The narrator explains briefly that Les Catalans is a part of Marseilles where Spanish settlers have lived for years, in “Moorish” houses. He sets a scene in which Mercedes, with long, black hair, is speaking to Fernand, her cousin. Mercedes tells Fernand, “for the hundredth time,” that she will not marry him because she is engaged to someone else—Dantes. Mercedes is poor and must live on charity after the death of her parents, but Fernand tells Mercedes that this does not matter to him, that he wishes to be married to her and that he can “make his fortune” with her as his wife—he will give up being a fisherman, as he is now, to find another profession. When Fernand hints that, perhaps, Dantes will not come back from his voyage, Mercedes counters that, if Dantes dies, then “she will die too.”
The area of Les Catalans is almost like a second, foreign country-community within the city of Marseille. There, Mercedes and Fernand live on very little money, speaking Spanish among one another, and feeling somewhat apart from the goings-on of the rest of the French-speaking community of the city. Thus, Dantes is not the only figure who, later in the novel (and in disguise), presents himself as a foreigner in the city of Paris – for Mercedes has a legitimate claim to foreignness being from Les Catalans, even though she is a stone’s throw from the bustling center of Marseille’s city life.
At this, Dantes comes upon Mercedes and Fernand. Not seeing Fernand at first, Dantes embraces Mercedes, and she, like his father, is overjoyed to see him again. Mercedes then introduces Dantes and Fernand, saying that Fernand, her cousin, will be Dantes’ “best friend” when they are married. After only a few seconds in Dantes’ presence, Fernand flees Mercedes’ hut; outside, he runs into Caderousse and Danglars, two men he does not know. They invite Fernand to drink wine with them.
It’s worth noting that in these scenes Danglars, Caderousse, and eventually Fernand move through Marseille as though they themselves are instruments of vengeance, hoping to punish a man against whom they have a grudge. This differs from the Count’s eventual punishments, however, in that the Count feels he has a legitimate claim to want to harm Caderousse, Danglars, and Fernand, whereas these three men, the narrator strongly implies, have only their own pettiness and jealousy to blame for their unjust desire for “vengeance.”
Visibly distraught, Fernand is barely able even to speak to Caderousse, who is noticeably intoxicated. Caderousse prods at Fernand the way he had prodded at Dantes just before, telling Fernand that Dantes will be named captain of the Pharaon soon and that he will marry Mercedes. At this, Dantes and Mercedes walk out happily past the tavern where the three men are sitting. Caderousse and Danglars speak to Dantes with false joy of his upcoming wedding and his visit to Paris, which Dantes says he will undertake immediately after the ceremony. As an aside, Danglars mutters to himself that Dantes is surely giving to someone the mysterious letter from Capt. Leclere, and that this letter can be used in a plot he will hatch against Dantes.
The narrator demonstrates that these three plotters have different ways of negotiating their relationship to their own jealousy. Danglars is the most naturally devious of the bunch, and from the beginning he has a sense that a letter or series of letters might be used to frame Dantes in a plot. At this stage Caderousse appears guided only by his unnamable jealousy of Dantes as a plucky upstart. And Fernand, the brooder of the group, is motivated by a concern of romance – that he feels Mercedes has spurned his affections for another man.