Fourteen-year-old Elenor did not wish to be married, particularly not to Lord Thomas. He had been away at the Crusades for years, and what Elenor remembered of him did nothing to endear him to her. What was more, there was so much of the world to see, and marriage would end her chances for adventure, or so she believes at the beginning of Frances Temple's The Ramsay Scallop.
For his part, Thomas had no wish to marry the Brat, as he called her, or anyone else for that matter. He was exhausted and disillusioned from the Crusades with little enough desire to go on living, let alone take a wife. But in the year of our Lord 1299, one does as one's position demands. Great families, the village priest told them, married to secure the lands for their people. This was a question of duty, not of preference.
Many of the returned crusaders had sins on their consciences, and years of being apart had split them from their families. Ramsay Village had become a place of suspicion and regret.
Father Gregory considered the plight of his two children, for so he thought of them, and summoned them to his presence:
"Would you, Thomas, and you, Elenor, be willing to do penance for the whole community?" Both agreed. "The penance I impose on you, for the sake of the entire community, is to bear a record of our sins and contrition to the shrine of Saint James in Spain, to lay it upon the altar of the cathedral in Santiago, and to pray there for us all. You will travel as chaste companions. Your marriage may not be consummated until the pilgrimage has been completed."
The reluctant companions rode towards the dawn, dressed simply and wearing the black hats adorned with scallop shells that marked them as pilgrims, miles to go and worlds to see. It is a dangerous journey full of risk but the rewards are everlasting as they get to know the greater world—and each other.