It seemed to Marie to be a shameful thing that she kept nodding off, but she couldn't help it. Bess's gait was most easy, and she was so tired. The strain of the day's events, not to mention the blow to her face when she fell, had built up a great lethargy, and she kept giving in to the need to sleep.
She awoke with a jolt when a chill wind hit her cheek. She shivered. The moon's light had diminished due to an obscuring bank of clouds. With the wind picking up, she feared it would soon rain, so she urged Bess to overtake Mr. Alderson once more.
"Will we camp before the storm comes?" she asked him, a note of anxiety making her voice sound high and thin to her ears.
Mr. Alderson looked up at the sky and tilted his head. "I imagine we do need to seek shelter. Look for any trees, or a butte we can camp beside." He patted her hand. "We'll be safe. Don't worry."
"I can't help a bit of nerves."
"So you can't. Let me relieve your mind. I'll do the worrying from now on." He smiled in the dim light and gave her hand a final pat before turning away.
Marie heaved a sigh and let Mr. Alderson take the lead again. Perhaps all would be well with Mr. Alderson doing the thinking. After all, she was entrusting her entire life and future to him. She felt a bit of her burden lifting from her shoulders. Yes, all will be well.
After a while, she heard a laugh from Mr. Alderson.
"See there? I believe we've come upon a stream. We'll have good shelter there."
Soon they were dismounting near the bank, and found the wind was cut somewhat by a stand of oak trees that lined the creek.
"I'll water the horses. You find wood and build a fire," Mr. Alderson said.
Marie nodded, grateful that the rain hadn't yet started. She'd still be able to find dry kindling for her fire. She hurried to her task, and gathered enough kindling, sticks, and branches for a small fire. Mr. Alderson could search out more wood later, if they needed to keep the fire going for long. She hoped he had a hand ax in one of his saddlebags, in case he needed to cut a large branch.
After arranging her wood to her satisfaction on a patch of earth she had scraped bare, she put a piece of cotton wool underneath, and struck flint and steel together until the resultant sparks set the tinder to smoldering in a couple of places. She carefully blew on the best spots, then pulled back when they burst into flame. She pushed the tinder together so the flames would intensify, and soon the kindling was ablaze. It didn't take long until her sticks were also afire, and she rocked back on her heels to admire her work.
Have you ever built your own campfire? When and where?