by Misty ©

The storm had been ravaging the coastline now for some weeks and showed no signs of letting up.  Winds at times reaching hurricane force #1 and 2 strength battered away at the beach and Hannah's log cabin, which sat high upon a cliffside overlooking the ocean on the Sunshine Coast.

Hannah was glad to be snug inside, nice and warm with her floor to ceiling river stone fireplace which was multi-purpose; complete with a stove upon which she could cook, and get lots of heat as well.  Being as the winds often cut power, she had a back up generator for just-in-case.

As Hannah lay on the couch sitting propped up with pillows, and armed with her trusty wireless laptop, she began what was to be her latest short story.  She had given much thought to a topic, but to no avail for sometime now, but today an idea came and would not leave her mind.

This was to be about some local folklore she had heard going back over a hundred years ago; and no one knew if it was true or false.

The mere fact it was suppose to have taken place right on the Sunshine Coast made it all the more interesting.  Hannah had done some research on it just to satisfy her own curiosity and found it to be a true story.

The story went that many years ago there was a lady known as the "Gatherer", for she was always gathering one thing or another, mostly natural things laying either in the forest, or on the sandy beaches.

Rumor had it that her shanty was filled with shells, rocks, glass bottles and herbs of all kinds.  They also said that she made special potion's or cures from the herbs, flora, and fauna that she gathered.  None knew that Heather had learned all about the making of the medicines from an old native indian shaman many years ago.

Her given name apart from her local nickname was Heather, which supposedly stemmed from her scottish ancestry.  Yet no one ever referred to her by her given name, at least not when they were talking about her behind her back.  She had become somewhat of a topic for discussion, as there was not too much else to discuss in such a desolate place amongst the locals.

It was also told that during the late fall and winter of 1890 almost all of the folk on the island came down with a bad virus, as did many of the regular fishermen who moored there for safe harbour, when there was a storm at sea.  It was so bad that several folk died.

One of the folk who didn't wish to sit around waiting for that to happen to his ailing children was Jake Coombs, so he set out to go and ask the gatherer for help.

As he walked up to Heather's shanty he had only one thought in mind, to get a cure for his children.  He knocked twice quite loudly, which came out of his desperation.  The big door slowly opened and there stood the gatherer.

Jake was surprised to see a tall, slender woman who was quite handsome in her features, and not at all what he had envisioned.  He knew she was old, but did not appear so.  She in fact looked ageless.

Yes, may I help you Heather spoke.  Well ah, yeh, sure, I came from over yonder a few miles and well I, oh hell, I'm desperate maam; my little one's are ailing something terrible, and I don't know what to do. 

Folks hereabouts talk a lot about you and your concoction's and potions, no disrespect maam, I was just was hoping you might have something that will help my children to get better.

Come in out of the rain Mr. ahh, Heather paused.  Oh beggin your pardon maam my name is Jake, yeh Jake Coombs.  Very well Mr. Coombs, I might be able to fix up some herbs that will at least help to make your children more comfortable and ease their fevers.

Heather put a large mug in front of Jake.  Here Mr. Coombs drink this hot tea it will warm you and take the chill off while I prepare the herbs.  Why thankyou maam, mighty kind of you, boy this sure tastes good and I'm warmin up already.  Good, just sit and stay warm by the fire, and I will have the herbs ready shortly.  Thankyou maam for your kindness.

Heather was gone a brief while and returned with a long, tall, large bottle filled with a green liquid.  Here, Mr. Coombs this should help.  I want you to make some hot tea for your children and put a good tablespoon of this liquid in each cup.  Give it to the children 3 times each day, preferably in the morning, then at noon hour, and lastly at bedtime.

Well I'm mighty grateful to you maam, I will do everything just as you say, and I do certainly appreciate all your trouble.  Now, just how much do I owe you maam?  Oh no, no Mr.Coombs the herb medicine is free.

I gathered it free, and the bottle that is now well sterilized was free, all I paid for was the cork at the general store.  Then I'll pay you for the cork maam.  No please sir, just take care of your children, and I wish you well.  Thankyou maam Jake replied now heading out into the pouring rain with the large, tall bottle tucked safely inside of his coat.

Jake left and hurried back home to begin the orders of giving his children the gatherer's medicine.  Within the next few weeks most all of the islander's had come down with this unknown virus, as well as many of the fisherman.

Heather had been asked to help, and that she did.  She had some of the men still able to assist her in putting up several large tents and cots. This would be where the walking ill, and those who were much more seriously ill could stay and receive the gatherer's medicine and constant care.

Hours, days, and a few weeks later there were several deaths; but for most lives were saved, and the virus that had come so quickly from heaven know's where; seemed to disappear just as it had come, and all of the ill were now either fully recovered or in the process of recovery.

Things were slowly starting to get back to normal once again, thanks to the endless hard work of Heather and her herbal medicine.  Jake looked around and smiled, his children were running around now and fully recovered.  Yes, it looked like the worst was over.

All of a sudden Heather cried out.  Jake, oh Jake please help me.  He caught Heather in his arms as she fainted.  She had been working non-stop for days, going without sleep or eating much and it had not bode well for her.

Jake gently picked her up and carried her to a cot nearby and lay her down, covering her with a nice warm blanket.  Slowly Heather started to come around, but it was apparent by the beads of persperation on her brow that she now too had the virus, complete with a raging fever.

Oh, maam your sick, real sick I'm so sorry, I best give you some of the medicine.  Jake it won't help it's too late now, it's my heart and my age, just keep me warm and hot liquids will do.

Jake followed Heather's instructions to the letter, but nothing seemed to help her, slowly hour by hour he knew she was fading, and come morning she had crossed over to be with the lord.

As Jake made the announcement to the islander folk and fisherman, all were greatly saddened of the passing of the strong, giving woman called the gatherer.  She was truly a healer and had done so unselfishly at the cost of her own life.

They held a quiet funeral for Heather complete with a white cross that was placed upon her resting place.  Many of the woman folk brought flowers, so much so, that it looked almost like a blanket.

Jake read from the scipture's of the bible, then in closing asked that all those present to keep this unselfish soul, the gatherer, in their everyday prayers, and give thanks for all of the lives she had saved.  Lastly he added she had now gone home, and was at rest in the arms of the lord.

Hannah now felt enough was told of the legend of the gatherer, one that she had heard for so many years, and that had happened so long ago.  But she now felt a kinship to this remarkable woman who gave of herself completely, and unselfishly.

Well I guess that says it all, Hannah spoke to herself, her eyes now a bit weary after all the research and gazing at the computer in the fading light.  Rest and be at peace Heather, your story in now a written, and with that Hannah's story ended.

And as it was with Hannah's story mine too is also now at an end, and so with that I close.