Lend me your ear while I call you a fool. You were kissed by a witch one night in the wood. Well, you thought it was a witch, but actually it was the Woohoohoodiwoo Woman, broadly similar to, but not exactly, a witch. She kissed you, there in the wood, in the night, and then she turned into a crow and flew away, you did not see where to, for it was so dark in the wood. What were you doing there, so late? You ought to have been tucked up in bed in your crumbling chamber on the topmost floor of Sludge Hall. But for reasons known only to yourself, you had set your pig-shaped alarm clock for half past two in the morning, and you woke and dressed in gaudy raiment and stalked down the servants’ staircase and out of the pantry door and along the lane, and when you reached the edge of the wood you pressed on, not stopping, though the trees grew denser and denser, until you met with the Woohoohoodiwoo Woman. She kissed you, and turned into a crow, but you were not transformed, you stayed just as you were, a fool, in the middle of the wood, in the middle of the night.
Did you expect that you too would become a crow, or some other bird, a linnet or a partridge? And had you done so, what then? Did you think you could beat your wings and fly, and follow what you thought was a witch to where she perched, in the form of a crow, upon the sturdy branch of an oak tree? Remember that many of the trees in the wood are smeared with birdlime, and you might have become stuck, waiting helplessly for dawn to break and for the hunting men to come and break your neck and stuff you into a sack. You need have no fear that such a fate will befall the Woohoohoodiwoo Woman, for long before morning she will transform herself again, from a crow into a squirrel, or a gnat, and she will have no trouble unsticking herself from the birdlime for she will use her powers. Perhaps you thought that, with one kiss from her, you would be granted those powers? Fool, fool! That is not how it works, and never has been, and you would know that if you had read your storybooks carefully.
As it is, you were left alone in the wood, in the dark, kissed but untransformed, if anything more foolish than you had been before. What then, you wondered, did the kiss portend? And why had the witch, in truth the Woohoohoodiwoo Woman, turned into a crow and flown away from you? Did she want you to seek her, to blunder about in the dark wood trying to find her perch, to clamber up the trunk of the oak and join her there in your foolish, still human form? Or did she intend that you turn back, once kissed, turn back and trudge all along the lane back to Sludge Hall, to climb back up the stairs and into your upper chamber and into your bed, and fall asleep, and remember nothing?
Being a fool, you do not know which choice to make, so you simply stand there, in the middle of the wood. Suddenly, above, shifting clouds reveal the moon, the cold-hearted orb that rules the night. Through a gap in the dense leafage of oaks and sycamores and pines, a shaft of silver light beams down upon you. It lights up the mark on your forehead, the crimson mark where you were kissed by the Woohoohoodiwoo Woman. You will not see it until morning when, hearing the boots of the hunting men crunching through the duff, you gather what poor wits you have, and walk out of the wood, not back to Sludge Hall, but out the other side, towards the pond. At the pond, you stoop to see your reflection in the water. You see the head of a fool, bearing the mark of the Woohoohoodiwoo Woman. It is ineradicable. And swans paddle across the pond towards you, dozens of swans. The mark on your forehead begins to glow. It grows hot, until it is burning bright, and you see it reflected in the eyes of the swans. They surround you now, white and silent, as you slump to your knees at the edge of the pond. They will never let you leave them, You belong to them now. They worship you, with the fanaticism only swans are capable of. You are still a fool, but of a new, uncanny type. And as the swans gaze at you, unblinking, you hear the cawing of a crow, somewhere in the sky above, and feel a sharp pang in your forehead, where you were kissed by the Woohoohoodiwoo Woman at night in the wood.