yet each was silent about it in the hope of keeping

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Each preferred that no one should have the shilling if he couldn’t have it himself.
Three old men were sitting on the wall of Kilmilik Pier with their backs to the sea and their faces to the village and the sun. Suddenly there was the sound of a sail flapping in the wind, and a little white yacht swung around the corner of the pier and came alongside the old men.

“Where’s the nearest public house?” asked a red-faced man in a white cotton shirt and trousers. The three old men told him, all together. “Let’s go and have a drink, Totty,” said the red-faced man. “Right-o,” said the other.

When the red-faced man was climbing the iron ladder fixed to the pier, a shilling dropped out of his back pocket. It fell noiselessly on to some rope that lay on the deck of the yacht at the foot of the ladder. The red-faced man did not notice it, and he walked on along the pier chatting with his friend.

The three old men noticed it, but they did not tell the red-faced man. Neither did they tell one another. As soon as the shilling landed on the rope and lay there shining, the three of them became so painfully conscious of it that they lost all power of speech.

Each old man knew that the other two had seen the shilling,  the discovery his own secret. Each knew that it was impossible for him to go down the iron ladder to the deck, pick up the shilling, and get back to the pier with it without being seen. For there was a man wearing a round white cap doing something in the cabin of the yacht.

Every third moment or so his cap appeared through the doorway and there was the noise of plates being washed or something. And the shilling was within two feet of the doorway. Besides, the old men, except perhaps Patsy Conroy, were too old to climb down the ladder and climb back up again.

Furthermore, each knew that even if there were nobody in the cabin, and even if he could climb down the ladder, the others would prevent him from getting the shilling, since each preferred that no one should have the shilling if he couldn’t have it himself.