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I reread A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens recently and was struck at how coincidental it was that Sydney Carton just happened to be in France during the time Charles Darnay was accused the second time. Darnay had been imprisoned for a year before that. Why hadn't Carton gone during that time? How did he know he'd be needed right at that moment? If he was there for Darnay, why wasn't he at the trial where he was released before he was taken again? Was he there on other business or just to support Darnay? Did I miss something?

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First of all, I doubt that Carton was going there to support Darnay. Although Darnay and Lucie treat him like family, Carton still feels inadequate in the presence of Darnay. As he states in Chapter 20, "The Plea",

But I do, and you must take my word for it. Well! If you could endure to have such a worthless fellow, and a fellow of such indifferent reputation, coming and going at odd times, I should ask that I might be permitted to come and go as a privileged person here; that I might be regarded as an useless (and I would add, if it were not for the resemblance I detected between you and me, an unornamental) piece of furniture, tolerated for its old service, and taken no notice of. I doubt if I should abuse the permission. It is a hundred to one if I should avail myself of it four times in a year. It would satisfy me, I dare say, to know that I had it.”

I think Carton most likely was there to visit Lucie, since that seems to be the main reason why he visited them previously before, with how Carton is described as,

No man ever really loved a woman, lost her, and knew her with a blameless though an unchanged mind, when she was a wife and a mother....

The text isn't really specific on why. Sydney Carton tells Miss Pross,

Don’t be alarmed, my dear Miss Pross. I arrived at Mr. Lorry’s, to his surprise, yesterday evening; we agreed that I would not present myself elsewhere until all was well, or unless I could be useful; I present myself here, to beg a little talk with your brother. I wish you had a better employed brother than Mr. Barsad. I wish for your sake Mr. Barsad was not a Sheep of the Prisons.”

It might be that he came to comfort Lucie, but I think it's most likely Carton came to trade his life with Darnay. That's why Carton said that he was waiting to until things got better or how he could help. His plan of help was to free Darnay and take his place, but he had to be sure that Darnay's life was in danger. So I doubt it was actually a coincidence.

Team Stryver all the away Rest in peace, Mr. Carton.

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