Dec. 28 [1917]

Dear Mother

I suppose my cable To-day was terribly upsetting. I am feeling duly
guilty about it now, but the deed is done so all I can do is to
await the answer. I don't know whether I have done wrong or
not, and maybe I have been very headstrong and selfish. I will
give you all the arguments & you can decide for yourself.

In the first place I had to talk with Peggy Curtis and Dr. Cabot. The latter
was awfully nice, and he wanted me to stay on in Paris because he believes
social service to be the best Education that anyone can get; he probably is
right but we have a staff of nearly twenty in our Dispensary (a good
many imported from Bordeaux) and we do a great deal of lengthy case
work, some of it necessary & vital but some of it simply because it
is interesting social service work; very good for peace times but it makes
you froth at the mouth sometimes to sit around & accomplish nothing
when we are in the midst of a very active war. I have enjoyed working
at the Dispensary but at the same time I cannot make it occupy my
whole interest, it does not absorb me Enough to make me content with
the result that I have done all these other things which I have written
you about. Now, we all know very well that you cannot do more than
one thing really well, and I have felt for some time that I was tiring
myself out & yet accomplishing nothing satisfactory; I even got to
the state where I could have worked on surgical dressings all day
just for the pleasure of seeing at the End that I had worked to
some purpose. I know that lots of other people feel discouraged
& that is not a good reason for throwing over a job, but Ever

since I have been in France I have had a craving to do direct
military work, either cantine or in some part of a hospital. I wanted
to transfer to a canteen a month ago but Peggy Curtis told me
that I was necessary to Dr. Cabot--since then crowds of workers for
him have turned up. I was beginning to feel upset again when
Milly & Agnes turned up. If it had only been Agnes I would not have
Even considered the job, general housekeeper, Errand girl, possibly head of
the sterilizing room etc. but we all know how level headed and calm
and clear sighted Milly is, and when she urged me to go I could not
feel that I was going so far wrong. She herself has been working 12 hours
a day as have some of the others in the unit, & the reason they want
me is that I can do the extra outside work & take all unnecessary details
off their shoulders. Milly seemed to think that I would fit the job
because I am strong & willing (we hope) & apparently a genial
person is a very important asset. then Agnes was very anxious to have
me come because I was her age, & I must say that to be with good
friends was a very strong argument with me. Somehow living in Paris
alone is not all that it is cracked up to be; I have had a splendid
time but I have been drowning all qualms of homesickness by being
very sociable, & I would like to get away somewhere and get settled
down. You naturally go on parties in Paris with Every friend who
comes to town on permission; it is all right for them because it is
their vacation, but it is an extremely bad habit for the people who
live here steadily because it interferes with our work. I may have made
a mistake in living at the France et Choiseul & trying to do so much but I
could not bear to live far off somewhere especially as I did not have
any very intimate friend to be with who would have answered the same purpose as all the interesting things I have done. I don't
for a minute regret anything so far except that I have not done
my share of work & I want to get to Earth & do it. I am sincerely
hoping that the combination of being with Agnes & Milly & Suzette
Ryerson plus the feeling that I am relieving someone to do better
work for the wounded will be a balm to my conscience & will make
me feel myself that I am of some use. I think probably that my a
taste of the front will be a good thing for me because being in
Paris in a way is further from the war than being at home, & if a
cable does come to the contrary I shall have to radically reform
my mode of living here. I am spending much too much money,
& although I think that my society gives pleasure to various
discouraged individuals, French friends, some American men &
women, I think that I would be a much more sober &
more responsible person at the End of three months of living
in sight & real hard life & death work. Anyway we will see
how it all works out. I suppose Pa is worked up over my
disobedience & I don't blame him very much. I hope that Dorothy
will explain to him what a sensible girl Milly is. Mrs Larz
Anderson has gone out to the unit too. If I have gone
astray (and I am hoping that I have not wandered too
far from my New England Conscience to bring me back) it is
because my job has not been all Engrossing & I have had
time to catch the attitude of discontent & disillusionment which
exists in Paris. all workers have a bad week or two when they first arrive; some recover & some don't. I am still
hunting for a man's size job, I may not find it yet
but restlessness is another chronic trouble over here, so don't
please worry too much about me; I'll drop on my feet sooner
or later & if you peremptorily cable no about my going to
the Fowlers I'll survive somehow & trust to the good old
Boston traditions that I'll land well.

Because I personally have not felt hard at work don't let
Pa think he has proved his point about more work to be
done at home. I am conceited enough to say that besides Dr. Cabot,
the Fowlers, the Red Cross cantine and the Y.M.C.A. all want me--it
just happens that I came over on the wrong passport but
I'll soon get straightened out. Social workers refuse to see the
value of welfare work with soldiers. Dr. Cabot looks upon it as
a pastime, Eating candy, or taking to drink--when he hears of
a good social worker going in for it he thinks that one more
soul has gone astray & Peggy Curtis agrees with him.

I have not heard from you for a long time. Judging from
the way surgical dressings are being boomed over here you
must be very rushed at home.

Much love and please forgive me whatever happens.

From,
Nora

25.2 cm x 20 cm

From the Eleanor Saltonstall papers