One time a poor man dreamt three nights in a row of a sack of fairy gold that was buried under the roots of a lone bush, which was growing in a field close to his house.
“It may be there is nothing in it,” he says to himself. “But I will be digging in that place and if I find a treasure it will be a big reward for the labour.”
He never spoke of his strange dreams, nor let on a word of his intentions to anyone. As the day came to a close, he took a spade and set out for the lone bush. He was not digging long before the steel blade struck against something that didn’t feel like clay or stone. He laboured hard to bring whatever it was to light. How joyful was he to see a fine sack of gold and splendid jewels. He raised it upon his shoulders and set out for home, staggering under the load, and planning out the uses of his new-found wealth. Sure the burden was no hardship at all even though it had him bent double.
When he came to his home, he went to the byre and put the sack down in front of his three cows standing in their stalls. He didn’t want to make a display of his treasure for all to see, and couldn’t be sure if there was anyone in the house visiting.
Sure enough when he went into his house, he saw two men sitting by the fire, with no haste to depart. They had the English only, so he and his wife spoke Irish with one another.
Says himself, using the Gaelic, “I have a beautiful treasure of fine gold and jewels to delight a queen of the world.”
“Oh, bring it in the house,” says she.
“I have better wit than to make display of my fortune to every person living in the land. Wait until the two men have departed, and then we’ll fetch the sack in from the byre where I left it.”
When the strangers left, the man and woman went to the yard, wild with delight. He told her of his three dreams and the finding of the gold under the roots of the lone bush.
“Did you spit on it?” she asks.
“I did not,” says he.
With that she told him he was making a big mistake.
“How could that be?”
“My father had great knowledge of the like,” says she. “I often heard him tell of how those treasures do be enchanted, with the power to melt away. But if a man was to spit on fairy gold, he’d be keeping it surely.”
“Amn’t I keeping it after bringing it this far, and the weight of it aching my shoulders. Not the least sign of melting was on yon article.”
With that they went into the byre, and they see the three cows striving to break out of their stalls.
“They are in dread of what’s lying there in front,” she says. “The cattle of the world have good wisdom surely, and they see more than the eye of man gets leave to behold.”
“Quit raving about the cows,” says he. “Look at my lovely sack and it bulging full.”
When the two of them went up to the stalls, the woman cried out. “What are you bringing to this place? It has the movement of life in it. How could the like be treasure at all?”
“Hold, woman,” says her husband, vexed at her words.
“Will you look at the bag turning over on the ground?” says she.
Then he sees the truth in her words, but would not give in to fear. “It is likely a rat creeping in,” he allows, “and he is having a hard time striving to get back out.”
“Let you open the sack, and I will be praying aloud for protection,” says herself.
With that he went over and turned the sack until he had it propped up against the stalls. When he began to open the sack, the cows went wild, bellowing and stamping to get away.
The head of a great eel looked out from under the man’s hand where he was groping for the treasure. It had eyes the colour of flame. The man leapt away to the door, only to be overcome with the paralysis of dread. Herself let out a scream could be heard in the next town, but couldn’t move from where she was standing. The eel twisted itself out of the sack and travelled along the ground. Then it reared up its head to stand swaying, a full half of it in the air. The man and woman were close enough to the door but were too scared to go. They watched the eel twist itself around a stall until its head was touching the roof. It broke through the thatch, and that was the last they saw of it. But that beast was all the treasure that came out of the sack the poor man dug from the roots of the lone bush where the fairy gold was hid.
(The lone bush was most likely a hawthorn, growing some distance from the other trees. The lone bushes are dedicated to the fairies and must not be cut down.)