The Haute Bourgeoisie
"It seems to me, Starfinder," Ciely Bleu declares one evening, her blue-flower eyes fixed on the timescreen in the whaleship's lounge, "that a disproportionate amount of Earth's history consists of people crossing things. Moses crossing the Red Sea, Alexander the Great crossing the Hellespont, Hannibal crossing the Alps, Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon, Columbus crossing the Atlantic, Balboa crossing the Isthmus of Panama, and now Samuel Johnson crossing Inner Temple Lane."
"You're a fine one to be complaining," Starfinder says. "What other twelve-year-old girl from Renascence--or from any of the other terrestrialized planets, for that matter--has ever before been treated to a spacewhale's eyeview of history?"
"I wasn't complaining. I was merely giving verbal vent to a perspicacious observation." Then, "Look!--Dr. Johnson almost fell!"
"He'll be all right," Starfinder reassures her. "He's only got a few more steps to go to reach his doorway."
"He's counting them, I'll bet."
"I wouldn't doubt it."
Judging from the stick figure that takes shape in both their minds, the whale, which communicates tele-hieroglyphically, is somewhat contemptuous of Dr. Johnson's alcoholic propensities:
"I don't think that was a very nice thing to say, Charles," Ciely says. "Charles" is her name for the whale. "After all, Dr. Johnson did compile the first English lexicon, and without so much as a smidgen of help from that snooty Lord Chesterfield either! He earned the right to at least a little leeway in his social activities, I think!"
"Well, anyway, he made it home," says Starfinder, as the door of No. 1 Inner Temple Lane closes behind the subject of their conversation. "In a few more minutes he'll be safe in bed. And speaking of bed--"
Sadness shadows Ciely's thin face, darkening her blue-flower eyes. "Couldn't we tune in one more place-time first, Starfinder? This is my final night on board the whale, you know."
"You promised Inner Temple Lane would be the last."
"I know. But people are prone to promise almost anything when they're on the verge of desperation. Anyway, what difference does it make what time I get up tomorrow morning? You said yourself you're going to have Charles resurface off Renascence just three weeks after I stole--just three weeks after I disappeared. So no matter how long he remains in the Sea of Time, future time won't pass for us."
"Maybe so, but in future time you've been missing for three whole weeks, and your parents must be worried sick."
"But they won't be worried any sicker no matter how long we stay in the past. Assuming they are worried sick."
Starfinder sighs. "One more then. What would you like to see?"
"Not what. Whom. I want to see Elizabeth Barrett when she was still living at No. 50 Wimpole St. Before she married Robert. When she was composing her Sonnets."
"And when was that?"
"A.D. 1845," Ciely answers. "In the spring, I should think."
Starfinder sighs again. "It'll be a tough one to tune in, but I'll try."