The quote is from a paragraph describing Ebenezer Scrooge at the beginning of A Christmas Carol, a cold-hearted miser.
A grindstone was a thick disc of stone used to sharpen knives and tools. The disc would rotate at high-speed. Grindstone was often used as a metaphor in phrases to represent work or working. For example, keeping your nose to the grindstone is an expression often used to show diligent working. In this case, the quotation conveys to the reader that Scrooge is a miserly individual when it comes to work.
Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dog-days; and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.
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