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It's a story book world we live in, if we just know where to find the stories. Harvard has had its Copey and Kitty and Irving Babbitt, its arch-patriotic presidents and its bad butter. Given time our section men, still damp behind the cars, will grow beards, and be venerable and beloved; but why wait so long? One of the best stories is to be had now, west end of the Indoor Athletic Building, Fencing Room.
Rene Peroy has been at Harvard for eleven years, during which time he has given us some of the best teams in the country, and at least two intercollegiate champions, one of whom went on to the Olympics at Berlin in 1936. This winter one of Harvard's strong points will again be in fencing, for the team may well lead the league.
It's almost impossible to believe that Peroy won his first fencing prize in 1896. Short, with sparkling eyes, a greying military mustache, slight French accent and a barrel chest, he resembles nothing so much as a bamtam cock. Nearly every day, shortly ater luncheon, he pulls on his huge gloves, tips his mask over his face and begins to fence, not stopping till five o'clock or later.
In France he was something of a boy wonder. Before the age of twenty he had swept the amateur ranks to emerge as foil champion. Then for two years he taught the French army artillery officers how a gentleman should handle any or all of the three weapons. In 1909 he came to the United States, but he did no fencing until 1922, when he joined the New York Fencing Club. In that one year he achieved the unprecedented feat of rising from novice, to junior, to senior champion. The climax came in 1928, when he successfully defended the United States in foil at the Olympics.
The best fencer he ever fought, he will tell you, was Joe Levis, 1937 American amateur foil champion. And thereby hangs a tale, for that match was one of Peroy's last exhibition appearances. It was a sports announcer's dream of youth versus age and cunning, and true to the best Hollywood form, the old war horse won a smashing victory. His last touch was an artist's farewell, an inimitable stroke, a daring lunge so fast that it was never parried.
To sit and watch him is to wonder more and more at this little Gaul. Like a cat, he is at once perfectly relaxed and hair-trigger quick. Parry, parry, feint, feint-his man hopelessly out of position-touche! Like an angler playing a fish is one simile that comes to mind. Echoes have been heard of his merry wit. And he once drove racing cars, though he ruefully admits that he never won a race. Yet the most engaging thing about him is his perfect courtesy. A raw-boned and awkward freshman steps before him. Nothing is right about his stance. His parries are slow and his disengage circles huge. Patiently Peroy begins to iron out the main difficulties, showing him how to put his feet, relax his wrist, lunge, cut to the head. At the end of about fifteen minutes, he salutes him as he would the most formidable opponent, smilingly steps up and shakes his hand, and beckons to the next man.
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