There were no Lojbandians about, so we were able to discuss our predicament. I was for telling the Colonel Horski all about Fred and the fungus we had found, but BabyJane refused to consider this. We were near to quarreling and the morning was passing quickly.
“Even if we tell the colonel,” she said, “He’s not going to let us go.”
“We could offer to grow the fungus for Lojbandia,” I suggested like a coward.
“I am Loglandian,” BabyJane replied stifßy, “The fungus belongs to Loglandia.”
I heard something moving at the edge of the forest and looked up. Hoover was lying there under a bush, looking carefully about him. When he was satisȚed that the coast was clear, he came stealthily out of his cover and trotted towards us. With him were two otter-dogs.
Hoover kept watch, while the otter-dogs, which have abnormally sharp teeth, started to chew at the ropes that bound our wrists to the tree. After a few minutes the last strand parted and we were free. Hoover barked softly.
Three huge cross-tails came galloping out of the forest, with another dunno.which.way—the latter was herding two horses. Hoover joined in, bringing the horses to a stop beside us, while the cross-tails tore into the camp, pulling at tent ropes. A Lojbandian came out of one tent but before he could raise his weapon a cross-tail had him on the ground.
We quickly jumped on the back of the horses. There was no saddle or bridle, but Hoover and the other dunno.which.way snapped at the horses’ heels and guided them straight into the forest. I heard shots behind us and looked back as I crouched on the horse’s back, clinging to the mane. One of the cross-tails was writhing on the ground.
Once in the forest we had to cling on for dear life, as the horses swerved between the trees at a fast canter. We kept up that pace for perhaps twenty minutes, then, as we came to the bank of a stream, Hoover made the horses stop. The otter-dogs and the two remaining cross-tails circled round us, wagging their tails. Then the otter-dogs slipped into the water and swam away down stream.
We continued at a more leisurely pace, the dunno.which.ways herding our horses, and the cross-tails some way away, one ahead of us and the other behind, guarding our little convoy.
After a while we came out of the forest, and rode down a broad valley of pastures and farms. BabyJane said that we were now well away from the territory claimed by the Lojbandians. Finally we came close to a farm; the horses turned in at the gate and came to a halt in the farm yard. The farmer and his wife, together with several children rushed out of the house.
They exclaimed with pleasure at seeing the horses, which belonged to them. They had been worried when they found that the horses had disappeared the day before, and wondered if they had been stolen.
We explained what had happened, and that Hoover had borrowed the horses for our rescue. They took us inside and plied us with food and drink while we telephoned the Air Force to arrange for the helicopter to pick us up.
The cross-tails and the other dunno.which.way did not come from that farm. We wrote a note and taped a copy to each of their collars, explaining that the third cross-tail had died gallantly protecting us. They stayed with us until the helicopter arrived. As we took off from the Țeld beside the farm, we saw them loping away down the valley.