It was, of course, to be an unrivaled spectacle. The grand ballroom had been decorated with new tapestries of radiant colors made with dyes that could only be found across the oceans. The crystal chandeliers had been set with new candles and polished until they glittered like diamonds. Windows has been wiped until they were completely clear and the wide gardens could be seen outside, freshly planted with exotic flowers in a rainbow of colors. Between the tapestries and the windows has been arranged lattices to which white orchids, roses, and lilies had been expertly hung as if to make the appearance that flowers were blooming from the walls. Elaborately carved pews has been settled in rows and freshly upholstered with white cloth bearing embroidered ornate designs. Where the pews did not reach were white carpets sewn with gold thread.
The center carpet, which was white and embroidered with designs of rich red roses, led to a raised dais in the back of the center of the room. Behind this was an open space, and against the back wall were more trellises, these also containing white flowers, with the notable exception of birds of paradise on one side, enormously sharp and and bursting with orange, and the other side, peppered with violets. In the center of the trellis, in the center of the dais, in the center of the room, intertwined one bird of paradise and one violet.
Several hours from this moment, two men were to stand on the dais and join together their political powers, and, much less importantly to anyone there, their individual lives.
The man of the violet was a war general of great renown, and brought land and not-unsubstantial political reputation. It was only a strange twist of events that he was to be married much later than a man of his status normally would have been. First, he had taken to a terrible illness as a child, which rendered him unfit for being betrothed or arranged; second, he had been at the side of an older brother who had lingered half-dead for some years before finally passing away; third, he had gone to fight in two wars, and although he had come back bedecked in medals and a substantial growth in property, there were no parents left upon his return who would have arranged for him to be married.
Unlike most men, he was master of his own fate and benefited from a lack of guiding hands, such as a father or lord, due to his age. His own desires tended towards more bachelorly pursuits, rather than matrimony. He was bent only by the hand of decorum and reputation, and it was this hand (which made itself known in hushed tones in ballrooms like this one) that suggested there might be some mental or physical failing, or secret indecency or horror, which was why the man did not find himself husband or wife, for he could surely have his pick.
He did not wish to be married, but he could not be seen as mentally or physically failed, and as such approached a close friend and political ally about possible resolutions to this situation that would not disturb his lifestyle. His friend, to his surprise, indicated that he had just the thing. The thing, as fate had it, was his fourth child and single son, of which the violet general only knew that the boy tended to appear as little as he was able at social functions.
The solution, and our bird of paradise in question, was somewhat of a collective thorn to many sides, for it had taken to speaking out of turn, and, unbecoming of a fourth child, reading, rather than some domestic handiwork such as wood carving or embroidery. The general indicated he did not mind reading - in fact, a husband hiding in the library was not likely to disturb his habits.
That the bird of paradise enjoyed reading was not his only peculiarity, and alone would not have led him to the end of being married to a disinterested general twice his age. For the bird of paradise possessed what could kindly be called a passionate spirit and less kindly an argumentative temper. He had the habit of expressing his opinions on things which people do not want the opinions of fourth children on. This, combined with a vicious wit, a sharp mind, and a head filled with books, led him to regularly humiliate men and women with better standing, much to the embarrassment of his parents. Then, there was the matter that the son had been adopted by some mysterious kindness (likely the results of the inexplicable affection his three older, true blood sister siblings had for him), resulting in the complex situation where even his strong house standing did not permit him to promise much rank to anyone. Lastly, there was the thought that while one could formally and technically abandon the endless, blank purgatory of being rankless and stationless, such things stuck to one’s soul like tar and, for the bird of paradise, he could always smell the hot asphalt of his beginnings despite his current luxury.
And so, even if he had been perfectly demure, he would perhaps only be a third-rate prospect. Unmarriageable might have been putting it kindly.
Of course, the adopted, opinionated, too-bright fourth child made it clearly known that he did not wish to be married, an opinion which was promptly and repeatedly ignored by most everyone, and received only a comforting hug from his three adopted sisters and an invitation to vent from his best friend, a rebellious squire from one of the nearby wealthy families.
The general expressed to his friend that he did not mind an ill-tempered, sharp-mouthed, too-witty stubborn boy of nebulous birth with hardly any standing rank of his own once removed from his adopted castle, and as such the deal was struck. On the next sunrise, the sewing of wedding garments began.
This returned us to our opulent ballroom, where the two men now stood.
The violet general wore a white coat embroidered with purple thread among other elaborate clothes. At his side rested a ceremonial sword encrusted with amethysts and diamonds, the sheath inlaid with intricate designs of gold and obsidian. Representations of medals were sewn into his jacket, the designs set with colored gemstones that glittered in many colors. Upon his head, he wore an understated platinum circlet that twisted in delicate circles, set with tiny sapphires. He wore white gloves, each embroidered with a violet that had inset in it tiny purple garnets.
The opinionated, adopted, stubborn fourth child dazzled in his radiance and his scowl. He wore a long white coat sewn with diamonds and pearls in elegant patterns which he complemented with an aggressive jut to his shoulders. Below this, he wore a white waistcoat with buttons made of brilliantly orange hessonites. The dress pants, which had been tailored specifically for the occasion (the son was a little short), had sewn patterns along the seams inset with small tourmalines, which glittered as the man shifted his hips in a bored, irritated manner. His clenched fists stretched the fabric of the delicate silk gloves that he wore, white and decorated with sewn birds of paradise, the different colored jewels set into the fabric. His eyes glittered with suppressed rage the same way the diamonds in his own circlet, intricate and ornate, sparkled in the light of all the candles.
It would be a great well of gossip for some time, how a man, seemingly rescued from eternal spinsterdom and about to be whisked away by a noble hero who he certainly did not deserve (being that he was, of course, a fourth son who enjoyed reading and did not know his place), could be so angry while so well-ensconced in decadent luxury.
There were vows, which were said speechlike by the violet and acidlike by the bird of paradise. They exchanged the left glove on their hands, as was the custom, and on both sides the given glove was placed in the right breast pocket, over each man’s heart. There were feasts, which were consumed at a perfectly moderate pace by violet and left untouched by the bird of paradise. There was dancing, of which the violet was very good, and of which the bird of paradise gave the impression of a stiff wooden board with blocky legs and unhewn arms.
“Hello, Lord Schuyler,” the violet said, when they sat after a dance.
“Don’t call me that, General Washington,” the bird of paradise said, his voice a storm of quiet fury. “Hamilton. It’s Hamilton.”
The violet’s eyebrows went up. “Hamilton,” he repeated, the word a question.
“My real name.”
The violet thought on this for a moment. “Hello, Lord Hamilton,” he said, softer this time, for it would be rude to be overheard saying such a thing, despite the request.
This time, he was given no response. They watched a man make a speech. The violet's thoughts were far away.
What does that name mean to you, Lord Hamilton?