The man heard all this and said to himself, “This is great! What kind of a poor conch shell am I holding on to?” He fell flat at the saint’s feet: “You are a great saint – a renunciate and a man of austerity. Take this poor man’s conch shell and give me your great conch shell.”
The saint said, “As you wish. I have always wanted to get rid of it, because this dishonest fellow has harassed me so much! You ask for something, and there is so much talking – sometimes the whole night passes.”
Still the man didn’t understand what the matter was – that it was only a mahashankh, that it only talked, that it never delivered anything at all. It always only doubled the figure: if you said four, it would say eight; if you said eight, it would say sixteen. If you said, “Okay, okay, sixteen,” it would say “Thirty-two.” No sooner had you uttered a figure than it multiplied it by two. It only remembered a multiplication of two. It did not know anything else.
The saint was gone by the morning. When the man asked the new conch shell for something at an auspicious moment in the night, it announced, “You unworthy man! Why do you ask for one? Take two.”
The man said, “Give me two then.”
The conch shell said, “I will give four.”
“Alright, give me four.”
It said, “I will give eight.”
The dawn started to approach and the figures were lengthening. The people from the neighborhood assembled, wondering what was going on. The whole neighborhood was awake to witness the scene: the figure went on increasing but there was no transaction.
Finally, the man asked the shell, “Brother, would you give something as well or will this continue to be mere talking?”
The conch shell said, “I am a mahashankh. I know only mathematics. You can try. Whatsoever you ask for, I will double it.”
The man said, “I am being killed! Where is that saint?”
The conch shell replied, “That saint has wanted to get rid of me for a long time, but he was in search of the real conch shell. Now he has left with the real thing! You won’t find a trace of him, but I can arrange a meeting for you with him.”
A conch shell has no feet, yet somehow the man bowed down at its imaginary feet and said, “Please, arrange a meeting with that saint, whatever the cost.”
The conch shell replied, “I will arrange your meeting with two saints.”
This was the limit. What a hopeless thing he has landed himself with! “I will arrange your meeting with four…” again the same rubbish talk….