“Shame on you and the Duchess for holding out on me,” said Fortie, smacking his lips with a sharp glint in his eye. He didn't notice the children at all. Bullmina held his attention as she circled around the humans with great excitement.
Bullmina barked and jumped up at the Duke, wondering why he hadn't greeted her as he usually did.
“Sit!” commanded Fortie, continuing to inspect Bullmina thoroughly with his eyes. Thanks to her training sessions with Sebastian and Patrick, Bullmina immediately complied and sat like the princess she was. “What a fine girl," said Fortie, kneeling down and running his hands over the Bulldog. Bullmina didn't flinch at all over being thoroughly inspected by an unknown set of hands, as long as the Duke and Duchess were there. "I say, your Lordship," remarked Fortie, probing Bullmina's jaws and checking her teeth, "this one’s quite a stunning bitch. Has she whelped a litter yet?”
At this point, seeing the look on Lady Evelyn’s and the Duke’s face was all it took. “Yes indeed. I’ll take the bitch,” said Fortie with a leering smile of satisfaction in his beady blue eyes.
Freddie's mouth fell open.
"Why is that skinny man going to take Bullmina?" asked Millie innocently, looking up at her two brothers. She had no idea what her little game was about to cost her aunt and uncle and the rest of the family.
"Hush Millie!" hissed Beatrice from behind them.
"But I want to keep Bullmina!" stomped Millie. "Funston loves her and so do I."
Thomas looked down at the ground. His shoulders trembled as he tried to hold back his tears.
"Take the child away," insisted the Duchess, her voice cracking as she tried to maintain her composure.
Beatrice immediately stepped forward and tried to lead her little sister away. Millie began to protest, "No, no, no!"
Bullmina could sense the tension now. At first she tried to go after Millie, but Fortie kept an eye on her. "Sit and stay!" he commanded.
Then Fortie’s footman pulled out a spiked choke chain and lead. Fortie obviously meant business. He would take no resistance or disobedience at all.
"Look!" cried Millie, kicking and struggling in Beatrice's arms. "They're taking her away! No, no, no! Bullmina! Don't take her away!" Millie began to sob.
Freddie wiped a tear from his eye and put his arm around his younger brother Thomas's shoulders as they watched Fortie's footman slip the sharp chain around Bullmina's neck.