Page:Colymbia (1873).djvu/13

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7
A VOYAGE AND ITS END.

plan would excel vessels of the ordinary build both in speed and in safety. The owners of the line of Australian packets my father knew, struck with the originality and plausibility of the new system, had entrusted the inventor with the building of a ship on his plan, and the vessel I was now in, appropriately named the Precursor, was the result, and this was her first voyage.

Before we started, she was an object of much curiosity, and though certain old and experienced shipbuilders shook their heads, they did not venture to speak out their objections amid the general clamour of applause that proceeded from the self-constituted critics who understood all about shipbuilding by intuition and without the drudgery of learning. The passengers shared the enthusiasm of the inventor, and were confident we should make the swiftest and pleasantest voyage on record. I was surprised to find that the passengers were so few in number, considering the general chorus of admiration the construction of the vessel had elicited. While some vessels of the old construction, which started about the same time as ourselves for the same destination, were crammed full, we had ample room for three times as many as we had on board.

I noticed, also, that the crew consisted chiefly of young and inexperienced-looking hands, mingled with some old sailors of dissipated and disreputable appearance, who did not inspire me with much confidence in their nautical knowledge, their moral character or their physical powers.

I was informed by one of my fellow-passengers that the underwriters at Lloyd's had insisted on an unusually heavy premium of insurance, but he