"It's," said this customer at the bar, "what I personally would want to call-and anyone else can call it what the hell they like for all I care -" Hogg listened respectfully, half-bowed, wiping dry a glass from which a very noisy woman, an actress or something, had drunk and eaten a Pimm's Number One. "But it's what I, speaking for myself, would call -" Hogg burnished an indelible veronica of lipstick, waiting for some highly idiosyncratic pay-off, not just the just word but the word just with just this customer's personal brand of justness. "A barefaced liberty." Hogg bowed deeper in tiny dissatisfaction. He had been a word-man himself once (nay, still-but best to lock all that up: they had said those days were past, trundled off by time's rollicking draymen, empties, and they knew best, or said they did. Still -) "A man's name's his name, all said and done." You couldn't say what this man had just said. A liberty was diabolical; it was lies that were barefaced. Hogg had learned so much during his season with the salt of the earth, barmen and suchlike. But he said, blandly:
"It's very kind of you, sir, to feel that way about it."
"That's all right," said this customer, brushing the locution towards Hogg as though it were a tip.
"But they didn't call it after me, sir, in a manner of speaking." That was good, that was: genuine barman. "They brought me in here, as you might say, because the place was already called what it is."
"There's been plenty named Hogg," said the customer sternly. "There was this man that was a saint and started these schools where all these kids were in rags. They had to be in rags or they wouldn't have them in. It was like what they call a school uniform. And there's this Hogg that was a lord and gave it up to be prime minister but he didn't get it so he goes round ringing bells and telling them all off."
"There was also James Hogg, the poet," said Hogg, unwisely.
"You leave poets out of it."
"The Ettrick shepherd he was known as, in a manner of speaking. Pope in worsted stockings."
"And religion as well." This customer, who had had no lunch except whisky, grew louder. "I might be an Arsee, for all you know. Respect a man's colour and creed and you won't go far wrong. I take a man as I find him." He spread his jacket like wings to show green braces. Hogg looked uneasily across the near-empty bar. The clock said five to three. John, the tall sardonic Spaniard who waited on, the Head Steward's nark, he was taking it all in all right. Hogg sweated gently.
"What I mean is," said flustered Hogg, "this bar was called Piggy's Sty because of the man that was here before me." John the Spaniard sneered across. "Sir," added Hogg.
"And you won't go far wrong is what I say."
"It was to do with the people that started these hotels," said Hogg urgently. "They had a Hogg over there when they started. He brought them luck and he died. Americans they were."
"I can take them or leave them. We fought side by side in both lots. They did as much good as harm, and I hope they'll say as much about you." He slid his empty glass towards Hogg, impelling it as though it were a child's match-box ten-ton truck.
"Similar, sir?" asked Hogg, barman's pride pushing through the fluster.
"No, I'll try one of theirs. If the Yanks run this place then they'll likely know what's what." Hogg didn't get that. "What they call bourbon. That bottle there with the nigger on." Hogg measured out a double slug of Old Rastus. "With branch-water," said this customer. Hogg filled a little pig-shaped jug from a tap. He rang up the money and said:
"They wouldn't have false pretences, that being their policy, as you might say. They said that customers like things genuine in the States and it's got to be the same here too. So it had to be a Hogg."
The customer, as though testing his neck for fracture, swivelled his head slowly, taking in Piggy's Sty. It was one of many whimsically-named bars in this tall but thin hotel, London's new pride. This bar and the Wessex Saddleback, where at this moment there were a lot of thick-necked Rotarians sweating on to charred gristle, made up nearly the whole of the tenth floor. You could see much of autumn London from the windows of the bar (on which artificial trotter-prints were like a warning). You could see an ape-architecture of office-blocks, the pewter river, trees that had scattered order-paper leaves all about Westminster, Wren and his God like babes in the wood, the dust of shattered Whig residences thrown by the wind. But this customer looked only on the frieze of laughing tumbling porkers, the piggy-banks with broken saddles to make ashtrays, little plastic troughs with plastic chrysanthemums in them. He turned back to Hogg to nod at him in grudging admiration as though he, Hogg, had made all this.
"Closing now, sir," said Hogg. "One for the road, sir?"
