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Charles Darnay's secret that he hides from all except his father-in-law before he marries Lucie, is that he was born into the French aristocracy, and in addition, is the nephew of the Marquis Evermonde, who we are shown is a particularly cruel and heartless example of the French aristocracy. We are shown Charles' great strength of mind in his rejection of the values of his uncle and in his decision to live a significantly poorer life working in London than he would be able to live in France. We are also shown his tremendous loyalty in his decision to return to France to try and rescue Gabelle at great personal risk.
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