After this everything went easily. The beach at Rope Hauen is steep-to; and with the light breeze there was hardly a ripple on it. On a rising tide we ran the boats in straight upon the shingle; and in less than a minute the kegs were being hove out. By the light of the lantern on the beach I could see the shifting faces of the crowd, and the troop of horses standing behind, quite quiet, shoulder to shoulder, shaved from forelock to tail, all smooth and shining with grease. I had heard of these Cornish horses, and how closely they were clipped; but these beat all I had ever imagined. I could see no hair on them; and I saw them quite close; for in the hurry each horse, as his turn came, was run out alongside the boat; the man who led him standing knee-deep until the kegs were slung across by the single girth. As soon as this was done, a slap on the rump sent the beast shoreward, and the man scrambled out after him. There was scarcely any talk, and no noise except that caused by the wading of men and horses.
Now all this time I carried my parcel of little dolls in a satchel slung at my shoulder, and was wondering to whom I ought to deliver it. I knew a word or two of English, picked up from the smugglers that used to be common as skate at Roscoff in those days; so I made shift to ask one of the men alongside where the freighter might be. As well as I could make out, he said that the freighter was not on the beach; but he pointed to a tall man standing beside the lantern and gave me to understand that this was the “deputy.” So I slipped over the gunwale and waded ashore towards him.
As I came near, the man moved out of the light, and strolled away into the darkness to the left, I don’t know upon what errand. I ran after him, as I thought, but missed him. I stood still to listen. This side of the track was quite deserted, but the noise of the runners behind me, though not loud, was enough to confuse the sound of his footsteps. After a moment, though, I heard a slight scraping of shingle, and ran forward again—plump against the warm body of some living thing.
It was a black mare, standing here close under the cliff, with the kegs ready strapped upon her. I saw the dark forms of other horses behind, and while I patted the mare’s shoulder, and she turned her head to sniff and nuzzle me, another horse came up laden from the water and joined the troop behind, no man leading or following. The queer thing about my mare, though, was that her coat had no grease on it like the others, but was close and smooth as satin, and her mane as long as a colt’s. She seemed so friendly that I, who had never sat astride a horse in my life, took a sudden desire to try what it felt like. So I walked round, and finding a low rock on the other side, I mounted it and laid my hands on her mane.