It was my birth-day recently, and the customary deluge of gifts flooded the Estate. I was wheeled into my private amusement annex so that I could watch the unwrapping of my presents. As usual, I was given needless rubbish and picayune baubles that serve me no purpose. I received what must have been my 659th mechanical nightingale from whomever is the Emperor of Siam now-a-days, when what I truly desired was a new shawl and a visit from the Grim Reaper. I directed Standish to cast the nightingale into the furnace and bury the rest of the unopened loot in the court-yard.

As the remaining gifts were taken from the room, one of the larger boxes began to jostle and shake violently. A pool of urine quickly formed in the seat of my wheel-chair, so filled with fear was I. "Let me out," a voice called from the box. "I am an eunuch sent by the Sultan of Mazrahdekh as a gift to the Honorable T. Herman Zweibel with the warmest birthday wishes."

Well, that was just splendid. Didn't that idiot Sultan realize I have no need for a eunuch? I am already advised by a vizier and an alchemist, not to mention my soothsayers three. I even have an unquestioning sycophant in the form of my faithful man-servant Standish. And precisely where did the Sultan expect me to keep it–in the pantry?

My son J. Phineas insisted that the box be opened. "Eunuchs are often trained in song and dance. He could be summoned into your bed-chamber every night, so that he may regale you with a lullaby. Perhaps you would no longer require your nightly soothing-syrups in order to sleep."

That night, my bed-chamber was ablaze with candle-light and my bed swathed in sheer muslin gauze. Standish pulled on the bell-rope and the eunuch promptly appeared, bedecked in flowers and brandishing a zither. It began to strum on it for what seemed the longest time, no doubt to lure me into a tranquil mood, but it only provoked my ire. "Get on with your singing, you testicleless oaf!" I screamed.

The eunuch began to sing in a voice that sounded like a cross between a little girl and a klaxon. Its voice so unnerved me that I could only look on helplessly, mouth agape. Standish sensed my confusion and distress, and whispered in my ear, "Castrated men sing in a high register, sir."

I couldn't bear the thought of this eunuch singing another note, so I told Standish to put it back in the box until I could think of some other use for it. Curse it all! I'm too old to have to worry about eunuchs.