The island in front of the two men was green with trees and mountains climbed high into the sky. The men in the boat paddled* closer. They could see a beach. It was empty. The sun was hot and the men were thirsty. They wanted to find a river. They needed fresh* water to drink.
One of the men, Evans, said: ‘It is somewhere in there, in the forest*.’
The other man at the front of the boat, Hooker, looked at the beach, the forest and the island closely. A yellow piece of paper sat on his legs.
‘Come and look at this,’ Hooker said.
Evans came along the boat until he could see the paper. The paper looked like a map*. It was old and yellow. There was a drawing of an island on it, but the pencil lines were faint*.
Both men spoke quietly: their mouths were dry with thirst.
‘Look,’ said Evans, ‘here is the beach and the forest and here are the mountains.’ He ran his finger over the paper. It followed the river across the island. ‘I could do with a drink now,’ he said and ran the back of his hand over his mouth. ‘We can get a drink of cold water from the river.’
‘And look at this,’ said Hooker. ‘The blue star on the map is the place. We can follow the river. It goes into the forest; then it goes to the blue star. That is the place! We must be careful. We mustn’t get lost.’
‘Strange,’ said Evans, ‘but those marks* down at the bottom of the map are unusual. They look like glass or teeth. They point this way and that. What are they? And what is that writing? ‘
‘I don’t know about the marks – but the writing is Chinese,’ said Hooker.
‘Of course – he was Chinese,’ said Evans.
‘They all were,’ said Hooker.
Both men sat quietly and looked at the island. The boat moved slowly towards the beach. Evans looked at his paddle. ‘Your turn to paddle now Hooker,’ he said.
Hooker quietly put the map away in his pocket and took the paddle from Evans. He was tired but he kept going. He needed water badly.
*paddled – used an oar to move a boat forward
*fresh – not old, not seawater
*forest – many trees
*map – a diagram that shows where places are
*faint – not strong, difficult to see or hear
*marks – lines, figures or symbols