by Georgette Heyer
"I have something to say to you first, my lord," returned Miss Challoner calmly.
"Good God, girl, do you suppose it was to hear you talk that I brought you to France?" Vidal said derisively. "I'll swear you know better than that!"
"Perhaps," admitted Miss Challoner. "Nevertheless, sir, I beg you will listen to me. You won't pretend, I hope, that you are fallen in love with me."
"Love?" he said scornfully. "No, madam. I feel no more love for you than I felt for your pretty sister. But you've thrown yourself at my head, and by God I'll take you!" His eyes ran over her. "You've a mighty trim figure, my dear, and from what I can discover, more brain than Sophia. You lack her beauty, but I'm not repining."
She looked gravely up at him. "My lord, if you take me, it will be for revenge, I think. Have I deserved so bitter a punishment?"
"You're not very complimentary, are you?" he mocked.
She rose, holding her pistol behind her. "Let me go now," she said. "You do not want me, and indeed I think you have punished me enough."
"Oh, that's it, is it?" he said. "Are you piqued that I liked Sophia better? Never heed it, my dear; I've forgotten the wench already."
"My lord," she said desperately, "indeed I am not what you think me!"
He burst into one of his wild laughs, and she realized that in this mood she could make no impression upon him.
He was advancing towards her. She brought her right hand from behind her, and levelled the pistol. "Stand where you are!" she said. "If you come one step nearer I shall shoot you down."
He stopped short. "Where did you get that thing?" he demanded.
"Out of your coach," she answered.
"Is it loaded?"
"I don't know," said Miss Challoner, incurably truthful.
He began to laugh again, and walked forward. "Shoot then," he invited, "and we shall know. For I'm coming several steps nearer, my lady."
Miss Challoner saw that he meant it, shut her eyes, and resolutely pulled the trigger. There was a deafening report and the Marquis went staggering back. He recovered in a moment. "It was loaded," he said coolly.