Danglars does not immediately reveal to Fernand that he has a plan to punish Dantes and keep him away from the captaincy. Danglars instead pretends that he is going to leave the table, but Fernand begs Danglars to stay, since he has sensed that Danglars is jealous of Dantes and that perhaps they can band together against him.
The narrator hints at another level of Danglars’ intuition. Danglars feels that he can use Fernand’s passionate hatred of Dantes to his advantage – whereas he, Danglars, can rely on a cooler, more calculated cunning to frame a plot that will ensnare Dantes and send him away.
Caderousse, for his part, seems to want to get back at Dantes, too—ostensibly for his “pride” since he rose so quickly to captain. But in his drunkenness Caderousse also admits that Dantes has done nothing wrong and that they should not kill him. Danglars tells Fernand that, indeed, killing Dantes would be too severe, and that it would be far better to incriminate Dantes, keeping him in prison for a long time. Crucially, he would need to be kept away from his accusers, whom he must not be able to trace, in case he were ever to be released and seek revenge.
Caderousse is the first of the plotters to go back on the plot, even before they’ve really gotten started. The narrator hints that, compared to Danglars and Fernand, Caderousse is not even committed to his jealousy – that he has a kind of cowardly fear of the consequences of a real effort to discredit Dantes. Whether this cowardice is a good thing – a sign of conscience – or a bad thing – a sign of weakness – is to be determined later.
Danglars asks a waiter for pen, ink, and paper. He shows to Fernand, and to the half-asleep Caderousse, that he is drafting an anonymous indictment of Dantes, alleging that Dantes is carrying with him to Paris a letter from Napoleon in exile that urges rebellion against the current government in Paris. Danglars writes this letter “with his left hand” to disguise his penmanship.
This “writing with the left hand” has a literal meaning, of course, but also has symbolic power. Although the narrator never says so directly, “left-handedness” is designated in Latin by the root “sinister,” which also connotes evil or misdeeds in Latin and English (further, in the Bible rightness is generally associated with good and leftness with evil). Thus, at the symbolic level Danglars not only disguises his handiwork, but renders it particularly cruel by doing the deed with the left, sinister hand.
After Danglars writes “To the Crown Prosecutor” on the letter, he starts to give it to Fernand. However, Caderousse, stumbling awake at the table for a moment, declares that Dantes is in fact his friend and that he wouldn’t want anyone to harm Dantes and Mercedes. At this, Danglars pretends that the letter has been a joke and crumples it up, throwing it in a corner of the tavern. He and Caderousse leave. But looking back, Danglars sees that Fernand has picked up the letter and uncrumpled it, just as Danglars had hoped. Thus, in his craftiness, Danglars has made it seem that Fernand is really the party incriminating Dantes, and Caderousse, who does not see Fernand with the letter, believes that the idea of the trick has been abandoned.
This is another masterful idea by Danglars. By making it seem that he has abandoned the idea, but leaving it within the reach of Fernand, Danglars manages to make it appear that neither he nor Caderousse have anything directly to do with Dantes’s imprisonment – that, instead, it was Fernand who took “a joke” and made it real by passing the letter to the French government. Of course, it is Fernand’s blind romantic jealousy of which Danglars is aware, and he knows that this manoeuver will make it seem that Fernand, and not Danglars, is the true agent of the framing plot.