‘Landlord of the Crystal Fountain,’ by Malachi Whitaker

This is the story of a sturdy young teacher, Brenda, en route to northern England to visit her sister. It’s a duty call; there’s no relish, and we sense that she’s fed up and stuck. On the train she meets five jolly publicans returning from a convention. The quieter one, a widower, engages her in conversation, and before the journey’s end, proposes. What she does, and why, is one of the deep pleasures of this brief tale. I see that Persephone has put out a new edition of Whitaker’s stories (which I must buy).

Widely anthologised. I read it in her collection entitled The Crystal Fountain, Carcanet Press, 1984.