Bowser The Hound by Thornton W. Burgess
Chapter XVI. Why Reddy Went Without a Chicken Dinner
A dinner is far better lost Than eaten at too great a cost. Bowser the Hound.
Can you imagine Reddy Fox with a chicken dinner right before him and not touching it? Well, that is just what happened in Farmer Brown's henhouse. It wasn't because Reddy had no appetite. He was hungry, very hungry. He always is in winter. Then it doesn't often happen that he gets enough to eat at one meal to really fill his stomach. Yet here he was with a chicken dinner right before him, and he didn't touch it.
You see it was this way: Reddy's wits were working very fast there in Farmer Brown's henhouse. He knew that he had only a forlorn chance of escaping when Farmer Brown's boy should come to open the henhouse in the morning. He knew that he must make the most of that forlorn chance. He knew that freedom is a thousand times better than a full stomach.
On one of the lower roosts sat a fat hen. She was within easy jumping distance. Reddy knew that with one quick spring she would be his. If the henyard gate had been open, he would have wasted no time in making that one quick spring. But the henyard gate, as you know, was closed fast.
"I'm awfully hungry," muttered Reddy to himself, "but if I should catch and eat that fat hen, Farmer Brown's boy would be sure to notice the feathers on the floor the very minute he opened the door. It won't do, Reddy; it won't do. You can't afford to have the least little thing seem wrong in this henhouse. What you have got to do is to swallow your appetite and keep quiet in the darkest corner you can find,"
So Reddy Fox spent the rest of the night curled up in the darkest corner, partly behind a box. All the time his nose was filled with the smell of fat hens. Every little while a hen who was being crowded too much on the roost would stir uneasily and protest in a sleepy voice. Just think of what Reddy suffered. Just think how you would feel to be very, very hungry and have right within reach the one thing you like best in all the world to eat and then not dare touch it. Some foolish folks in Reddy's place would have eaten that dinner and trusted to luck to get out of trouble later. But Reddy was far too wise to do anything of that kind.
Doing as Reddy did that night is called exercising self-restraint. Everybody should be able to do it. But it sometimes seems as if very many people cannot do it. Anyway, they don't do it, and because they don't do it they are forever getting into trouble.
Reddy knew when morning came, although the henhouse was still dark. Somehow or other hens always know just when jolly, round, red Mr. Sun kicks his blankets off and begins his daily climb up in the blue, blue sky. The big rooster on the topmost perch stretched his long neck, flapped his wings, and crowed at the top of his voice. Reddy shivered. "It won't be long now before Farmer Brown's boy comes," thought he.