water, and she could feel the streams of sweat running down beneath her clothes as she knelt, and forming two little pools at the backs of her bent knees. It was this sensation which helped most to reconcile Rose’s conscience to the absence, in this her approaching middle age, of her corset—a garment without which, so she had always been taught, no woman of the age of fourteen and upwards ever appeared in public. A corset, in fact, was quite an impossibility in Central Africa, although Rose had resolutely put aside, as promptings of the evil one, all the thoughts she had occasionally found forming in her mind of wearing no underclothing at all beneath her white drill frock.

Under the stress of this wet heat that notion even returned at this solemn moment of prayer, but Rose spurned it and bent her mind once more with anguished intensity to the prayer which Samuel was offering in his feeble voice and with his halting utterance. Samuel prayed for heavenly guidance in the ordering of their lives, and for the forgiveness of their sins. Then, as he began to utter his customary petition for the blessing of God upon the mission, his voice faltered more and more. The mission, to which they had given their lives, could hardly be said to exist, now that Von Hanneken and his troops had descended upon the place and had swept off the entire village, converts and heathen alike, to be soldiers or bearers in the Army of German Central Africa, which he was assembling. Livestock and poultry, pots and pans and foodstuffs, all had been taken, even the portable chapel, leaving only the mission bungalow standing on the edge of the deserted clearing. So the weakness vanished from Samuel’s voice as he went on to pray that the awful calamity of war which had descended upon the world would soon pass away, that the slaughter and destruction would cease, and that when they had regained their sanity men would turn from war to universal peace. And with the utterance of the last of his petition Samuel’s voice grew stronger yet, as he prayed that the Almighty would bless the arms of England, and carry her safely through this the severest of all her trials, and would crown her efforts with victory over the godless militarists who had brought about this disaster. There was a ring of fighting spirit in Samuel’s voice as he said this, and an Old Testament flavour in his speech, as another Samuel had once prayed for victory over the Amalekites.

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