I was pondering Mary Morstan Watson the other day, and that description John gives her in the opening to "The Man With The Twisted Lip":
"Folk who were in grief came to my wife like birds to a lighthouse."
And Watson doesn't necessarily mean "grieving" grief here. Given the situation faced by Kate Whitney, who came to Mary when she just didn't know which way to turn, it seems to have more of a "folks in trouble" connotation.
I was thinking about what it must have been like for Watson -- his former room-mate didn't really attract people with troubles, necessarily, but people with puzzles to work out. Watson's wife attracts visitors of a different sort, as evidenced by the wife of an addict looking for help with her husband. No mystery there, just the sort of grief with no easy solution faced by ordinary people every single day. While Sherlock's visitors offered John a chance at adventure and curious events, Mary's visitors were probably more along the lines of sad, sad stories needing a sympathetic ear.
In Kate Whitney's case, John Watson actually has a purpose he can serve -- going after the husband -- but as evidenced by Mary's first reaction, "Or should you rather that I sent James off to bed?" (Let's not get into the "James/John" issue at the moment.), Mary Watson did not always need a man around to deal with her friends' issues. Nor find it of help.
But as I pondered the life of the husband whose wife is constantly attracting folks in sad situations, I went back to the original text for another look, and then got distracted.
"Now you must have some wine and water," Mary Watson tells her guest. She plainly prescribes a gentler nerve tonic than her husband, whose habit was usually to get brandy into Holmes's distraught clients. So that got me curious about wine and water, a drinking practice that apparently goes back as far as the Romans and Greeks.
Mixing water with wine seems to have a great many varieties and reasons, and my initial theory -- that Mary was using the gasogene to add soda water to the wine for her guests -- didn't seem to have been necessarily the case, especially if she was just calming their nerves and not making a party beverage. But the minute my web wanderings found kalimotxo, the mixture of wine and cola, things suddenly look a very non-Canonical turn as I contemplated this much-less-classy cousin to sangria.
Which is part of what I've always loved about being a Sherlockian: The Sherlock Holmes stories are perpetually a portal to ideas that had never crossed your path before, even it is something as silly as mixing wine and Coke, and stumbling upon it from a rumination upon Mary Morstan.
But then, we never really know just what to expect out of Mary Morstan these days, do we?