Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Mata Hari

Enter Rudolph MacLeod

An advertisement in the personal section of the newspaper caught M'greet's eye. It read: "Officer on home leave from Dutch East Indies would like to meet girl of pleasant character object matrimony." That ad and another like it had been put in by a friend of Rudolph MacLeod without the latter's knowledge. MacLeod was a 38-year-old career man in the Dutch military that had courageously fought in combat and received an officer's cross. He was thickly muscular, had a large nose with a bump in the bridge, and sported thick, white whiskers curling at both ends. A heavy drinker, he was aging ungracefully, troubled also by both diabetes and rheumatism. These health problems had brought the officer home to Holland. Some of his ancestors had immigrated to the Netherlands from Scotland, hence a name unusual for the Dutch.

Although MacLeod had not put the ad in the newspaper or even OK'd it, the lifelong bachelor agreed to meet the young lady, Margaretha Zelle, who answered it. Despite the vast difference in both age and experience, the two were soon mutually smitten. Perhaps, as she once claimed, M'greet had a thing for men in uniform and was charmed by MacLeod's military bearing along with the extensive array of medals he so proudly wore. It is also likely that, as a daddy's girl, she was attracted to a man about her father's age. The captain proposed marriage and M'greet eagerly accepted.

However, they soon hit a snag. The law in Holland said that a female could marry at sixteen with a parent's consent but not until thirty without it. M'greet had previously told Rudolph that both her parents were deceased because she was not proud of the deteriorating and impoverished old man who was now her father. However, M'greet had no intention of waiting until she was in her third decade of life before she heard wedding bells so she 'fessed up to her beau that she had fibbed. Adam Zelle gave his consent to a marriage that the couple announced would take place only three months after the engagement.

Margaretha Zelle and husband Rudolph MacLeod
Margaretha Zelle and husband
Rudolph MacLeod

The brief engagement caused a good deal of gossip. It was widely expected that M'greet would deliver the first MacLeod baby within a few months of the wedding. However, the gossip was mistaken. They were wed on July 11, 1895 and M'greet gave birth to their first child, Norman John, over a year later on January 30, 1897. Their haste in marrying appears to have been the result of genuine ardor rather than pregnancy.

Unfortunately, that ardor cooled even before little Norman was a gleam in his Daddy's eye. Rudolph did not give up his bachelor ways because he was married. Instead, he stuck to his old habits of staying out late with various women and coming home drunk in the wee hours of the morning. M'greet did her best to cope with her new domestic duties while putting up with her husband's infidelities and alcoholism. She also had to cope with his jealousy for, even as he indulged himself to his lust's content, he would fly into a rage when another man paid what he considered too much attention to the lovely and personable M'greet. He took to slapping his wife around and continued to abuse her even when she was several months pregnant.

Rudolph MacLeod informed the new mother that the family would have to move because he was going to be stationed in Java. Far from being upset by this news, M'greet was delighted at the prospect of a change of scenery. It is also possible that she especially looked forward to seeing Java since so many people had speculated that the dusky-skinned Dutchwoman might have Javanese ancestry. She happily bundled up little Norman and the family's possessions for the trip to this foreign land about which she had heard so much.

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