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A Voice from fhe Silence by f-Ioward L. Terry EDITORS' PREFACE The following excerpt is more notable for its being written by a deaf author than for its insight into deafness or for its literary merit. Howard L. Terry is the only published deaf novelist, but he rarely wrote about deafness or used deaf characters, the character in this story, Jack Harlow, being the only important one. And, indeed, even with Harlow we learn very little of how Terry viewed the deaf experience . Harlow is merely an incidental character in the novel and useful as a deaf character per se only because he was able to read Gibbs' lips without Gibbs knowing. However, we can forgive Terry his avoiding the subject of deafness. This novel was written over a half century ago when public interest in handicapped people or in minority groups of any sort was still dormant. The primary concern in America at that time was in assimilating the scattered, wildly heterogeneous patchwork quilt of American society into a unified whole-it was the time of the "melting pot" and the diminution of differences, not a time like today of the search for ethnic roots, of black pride, of the Jewish Defense League, or ofIndians going back to the tribe. Little wonder that Terry, although deafhimself, still wrote novels about the lives of "mainstream" Americans rather than about people who were at that time forgotten citizens: the deaf. It is enough that a deaf man was able to write and publish novels; we cannot ask that he also crusade at a time when such a crusade would probably, if you will pardon us, have fallen on deaf ears. 261 • From DeafAuthors • FROM A VOICE FROM THE SILENCE Where Gibbs got his original capital, no one knew, but he did get it and lent it at ten per cent, and even more when he had some poor farmer at his mercy, getting richer as time passed. No one that had good security need fear to ask for a loan. He was rarely away from town, and then only as far as the county seat, except when called by business demands. He was careful of his speech, yet ready to joke; sharp in all business transactions, acquainted with every one for miles around, stingy, uncharitable, unloving. He smiled at the young ladies, but had never been known to calion one socially. To increase his bank account had been his sole aim; to enjoy his gain, or to use it for the common good was never in his mind. Greed of gain, as time passed, had developed into a mania, a mental disease. In physical make-up Gibbs was short and square set, with a firm chin and well set features. In dress he was always neat, but cared nothing for fashion. He was a man in whom no one could pick a legal flaw. He followed a calling if not uplifting, allowed by law; he troubled no one, and he was agreeable in conversation when not angered. "Duncan," began Gibbs, drawing his chair up to the table and filling his plate with yesterday's leftovers, "Duncan, the Mutual has got me-got most of my notes, and there is no use to expect any more business so long as this combine is running. The only good thing that I have left is the Woodcraft eighty, and it isn't lawfully mine at that, you know." He looked out of the window as a caution. "Now, you are the only one that knows how things stand, and if we don't act at once we'll lose the land." He looked around in his usual cautious manner, and seeing the front door slightly ajar, got up and locked it. "There," he said, reseating himself, "now we can feel safe. That squab, Jene 262 • A Voice from the Silence • Anderson, has made fools of us. Nevertheless, I can't help admire him-ain't afraid of anyone, good at plannin' and executing. "Now it's our turn. Listen, Tom!" Gibbs set down his knife and fork, and looking calmly into his companion's face, went on: "All these twenty years, or nearly twenty, your life's been in my hands, since that hour when you, in your haste and recklessness, laid Buck Martin low. A single word from me would have got you hanged." Duncan shuddered. "Excepting me, not a soul either in this country or on earth, for that matter, ever...


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