Charles Darnay passed his last night alone in the prison. He had no hope. He knew he must die, not for anything he had done wrong, but for the crimes of his father and his uncle. He sat down to write to his wife:
I knew nothing about the time your father spent in prison until he told me. Even then I did not know that it was my family that had been so cruel to him. I told your father that my real name was Evremonde, and he made me promise not to tell you. I am sure that he had forgotten the paper he had written, but what has happened now is not his fault. Take care of him and our child, and one day we shall all meet again in the happier world that comes after death.
Darnay did not sleep peacefully that night and in the morning he walked up and down his prison, waiting. He counted the hours – nine, gone for ever, ten, eleven, twelve gone for ever. At one o’clock he heard someone outside the door. The door opened and closed and there stood Sydney Carton, holding
a warning finger to his lips.
‘Be quiet! I come from your wife. She begs you to do exactly what I say, and to ask no questions. There is no time. Take off your boots and put on mine.’
‘Carton, my dear friend,’ said Darnay, ‘it is impossible to escape from this place. You will only die with me.’
‘I’m not asking you to escape. Put on my shirt, and my coat.’ He did not allow Darnay time to argue or refuse. ‘Now sit down and write what I say,’ he said. ‘Quickly, my friend, quickly!’
‘If you remember,’ he said, and Darnay wrote, ‘the words we spoke so long ago, you will understand this when you see it.” As he said this, Carton took his hand from his pocket.
‘What is that in your hand?’ asked Darnay.
‘Nothing. Have you written “see it”? Good, now go on writing,’ said Carton quietly. ‘I am happy that I can prove them now. This is not a reason for sadness.’ Carton’s hand was close to Darnay’s face, and he gently pressed a cloth against Darnay’s nose and mouth. A minute later Darnay lay unconscious on the ground. Carton quickly dressed himself in Darnay’s clothes, and pushed the note that Darnay had written inside Darnay’s pocket. Then he went to the door and called softly, ‘Come in now.’ The spy Barsad came in.
‘Quick, help me,’ said Carton. ‘You must help me to the coach.’
‘You?’ asked the spy.
‘Him, man, I’ve changed places with him. You can say that it was too much for him, saying his last goodbye to his friend. That happens quite often, I believe.’
‘Yes, often,’ replied Barsad. ‘But do you promise to keep me out of danger, and go on with this plan to the end? The number must be right. Fifty-two prisoners must die today.’
‘Have I not already promised to be true to the death? Hurry, man! Take him to Mr Lorry, put him in the coach yourself, and tell Mr Lorry to leave at once!’
Barsad called two men into the room, and told them to lift the unconscious man and carry him out.
‘The time is short, Evremonde,’ said Barsad, in a warning voice.
‘I know it well,’ replied Carton. ‘Be careful with my friend, and leave me.’
The door closed and Carton was left alone. He listened carefully but there were only normal prison sounds. No shouts, no alarm bells. He waited calmly.
Soon he heard the sound of doors opening. The door of his prison cell opened and a man said, ‘Follow me, Evremonde!’ and Carton followed him into a large, dark room.
There were many people there, some standing, some sitting, some walking about, some crying. Most of them stood, silent, looking at the ground. A young woman came up to him; she was thin and pale.