It was very early. Ernest had no business being awake because he had no job and knew no one, was on his way nowhere and had no prospects for the day. Nonetheless, he was hungry and couldn’t sleep. He was very poor.

I am a reader of books, he said to himself. That is why I am poor. 

It was, of course, an excellent reason for being poor, and one of the oldest. 

Today, he told himself, I will write the poem that will make me famous. 

He had a sense of what such a poem would be like, but every time he went to write it down, it fled. He was a sensitive young man, as they say, of average height, with clear gray eyes and light-colored hair that was neither brown nor yellow, but somewhere in between. He was known among the people he used to know for being a bit wild—not strong or capable or tough, just wild, reckless. Once, someone even fell in love with him for that single quality. 

His room was a very slight matter—a mattress, a few stacks of books arranged around the bed, a few noteboo…