The next morning, back in Oxford, Theo writes the word “YES” on a postcard and folds it, thinking that the word indicates “a commitment to more than his visit to Xan.” He heads to the Cast Museum, where he told Julian’s group he’d leave the note, and he remembers that Xan is the one who introduced him to this place. After walking through the museum, Theo leaves the note at the base of a statue with its edge “just visible to a searching eye.”
Theo’s motivation to help the group is the first real action he’s taken. It represents a move toward not just disdain for the way things are around him, but an actual indignation and a desire to see things made right. Already Theo is thinking like a covert conspirator, showing his desire to blend in with the group, despite his previous hesitation.
Now that he has been faced with the reality of several “abominations,” Theo feels he has a duty to see Xan. However, he is motivated less by the horror of the Quietus than by “the memory of his own humiliation, his body hauled up the beach and dumped as if it were an unwanted carcass.”
Theo’s “self-obsession” has not been entirely eradicated—it is still his own humiliation (rather than empathy) that truly spurs him to action.
As Theo leaves the museum, an elderly, sleeping attendant wakes up, and Theo recognizes him as a retired classics professor at Oxford. Theo asks how he’s doing, and the attendant skittishly tells Theo that he is “no trouble to anyone.” Theo wonders what—or whom—the attendant is afraid of. Theo has a horrible vision of the old man as “the last custodian” the museum will ever see, his “frail body mummified or rotting” there forever.
Theo has been unsettled by the horror of the Quietus, and now realizes the burden the elderly face is to prove that they are not in fact a burden to “anyone.” Theo’s vision of the museum attendant is future-oriented, but still rooted in a fear of decay, stagnancy, and lack of hope.