He looked as if he expected the answer from Tressilian, so true was Lambourne’s observation that the superior air of breeding and dignity shone through the disguise of an inferior dress. But it was Michael who replied to him, with the easy familiarity of an old friend, and a tone which seemed unembarrassed by any doubt of the most cordial reception.
“Ha! my dear friend and ingle, Tony Foster!” he exclaimed, seizing upon the unwilling hand, and shaking it with such emphasis as almost to stagger the sturdy frame of the person whom he addressed, “how fares it with you for many a long year? What! have you altogether forgotten your friend, gossip, and playfellow, Michael Lambourne?”
“Michael Lambourne!” said Foster, looking at him a moment; then dropping his eyes, and with little ceremony extricating his hand from the friendly grasp of the person by whom he was addressed, “are you Michael Lambourne?”
“Ay; sure as you are Anthony Foster,” replied Lambourne.
“’Tis well,” answered his sullen host. “And what may Michael Lambourne expect from his visit hither?”
“Voto A DIOS,” answered Lambourne, “I expected a better welcome than I am like to meet, I think.”
“Why, thou gallows-bird—thou jail-rat—thou friend of the hangman and his customers!” replied Foster, “hast thou the assurance to expect countenance from any one whose neck is beyond the compass of a Tyburn tippet?”
“It may be with me as you say,” replied Lambourne; “and suppose I grant it to be so for argument’s sake, I were still good enough society for mine ancient friend Anthony Fire-the-Fagot, though he be, for the present, by some indescribable title, the master of Cumnor Place.”
“Hark you, Michael Lambourne,” said Foster; “you are a gambler now, and live by the counting of chances—compute me the odds that I do not, on this instant, throw you out of that window into the ditch there.”
“Twenty to one that you do not,” answered the sturdy visitor.
“And wherefore, I pray you?” demanded Anthony Foster, setting his teeth and compressing his lips, like one who endeavours to suppress some violent internal emotion.
“Because,” said Lambourne coolly, “you dare not for your life lay a finger on me. I am younger and stronger than you, and have in me a double portion of the fighting devil, though not, it may be, quite so much of the undermining fiend, that finds an underground way to his purpose—who hides halters under folk’s pillows, and who puts rats-bane into their porridge, as the stage-play says.”