A fanciful and disarming tale about a most uncommon romance, set in Australia from 1907 to 1932. As tots, Jackie (born a dwarf) and golden-haired little Cushie (from the affluent family across the way) believe in a magic place where other dwarfs live, making swords and crowns and rings of gold. Years later, after both the dwarf and the princess have run the gamut of hardship, grief, and humiliation, they do indeed find a magical journey's end. Jackie, reared with love and dignity by a high-spirited mother and a wise stepfather, is gradually introduced to the cruel consequences of his ""difference""--particularly when as a young man he hunts for work. He finally hires on as a laborer with a brutal farm family and is forced into marriage with frail young Maida, while lovely Cushie, rejected by her disillusioned mother, is forced to live with an alcoholic aunt and suffers through an abortion, jailing, and loneliness. Jackie, Maida, and their son have five happy years which end in fiery tragedy as mother and child die. And then Jackie and his widowered stepfather are compelled, because of the Depression and prejudice against Jackie, to ""hit the track,"" hobo style. Finally in Sydney, where Cushie has escaped to her grandmother's house, the dwarf and the princess, tested and strong, are reunited at last. (""Her eyes said, 'I've found you.' "") In spite of the fairy-tale framework, the author firmly sidesteps sentimentality with gritty regional verities of landscape and lingo--and peoples her story with a swift and agreeable intimacy.