Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Mata Hari

Devastated By Grief

Unlike some couples, Rudolph and M'greet were not pulled together by their shared trauma. Each sank into a separate depression. M'greet would spend hours brooding in silence, seemingly staring at nothing.

Rudolph was transferred back to Java. He drank ever more heavily and often walked about the house aimlessly, as if looking for his impossibly lost son. At other times, he turned his fury on M'greet, blaming her for their child's death, screaming, "Bloodsucker! Filthy beast! Norman is dead because of you!"

Eventually, M'greet's grief lifted slightly and she sought comfort by reading the sacred Hindu texts of the region in which she was ensconced. Then she fell ill with typhoid. In her feverish illness, she sometimes hallucinated that she could see the gods and goddesses of Hinduism.

When she was not in a delirium but merely weak from sickness, she heard a disgusted Rudolph comment on her state: "It's an expensive business, this illness of hers five bottles of milk a day at one guilder each."

M'greet recovered from typhoid, but as the nineteenth century turned into the twentieth, the marriage of M'greet and Rudolph became ever more horrible. M'greet felt she could tolerate her husband's coldness and abusiveness no longer. So many changes were happening in the new century and she feared it would all pass her by. She wrote to her father and sister-in-law, pleading with them to send her some funds so she could return to Europe. They refused to help her and counseled M'greet to be a better, more obedient and submissive wife.

The home battles continued but an aging Rudolph decided that he wanted to go back to Europe. M'greet was overjoyed. Soon after their return, however, Rudolph beat M'greet, and then stalked off with their daughter.

In those days, it was scandalous for a woman to seek a divorce but M'greet filed for a legal separation from an Amsterdam tribunal. To her surprise, it was granted. Furthermore, the court ruled that Rudolph was to return Non to her long-suffering mother and pay M'greet one hundred guilders a month for her support and that of the child.

Rudolph returned Non. But when the month came for the support payment, he gave them nothing, claiming he was in poverty. At the same time, he cruelly put this advertisement in the Amsterdam newspapers: "I request all and sundry not to supply goods or services to my estranged wife Margaretha MacLeod-Zelle." He also told the general public that his evil wife had deserted him. Without funds, M'greet looked for work but found nothing. Unable to feed or clothe Non, she reluctantly left the child in Rudolph's care.

For a while, M'greet sought refuge with various relatives and was once again a sad charity case. All during this time and before, she had been reading and dreaming of what life in Paris could be like. She scraped together enough money to make a trip to France. The city was as brilliantly dazzling as she had dreamed but she was unable to get work in the theater or in modeling. A broken-hearted M'greet was forced to return home.

She was getting to be a most discouraged lady. There seemed to be no place on earth for her. She had no marketable skills, no husband, no child, no job, and no reliable source of income. Was this all life had for her? Would she have to live on grudging handouts for the rest of her life?

Out of her extraordinary desperation, M'greet mustered a last bit of courage. She would give Paris another try!

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