Study Guide

A Tale of Two Cities Volume III, Chapter Thirteen – Fifty-Two

By Charles Dickens

Volume III, Chapter Thirteen – Fifty-Two

  • In his room in the prison, Darnay counts off the hours until his death.
  • He thinks constantly of Lucie. Finally, he writes letters to Lucie, her father, and Mr. Lorry.
  • Then he paces the room, counting off the last hours of his life.
  • He knows that at three he’ll be summoned to the carriage that will take him to the guillotine.
  • At one, however, Darnay hears footsteps approaching.
  • Carton walks into the room.
  • He’s got a pressing request for Darnay: he doesn’t have time to explain why he’s asking for the things he needs.
  • Startled, Darnay does what Carton asks. They exchange boots, hair-ties, and shirts.
  • Darnay begins to understand Carton’s plan, but he’s certain that it won’t work.
  • Speaking rapidly, Carton asks Darnay to sit down and write a letter that he’ll dictate.
  • Darnay complies.
  • Carton tells him to write an unaddressed letter saying that the time has come for him to make good on the promise he once gave.
  • He knows that the reader won’t forget the promise. He wants her to be assured that he’s glad that his time has come.
  • Puzzled, Darnay stops writing. He thinks he smells a strange vapor.
  • He starts to rip the bottle out of Carton’s hand, but Carton’s too quick for him.
  • Darnay slumps to the ground, drugged.
  • Carton calls Barsad, who drags Darnay out of the jail.
  • They place Darnay on a stretcher, and Barsad carries him away.
  • At two, a jailer comes into the room and calls for Evrémonde. Carton follows him.
  • He gets into a line with fifty-one other prisoners, all of whom are scheduled to die.
  • They board carts that will carry them to the guillotine.
  • Carton stands next to a young seamstress who stares at him passionately.
  • She knows Darnay; she was with him in La Force.
  • She says that she wouldn’t be afraid to die for the Republic…but she can’t understand how the death of an insignificant, innocent woman can matter at all.
  • All of a sudden, she realizes that Carton isn’t Darnay.
  • Startled, she asks if Carton is dying for Darnay.
  • He says he’s dying for Darnay’s wife and child.
  • The seamstress asks to hold the hand of the "brave stranger" as they ride to the guillotine.
  • Meanwhile, the Manettes and Mr. Lorry are going through the checkpoints out of town.
  • Anxiously, they watch as guards check and re-check all their papers.
  • Soon, however, the carriage is flying out of Paris.
  • When they get out to a village, they’re stopped again.
  • Nervous, Mr. Lorry asks what the holdup is.
  • It turns out that the guards just want to know how many people are being fed to La Guillotine today.
  • The answer is fifty-two.
  • Satisfied, the guards let the carriage roll off into the night.