"You shall have molasses for your supper, and to-morrow you must change two children into pigs."
The butterfly did not reply, but ate the molasses in silence. Having no soul it had no conscience, and having no conscience it was able to lie to the mandarin with great readiness and a certain amount of enjoyment.
Next morning, by the mandarin's command, the butterfly dipped its legs in the mixture and flew away in search of children.
When it came to the edge of the town it noticed a pig in a sty, and alighting upon the rail of the sty it looked down at the creature and thought.
"If I could change a child into a pig by touching it with the magic compound, what could I change a pig into, I wonder?"
Being curious to determine this fine point in sorcery the butterfly fluttered down and touched its front feet to the pig's nose. Instantly the animal disappeared, and in its place was a shock-headed, dirty looking boy, which sprang from the sty and ran down the road uttering load whoops.
"That's funny," said the butterfly to itself. "The mandarin would be very angry with me if he knew of this, for I have liberated one more of the creatures that bother him."
It fluttered along after the boy, who had paused to throw stones at a cat. But pussy escaped by running up a tree, where thick branches protected her from the stones. Then the boy discovered a newly-planted garden, and trampled upon the beds until the seeds were scattered far and wide, and the garden was ruined. Next he caught up a switch and struck with it a young calf that stood quietly grazing in a field. The poor creature ran away with piteous bleats, and the boy laughed and followed after it, striking the frightened animal again and again.
"Really," thought the butterfly, "I do not wonder the mandarin hates children, if they are all so cruel and wicked as this one."
The calf having escaped him the boy came back to the road, where he met two little girls on their way to school. One of them had a red apple in her hand, and the boy snatched it away and began eating it. The little girl commenced to cry, but her companion, more brave and sturdy, cried out:
"You ought to be ashamed of yourself, you nasty boy!"
At this the boy reached out and slapped her pretty face, whereupon she also began to sob.
Although possessed of neither soul nor conscience, the butterfly had a very tender heart, and now decided it could endure this boy no longer.
"If I permitted him to exist," it reflected, "I should never forgive myself, for the monster would do nothing but evil from morning 'til night."
So it flew directly into his face and touched his forehead with its sticky front feet.
The next instant the boy had disappeared, but a grunting pig ran swiftly up the road in the direction of its sty.
The butterfly gave a sigh of relief.
"This time I have indeed used the mandarin's magic upon a child," it whispered, as it floated lazily upon the light breeze; "but since the child was originally a pig I do not think I have any cause to reproach myself. The little girls were sweet and gentle, and I would not injure them to save my life, but were all boys like this transformed pig, I should not hesitate to carry out the mandarin's orders."
Then it flew into a rose bush, where it remained comfortably until evening. At sundown it returned to its master.
"Have you changed two of them into pigs?" he asked, at once.
"I have," replied the butterfly. "One was a pretty, black-eyed baby, and the other a freckle-faced, red-haired, barefooted newboy."
"Good! Good! Good!" screamed the mandarin, in an ecstasy of delight. "Those are the ones who torment me the most! Change every newboy you meet into a pig!"
"Very well," answered the butterfly, quietly, and ate its supper of molasses.
Several days were passed by the butterfly in the same manner. It fluttered aimlessly about the flower gardens while the sun shone, and returned at night to the mandarin with false tales of turning children into swine. Sometimes it would be one child which was transformed, sometimes two, and occasionally three; but the mandarin always greeted the butterfly's report with intense delight and gave him molasses for supper.