Kline was one of the masters of the classic Good-girl / Bad-girl dichotomy, as well as the good Bad-girl, that flourished in early 20th century Sci-Fi up through the writings of Leigh Brackett.
One of Kline’s shticks was to take the All-American gentleman and stick him in an Oriental despotism, where alien sultans and viziers conspired against one another and beautiful princesses either had guards who’d kill you if you so much as looked at them wrong in their pampered towers or they were ready to throw down with a blade and carve out an empire with the rest of them.
Unlike Brackett’s bad-boy heroes who often end up with the bad-girl (if he didn’t kill her), Kline’s heroes may go after the good one and get her, but are just as likely to find the good-girl is bad and the bad-girl is good.
Morgan screws up horribly bad with the good-girl (shoots her not-Woola!), but it’s still love at first sight for both of them–she even intervenes to spare him from execution. But after a duel that leaves one of the best swordsmen on Mars dead by Morgan’s blade, the bad-girl has eyes for Morgan, too!
The roomy apartments of Nisha Novil were furnished with a splendor that was almost barbaric, and Nisha herself was the most ornate object of all. Lying on a swinging divan upholstered with alternate stripes of orange and blue plush, she shot a languishing smile at Jerry from beneath her long, curved lashes, as he was ushered in before her.
The only cloth upon her shapely body was a silken cincture of orange trimmed with blue. Her small breast-shields were of blue and amber beads. By any standard she was undeniably beautiful.
With a wave of her hand she dismissed the page. Then she spoke, her voice low, with a purring quality, like that of a kitten that is being stroked.
“You are prompt, Jerry Morgan, but why have you brought the bodyguard? Were you afraid I might injure you? As you see, I am unarmed.”
“Your highness forgets that I am a prisoner under suspended sentence of death. The guards …”
“Yes, to be sure. I had forgotten.” She addressed the two. “My slaves will give you pulcho in another room. Wait there until I send for you. I will be responsible for your prisoner.”
With respectful salutations, the two guards followed a brown slave-girl through a curtained doorway. Then Nisha waved a slim hand, and the other slave- girls who stood in attendance behind her filed out of the room. As soon as they were alone, the princess rose with feline grace, and stood before Jerry, smiling up at him beneath languorous lids. She was no bigger than Junia, and much like her in appearance. Yet there was something about her, an untamed feral something in her every look and gesture.
“Come,” she said, taking Jerry’s hand and leading him to the divan. “You must be weary after your dual with Arsad. Come and rest here beside me while we talk.”
“I did lose some blood,” Jerry replied. “That was why I was about to ask your highness’s indulgence …”
“But since I am dispensing with formality,” she cooed, drawing him down upon the divan, “you may rest here as well as in your own apartment. And what I have to say cannot wait, for there are those who plot against your life, and I would save you. Tomorrow will be too late.”
“Your highness is most generous to take an interest in my life.”
She snuggled against him. “On the contrary, I am most selfish. From the very day when I first saw you, standing before the throne of Numin Vil, I have desired you.
“I heard of the suicide of the slave in your apartment, but did not grasp the significance at the time. However, when I learned of your duel with Arsad today, I knew that you had done something to displease my brother, and that where Arsad failed, another of Thoor’s tools would eventually succeed. So I had a talk with my brother.”
“I don’t know what I ever did to him,” said Jerry, “except that I turned one of his own sarcastic remarks against him, this evening.”
“That had some weight, but it is not the true reason for his bitterness against you,” she told him. “It began when our cousin, Junia, begged your life from Numin Vil after you had slain her dalf. I may add that those of whom Thoor becomes jealous never survive long.”
“It seems that I have been exceedingly fortunate, then.”
“Your skill with the sword saved you tonight,” she answered, “but other means of compassing your death have already been planned. Thoor Movil’s spies are everywhere, and when he heard of the look which Junia gave you in her apartment today, you were marked for death.”
“And just what can you do about all this?” Jerry asked.
“Everything,” she replied. I have made a pact with my brother. Your life is to be spared to me on condition that you never again cast your eyes toward our fair cousin.”
“So you have arranged the whole thing between you. Thoughtful of your highness. But did it not occur to you that I might have some ideas of my own on the subject?”
To his surprise, she flung her arms around his neck—pressed her warm lips to his.
Had he never seen Junia, it is quite possible that the Earthman might have capitulated. Gently he disengaged the clinging arms from around his neck, and arose.
Nisha fell back on the divan, panting. Then she sprang straight for the Earthman. Screeching curses, she beat upon his breast, scratched his bare flesh until the blood welled forth. And through it all he stood immobile, hands at his sides, teeth clenched in a grim smile.
Her fit of fury passed almost as suddenly as it had begun. With horror in her eyes, she stood limply before him.
“Deza help me!” she moaned. “What have I done?”
“Have I your highness’s leave to go?” he asked, with studied calm.
“No, wait! You must not leave me thus!”
She turned and ran into another room, reappearing a moment later with a basin of water, a handful of soft moss, and a bottle of jembal. Jerry stood like a statue while she washed away the blood and applied the healing gum to the scratches she had inflicted. Her ministrations finished, she looked up at him, tears swimming in her large black eyes and pearling the long lashes.
“Forgive me, my dear lord,” she begged, contritely. “Strike me! Break me with those strong hands of yours! But do not leave me with anger in your heart. Only say that you forgive me, and Deza will grant me strength to go on, knowing that I may some day win your love.”
“It is I who should ask forgiveness,” Jerry told her, “since you have only wounded my body. But I, it seems, have unwittingly wounded your heart.”
“You are generous, my lord,” she cried, and flinging her arms around his neck, crushed her lips to his. “Now go. But remember—Nisha loves you, and will be waiting.”
I can’t wait to see how this plays out.