In the short story "The Sniper" by Liam O'Flaherty, what mistake does the other gunman make that leads to his death?
In the often anthologized and popular short story "The Sniper" by Liam O'Flaherty, two snipers from opposing sides in the civil war in Ireland in 1922 are battling each other across the rooftops of Dublin.
Both snipers are extremely well-trained. Each patiently waits for the other to show himself, hoping to pick off the other with his rifle. The men spend long hours in place. The Republican sniper O'Flaherty describes (the other, unknown until the story's end) has a good vantage point to see everything that is going on around him, the sights and sounds of war and people supporting either the Irish Free Staters or the Irish Republican Army. As time passes, the cat-and-mouse game that they play causes the Republican sniper to gain respect for his adversary.
While they wait, the Republican sniper is foolish enough to light a cigarette, exposing his position. As they fire back and forth, the first sniper is shot in the arm and loses the ability to aim his rifle. Now he only has a revolver and armed simply with this, knows that he must be off of the roof before daylight. The Republican sniper decides to put his hat on the tip of his rifle to trick the other sniper into believing that he has a target at which to shoot.
Taking off his cap, he placed it over the muzzle of his rifle. Then he pushed the rifle slowly upwards over the parapet, until the cap was visible from the other side.
The other sniper shoots at the hat and the first sniper pretends to be dead, with his arm thrown over the edge of the roof as if in death, and he forgets to be cautious.
The other sniper seeing the cap and rifle fall, thought that he had killed his man. He was now standing before a row of chimney pots, looking across, with his head clearly silhouetted against the western sky.
The Republican sniper uses his revolver and shoots the other sniper, whose body falls to the street below. It is only then that the surviving sniper leaves his spot on the roof to discover the identity of the man below.