Back in history with Chapter XXV to Pontius Pilate, and the scenario of Pilate waiting for word of the deed being done, while a thunderstorm rages overhead.
Were it not for the roar of the water, the claps of thunder that threatened to smash in the palace roof, the clatter of hail that pounded against the balcony steps, it might have been possible to hear the procurator mumbling something as he talked to himself. (p. 256)
What of course is the common saying of those that talk to themselves? Either money in the bank or the sign of a guilty mind. It goes on:
And if the intermittent flickers of heavenly fire had been transformed into a steady light, an observer might have been able to see that the procurator’s face, its eyes inflamed by wine and by recent bouts of insomnia, expressed impatience, that the procurator was not only gazing at the two white roses, which had drowned in the red puddle, but was constantly turning his face toward the garden and the onslaught of watery dust and sand, that he was waiting for someone, waiting impatiently.
I like the “heavenly fire” versus “lightning,” which certainly brings religious tone into an otherwise historical novel (as being written by the Master), and the intermittent flickers” soften the sense of the storm. This to my mind becomes the mien of Pilate himself as he reclines on the couch, external conflict shown in bits of impatience such as smashing a jug even as we sense that the shell of his body holds in a fiercer storm, i.e., “its eyes inflamed…”
The two white roses? Lying in a pool of red–probably wine–that looks like blood, they are an obvious sign written in by Bulgakov, but of what? What I notice of them is that they remain white and pure, unstained by the blood-like wine. Is this a symbol of Pilate’s wish of blood-free hands, his self doubts excused by his delegation of the execution to others?
We can read of a broken jug, a thunderstorm, and a man anxiously waiting. Or we can read of a perception of history; that of the Crucifixion, and that of Russia as well.