How many troops do we embark?' inquired Philip.
'Two hundred and forty-five rank and file, and six officers. Poor fellows! There are but few of them will ever return; nay, more than one-half will not see another birthday. It is a dreadful climate. I have landed three hundred men at that horrid hole, and in six months, even before I had sailed, there were not one hundred left alive.'
'It is almost murder to send them there,' observed Philip.
'Pshaw! They must die somewhere, and if they die a little sooner, what matter? Life is a commodity to be bought and sold like any other. We send out so much manufactured goods and so much money to barter for Indian commodities. We also send out so much life, and it gives a good return to the Company.'
'But not to the poor soldiers, I am afraid.'
'No; the Company buy it cheap and sell it dear,' replied the captain, who walked forward.
True, thought Philip, they do purchase human life cheap, and make a rare profit of it, for without these poor fellows how could they hold their possessions in spite of native and foreign enemies? For what a paltry and cheap annuity do these men sell their lives? For what a miserable pittance do they dare all the horrors of a most deadly climate, without a chance, a hope of return to their native land, where they might happily repair their exhausted energies, and take a new lease of life!