Bill was sitting in the glow of the fire as the rest of the party slept. He was a watcher, and a night owl, so this kind of duty came naturally to him. His only discomfort this night was in knowing that they would reach St. Louis soon, possibly even tomorrow, and his journey would come to an end.
There were rustlings coming from under one of the wagons and Bill squinted into the dark to see the preacher's dog turning itself around and lying back down. Bill always cringed a little bit when he heard noises coming from that particular wagon. It only meant trouble. The preacher had obviously taken his 'go forth and prospers' seriously because every one of the numerous females on this trip were either his spawn or blood relation and every one of them moony over Jack.
Well, every female but one. Katherine slept on the ground by the fire now. There were a pair of evenings early on when she'd taken up on the preacher's wife's offer of a feather tick in the wagon but it proved too much and too close for her in that sea of ribbons and hope chests. She found that she was tired enough now to sleep anywhere, and the ground would suit her well enough.
Jack was also camped close to the fire and Bill knew from past experience that Jack was a man who took his rest seriously. Boots off, toe poking out of his sock, and his head kicked back snoring to the stars, sleeping and fighting were about the only things he knew Jack to take seriously. He was equally good at both, but the remainder of his hours on earth were spent in orneriness that knew no bounds.
Jack was an easy man with the ladies and had naturally turned his attentions to Katherine. She had remained polite and focused—that was until the morning she had come around the wagon to find the preacher's dog wearing Bill's uniform shirt and cap, perched on the saddle of Bill's horse, with Jack standing below and giving the dog a full salute. It didn't help that Bill had chosen that moment to come around the other side of the wagon asking: "Where the blazes is my shirt?".
Katherine didn't laugh. She giggled. "Full schoolgirl giggle with a half-snort chaser" is what Jack would call it later. From that moment, the hunt was on. Jack'd done everything in his power –including several timely handstands---to try and elicit a second laugh. If Bill hadn't been so fond of his friend he'd have shot him. As this fondness did exist, the closest he could bring himself was to imagining smothering the snoring bastard in his sleep.