"You wouldn't catch them daring to take the mike out of my name," said the customer. He now winked pleasantly at Hogg. "Not that I'd give them the chance. A man's name is his own." He laid his finger to his nose, as though to cool the inflammation which Hogg's stepmother had used to call Harry Syphilis, winking still. "Catch me." He smirked, as though his name was something he had won and was going to hug greedily to his chest till he got home. "I'll have some of our own now after that nigger stuff. A wee drappie. Och aye. There's a wee wifey waiting." Hogg daringly poured Scotch into the glass that had held bourbon. John had his eyes on his two leaving customers.
"Electric shepherds," said one of these, a man who might well be a pig-farmer and yet had not seemed really at home in Piggy's Sty. "It'll come to that, I daresay." He was with a man in clerical grey, etiolated as by a life of insurance. They both nodded at Spanish John and then went out. John showed them a baroque shrine of golden teeth and said: "Zhentilmen." Then he picked up their glasses and brought them to the counter for Hogg to wash. Hogg looked on him with hate.
"But what I say is," said the one customer left, "it's an insult to the name of your old dad. That's the way to look at it." He descended his stool with care. John bowed and bowed, his gob all bits of fractured doubloon. The customer grunted, dove into his trouser-pocket and brought up a half-crown. This he gave to John; to Hogg he gave nothing. John bowed and bowed, baring deeper and deeper gold deposits. Hogg said:
"Actually, it was my mother's."
"Eh?" The customer squinted at him.
"What I mean is, Hogg was my mum's name, not my dad's."
"I don't come in here," said the customer, "to have the piss took." A certain lowness was coming out now. "You watch it."
Hogg sulked. He had gone too far again. And this horrible John had, as before, been a witness. But Hogg had spoken truth. Hogg had been the maiden name of that barely imaginable sweet woman, singing "Passing By" to her own accompaniment, Banksia and Macartney and Wichuraiana vainly opposing their scents to hers through the open french window. His father, O-ing out the smoke of a Passing Cloud while he listened, his father had been called -
"I like a laugh same as the next one, but watch it, that's all." And the customer left, going aaarkbrokhhh on his stomach of whisky. Hogg and Spanish John faced each other.
"Puerco," said John, for so he translated Hogg's mother's name. "You speak other time of poetry, not good. Get on with bloody job is right way."
"Nark," growled Hogg. "Tell Holden if you want to. A fat lot I care." Holden was the Head Steward, a big man hidden behind secretaries and banks of flowers, an American who sometimes pretended he was Canadian. He would talk of cricket. It was something to do with American trade policy.
"I say bugrall this time," promised John generously. "This time not big. Last time very big."
Well, it hadn't really been Hogg's fault. A group of young fattish television producers had been there for dinner, cramming down peanuts with the martinis, going "Ja" when they meant "yes." They had talked loudly of the sexual mores of certain prominent actresses and, by a natural transition, had been led on to a discussion of poetry. They had misquoted something by T. S. Eliot and Hogg, off his guard, had put them right. This had interested them, and they had tried him on other poets, of all of whom-Wunn, Gain, Lamis, Harkin, some such names-Hogg had never heard. The television men had seemed to sneer at him, a common barman, for knowing; now they sneered at him for not knowing. The leader of the ja-sayers fed himself, in the manner of a Malaysian rice-eater, with a shovel-hand loaded with salty peanuts, sneering at the same time. He said, indistinctly, "Wenggerggy."
"Who?" said Hogg. He had begun to tremble. There was a phantom girl hovering near the pig-pink (chopped-ham-and-pork-pink, to be accurate) ceiling, a scroll in her hand, queenly shoulders nacreous above a Regency ballgown. Hogg knew her all too well. Had she not deserted him a long time ago? Now she smiled encouragingly, unrolling her scroll coquettishly though, an allumeuse. "Did you say Enderby?" asked Hogg, shaking beneath his barman's white bum-freezer and frowning. The girl swooped down to just behind him, flat-handed him on the nape, and then shoved the wide-open scroll in front of his eyes. He found himself reciting confidentially, as in threat:
"Bells broke in the long Sunday, a dressing-gown day.
The childless couple basked in the central heat.
The papers came on time, the enormous meat
Sang in the oven. On thick carpets lay
Thin panther kittens locked in clawless play -"
"Ah, Jesus -"
"A sonnet yet -"
Hogg glowered at this one, a small gesturing man, and prepared to say "For cough." But instead he went stoutly on:
"Bodies were firm, their tongues clean and their feet
Uncalloused. All their wine was new and sweet.
Recorders, unaccompanied, crooned away -"
At this moment another television man came in, one they had apparently all been waiting for. He was much like the others, very pasty. They clawed at him passionately, shouting.
