The boy was picking marbles, standing knee-deep in the water. He seemed to be seeking something in particular. He would pick one marble, peer at it and, not satisfied, discard it.
The air was noisy. Morning birds chasing their worms, wind mercilessly rustling leaves, a distant roar of a hungry animal – there was quite a lively din. The boy, focussed as he was in his quest, did not pause to listen to the Sounds of Nature.
His destination was the snow-capped peak at the distance, to which he would gaze longingly, whenever Defeat threatened to overwhelm him. He had to finish picking the marbles from the river before he could attempt the Mountain. He knew that the ones he was seeking lay towards the middle of the river, but he preferred to stay clear of the eddies and the whirls.
A bright-eyed doe had stopped by the riverside to watch him. She did not return after quenching her thirst, as her friends did. She would edge closer, and step back in alarm when he splashed the water with a rejected marble.
He stopped a moment to observe the fish that were swimming upstream. Their perseverance amazed him; nevertheless he fought to suppress the tinge of envy that was deafening him. But they were fish, and he was not. Their purpose was not his, and they were bound to reach their goals way ahead of him.
He bent down to his work again, shaking his head to ward off the ill effects of loneliness.
He would eye the friendly doe now and then, talk to her sometimes. She would vanish for a while apparently to satisfy her appetite, and then reappear, and walk alongside him as he moved up the river. He knew she would not follow forever, some day or the other she would stop when it was no longer possible for her to accompany him.
He would have to go on from there, alone.
The Marbles… the Mountain… the Quest… They were all for him to conquer.