Four holy dervishes of the second rank met together and determined that they would search the face of the whole earth for objects which would enable them to help mankind. They had studied everything they could, and had realized that by this kind of operation they could serve best.
They arranged among themselves to meet after thirty years.
On that appointed day they came together again. The first brought with him from the farthest North a magical staff. Whoever rode upon it could reach his destination instantly. The second, from the farthest West, had brought a magical hood. Whoever put it over his head could immediately change his appearance to resemble anyone in existence. The third, from his travels and searches in the farthest East, brought a magic mirror. In this any part of the world could be seen at will. The fourth dervish, working in the farthest South, had brought back with him a magical cup, with which any disease could be healed.
Thus equipped, the dervishes looked into the Mirror, to find the source of the Water of Life, which would enable them to live long enough to put these articles to effective use. They found the Fountain of Life, flew to it on the magic staff, and drank of the Water.
Then they performed an invocation, to who was most in need of their services.Into the mirror swam the face of a man who was almost on the point of death. He was many days’ journey away. The dervishes at once mounted their magic staff and flew, in the twinkling of an eye, into the house of the sick man.
‘We are famous healers’, they said to the man at the gate, ‘who understand that your master is ill. Admit us and we will help him.’ When the sick man heard this he ordered the dervishes to be brought to his bedside. As soon as he saw them, however, he became worse, almost as if seized by a fit. They were ejected from his presence, while one of the attendants explained that the patient was an enemy of dervishes and hated them.
Putting their heads one by one into the magical hood, they changed their appearance so that they were agreeable to the sick man,and presented themselves again, this time as four different healers.
As soon as the man had drunk some medicine from the Magic Cup he was better than he had ever been in his life. He was delighted — and being rich, rewarded the dervishes with a house of his own into which they settled.
They continued to live in this house, and every day they went their separate ways, using the magical apparatus which they had brought together, for the good of mankind.
One day, however, when the other dervishes were out on their rounds, soldiers arrived and arrested the dervish with the healing cup. The king of the country had heard about this great doctor, and had sent for him to cure his daughter,who was suffering from a strange illness.
The dervish was taken to the princess’s bedside, and he offered her some medicine of her own,but in the special cup. But, because he had been unable to consult the magic Mirror for the cure, it did not work.
The princess was no better, and the king ordered the dervish to be nailed up on a wall. He begged for some time to consult with his friends, but the king was impatient and believed that this was just a stratagem, and that the dervish might escape.
As soon as the other dervishes go home, they looked int the magic Mirror to find where their companion had gone. Seeing him on the pint of death, they sped on the magic Staffto his aid. They saved him in the nick of time. But they were unable to save the king’s daughter, because the cup was nowhere to be found.
Looking in the magic Mirror, the dervishes saw that it had been thrown, by the king’s order, into the depths of the deepest ocean in the world.
In spite of the miraculous apparatus at their disposal, it took them a thousand years to recover the cup. Ever after the experience with the princess, thes four dervishes mad it their practice to work in secret, making it appear, through skillful arrangement, that whatever they did for the good of mankind would appear to have been done in some easily explicable way.
in Tales of the Dervishes
by Idries Shah