By Upton Sinclair
I am telling the story of Sylvia Castleman. I should prefer to tell it without mention of myself; but it was written in the book of fate that I should be a decisive factor in her life, and so her story pre supposes mine. I imagine the impatience of a reader, who is promised a heroine out of a romantic and picturesque "society" world, and finds himself beginning with the autobiography of a farmer's wife on a solitary homestead in Manitoba. But then I remember that Sylvia found me interesting. Putting myself in her place, remembering her eager questions and her exclamations, I am able to see myself as a heroine of fiction. I was to Sylvia a new and miraculous thing, a self-made woman. I must have been the first "common" person she had ever known intimately. She had seen us afar off, and wondered vaguely about us, consoling herself with the reflection that we probably did not know enough to be unhappy over our sad lot in life. But here I was, actually a soul like herself and it happened that I knew more than she did, and of things she desperately needed to know. So all the luxury, power and prestige that had been given to Sylvia Castleman seemed as nothing beside Mary Abbott, with her modern attitude and her common sense. My girlhood was spent upon a farm in Iowa. My father had eight children, and he drank. Sometimes he struck me; and so it came about that at the age of seventeen I ran away with a boy of twenty who worked upon a neighbor’s farm. I wanted a home of my own, and Tom had some money saved up. We journeyed to Manitoba, and took out a homestead, where I spent the next twenty years of my life in a hand to hand struggle with Nature which seemed simply incredible to Sylvia when I told her of it.