"An Ax To Grind"
Context: Charles Miner, editor of The Gleaner and Luzerne Advertiser, of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, wrote for his paper a number of short essays which were collected into book form in 1815 as Essays from the Desk of Poor Robert the Scribe, Containing Lessons in Manners, Morals, and Domestic Economy. The essay Who'll Turn Grindstone? tells of an incident in the author's early boyhood. One cold winter morning a smiling stranger with an ax over his shoulder accosted him and asked permission to grind his ax on the boy's grandfather's grindstone. The stranger had the lad get some hot water for the stone and then flattered him into turning the crank. Then, patting the lad on the head, he called him "my man" and "one of the finest lads I have ever seen." It was a new ax and took a great deal of grinding. Time to go to school came and went, and still the little boy toiled and tugged away until his hands were blistered:
The school bell rung, and I could not get away;–my hands were blistered, and it was not half ground. At length, however, the axe was sharpened, and the man turned to me, with "Now you little rascal, you've played the truant–scud to school, or you'll buy it." Alas, thought I, it was hard enough to turn grindstone, this cold day; but now to be called "little rascal" was too much. It sunk deep in my mind, and often have I thought of it since.When I see a merchant, overpolite to his customers–begging them to taste a little brandy, and throwing half his goods on the counter–thinks I–That man has an axe to grind.