"The Minetta Tavern -"
"Goody's on Sixth Avenue -"
There was a solitary man at the counter, one who had ordered by pointing; he wore dark glasses; his mouth had opened at Hogg and let cigarette smoke wander out at him. The tabled customers, aware of the intrusion of verse-rhythm into the formlessness of chat, had all been looking at Hogg. Spanish John stood shaking his head, nastily pleased.
"No more verse-fest," said the chief peanut-eater to Hogg. "More martinis."
"Wait," said Hogg, "for the bloody sestet."
"Oh, let's go in," the newcomer said, "I'm starving." And so they all shouted off to the Wessex Saddleback, clawing and going ja. Hogg turned gloomily to the man in dark glasses and said:
"They could have waited for the bloody sestet. No manners nowadays. It's a miracle, that's what they don't seem to realise. I tried for years to get that thing right, and only then it just came to me." He suddenly felt guilty and began to excuse himself. "Another man, though. Not really me. It's a long story. Rehabilitation they call it." The man had said:
"Nye ponimaiu." That was why he had started pointing again. Hogg, sighing, had measured out a large globule of an Iron Curtain glycerine-smelling aperitif. Must watch himself. He was happy now, wasn't he? Useful citizen.
It was after that occasion that he had been summoned to see Mr Holden, a man desperately balding as though to get into Time magazine. Mr Holden had said:
"You were on a sticky wicket there, ja. A straight bat and keep your eye on the pitcher. This is a respectable hotel and you are a sort of gliding presence in white, that's your image, ja. You've done well to get here after so short an innings in the profession. Self-employed before, that's what it says in your dossier. Well, whatever it was is no concern of the management. Though it's beginning to sound as though it wasn't quite com eel foe. Still, the pairst is pairst. The cream of global citizenry pairsses through these portals. They don't want bar-tenders telling them to keep their tongues clean. And you said something about our cellar that was libellous, but he may have balled that up, so we'll let it pairss. It's your name that's your asset, remember that. Carry your bat, brother, or you'll find yourself no-balled PDQ."
Past, was it? The past, that is. He did something there was no law against doing shortly after. If anybody found out they would have him on television, sandwiched between a dustman who collected Meissen and a bank-clerk who had taught his dog to smoke a pipe. A curiosity at best. At worst a traitor. To what, though? To what a traitor would he be regarded as? And now, a month after, he was frowning while he compared his takings with the roll in the till that recorded each several amount rung. He would have to take the money in a little box to the huge clacking hotel treasury full of comptometers that-so Larry in the Harlequin Bar upstairs had asserted-if programmed proper could be made to see right through to your very soul. And then he had an appointment. In (his breast swelled minimally) Harley Street. To your very soul, eh? He felt uneasy. But, damn it, he had done no real wrong, surely? When John Milton clocked in to do his daily stint of translation of Cromwell into Latin, had they not perhaps used to say: "All right that was, that thing you pinned up on the wall about Fairfax and the siege of Colchester. You carry on"? He, Hogg, had not pinned anything up, though, by God, one of these days-He had merely -
"My brother," John was saying, "now he work in Tangier. At Big Fat White Doggy Wog, bloody daft name for bar. Billy Gomez, everybody know him. Good on knife if trouble, ah yes, man." He made a bloodthirsty queeeeeking noise and drove a ghost-stiletto at Hogg's hidden puddings. "He say poetry, but now not. Good poetry. Spanish poetry. Gonzalo de Berceo, Juan Ruiz, Ferrant S'anchez Calavera, Jorge Manrique, G'ongora-good poetry. England too fackin cold for good poetry. English man no fuego. Like bloody fish, hombre."
"I'll give you no fuego," said Hogg, incensed. "We gave you mucho bloody fuego in 1588, bastards, and we'll do it again. Garlicky sods. I'll give you no good poetry." A ruff went round his neck. He stroked a spade-beard, enditing. The sky was red with fireships. Then he saw himself in the gross reredos mirror, his cross reflection framed in foreign bottles, a decently shaven barman in glasses, going, like Mr. Holden, rapidly bald.
"We go eat now," said John. In the hotel's intestines steamed an employees' cafeteria, full of the noise of shovelled chips and heady with Daddies Sauce. A social organiser walked regularly between the tables, trying to get up table-tennis tournaments. John's empty stomach castanetted dully.
"I don't want to eat," sulked Hogg. "I'm full up already. Chocker, that's what I am."