Page:The Irish in Australia.djvu/236

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any actual jurisdiction. This district is situated in the centre of the North Island, and is known as the Waikato, or "King Country." After a long and brave, but unsuccessful, resistance against the encroachments of the whites, a number of the leading Maori Chiefs met, and with a view to the erection of a last barrier against the invaders of their soil, resolved to proclaim the mountainous Waikato country as their sacred territory, to elect a king of their own, and to make all necessary laws for themselves. The agitation was sedulously promoted by the more turbulent and warlike chiefs, and the result was the election and proclamation of a Maori King, who took up his residence at the Waikato. The colonial authorities at first did not know how to regard this unexpected movement on the part of the Maories, and the mischief was all done before they had recovered their wits. They then saw that a fatal mistake had been committed in tacitly consenting to this assumption of independent power within the confines of the colony. Ever since, this portion of New Zealand has been a sort of refugium peccatorum for Maori offenders. The present Maori King—Tawhiao—has dwelt there for years in sullen seclusion, surrounded by the surviving veteran war chiefs. Here To Kooti is somewhere concealed from the vengeance of the colonists. As long as he remains within the charmed circle of the King Country he is perfectly safe; but once he steps outside, is recognised and captured, a swift and summary penalty will be exacted in atonement for the lengthy and diabolical catalogue of crime attached to his name. It is characteristic of the dare-devil disposition of the man that, with a full knowledge of the fate in store for him, he has occasionally ventured out into the settled districts, and regained his retreat before a pursuit could be organised.