Inside the house, Dr. Sheppard, Poirot, Flora, and Major Blunt meet Mr. Hammond, who’s been speaking with Mrs. Ackroyd. Mrs. Ackroyd tells the group that she believes Ralph to have “accidentally” killed Roger. Poirot pulls the lawyer aside for a chat, and Dr. Sheppard, unsure whether or not he should join, comes near. Poirot invites Sheppard to his side, saying, “We investigate this affair side by side.” Mr. Hammond explains that he finds it unlikely that Ralph Paton killed Roger Ackroyd, although Ralph was pressed for cash. Ackroyd’s will has just been opened: he’s left 500 pounds to Raymond, 1,000 pounds to Miss Russell, 10,000 to Mrs. Ackroyd, 20,000 to Flora, and the rest to Ralph.
Mrs. Ackroyd seems to be in denial about her brother-in-law’s death. This might suggest that she couldn’t have had the wherewithal or ingenuity to kill him, or it might show an obvious (and suspicious) desire to avoid the matter altogether. Notice, also, that Poirot emphasizes that he and Dr. Sheppard are partners. However, it’s certainly possible that Poirot is emphasizing his friendship with Sheppard in order to trick him into letting his guard down. The passage also shows that Ralph had a lot to gain by killing Roger—a vast fortune.
Poirot then pulls Dr. Sheppard aside and gives him instructions: he wants Sheppard to bring up the name of Mrs. Ferrars to see how Major Blunt reacts. Sheppard proceeds with his instructions, and Blunt simply says that he knew Mrs. Ferrars, betraying no signs of discomfort. He adds that she seemed to have aged a lot lately. The men chat, and Blunt brings up the fact that he’s come into a legacy recently, but lost his money on “some wild-cat scheme.” Sheppard sympathizes and relates his own story. Sheppard then reports back to Poirot on what he’s learned.
Major Blunt seems not to have any deep feelings about Mrs. Ferrars, although it’s also possible that he’s good at controlling his emotions (he’s described as being very stoic, after all). For the second time in the book, Christie emphasizes the point that Sheppard has lost money on bad investments—a sign, perhaps, that this is important information.
At lunch, Mrs. Ackroyd tells Dr. Sheppard that she’s hurt about being left only 10,000 pounds. She adds that Roger Ackroyd admired Miss Russell greatly, hence the money he left her. She also remembers how Miss Russell tried to marry Roger—a plan that Mrs. Ackroyd thwarted. Annoyed, Sheppard asks Mrs. Ackroyd about the inquest, and Mrs. Ackroyd seems surprised—surely, she says, Roger died by accident. “Brutally,” Dr. Sheppard explains that he was murdered.
Mrs. Ackroyd continues to show signs that she hasn’t fully grasped Roger’s death—she continues to exist under the delusion that he had an accident of some kind. At the same time, she seems to have had a clear motive for murder—she may have believed that Roger would leave her his fortune (although, as it turns out, most of the money goes to Ralph).
Raymond recalls that Roger cashed a check for a hundred pounds yesterday afternoon, and adds that he usually leaves the money in his unlocked desk drawer. Inspector Raglan, who’s in the house asking more questions, goes with Raymond, Sheppard, and Poirot to search the desk. The money is still in the desk but, much to Raymond’s surprise, forty pounds are missing. One of the servants who Ackroyd trusted, Raymond suggests, must have stolen the money. He recalls that Ackroyd had recently hired a housemaid named Elsie Dale. He also notes that one of the parlormaids just announced that she’d be leaving.
It’s a mark of the classism in English high society of the era that the guests immediately blame the servants for the missing money, rather than considering each other (this is especially remarkable considering that many of the characters in the novel have been shown to be desperate for cash).
In the housekeeper’s room, Inspector Raglan, Dr. Sheppard, and Poirot speak with Miss Russell about Elsie Dale. Russell explains that Elsie would never have stolen money—she has great references and is always well behaved. The men also speak with Ursula Bourne, a parlormaid who gave notice after Roger became annoyed with the way she arranged his papers. Ursula insists that she was nowhere near Roger’s desk last night—that was Elsie’s job. Poirot asks Ursula how long her confrontation with Roger was—half an hour, Ursula says. Russell explains that Ursula has good references from Marby, an old estate.
Note that Ursula says Roger took half an hour to fire her—which seems like a suspiciously long conversation. Second, it appears that there are actually two crimes that need solving: Roger’s murder and the theft of the money. Poirot seems to be operating under the assumption that solving one crime will help him solve the other. Even if the two crimes aren’t linked in any way (and they’re not, as it turns out), investigating them together gives Poirot a way of better understanding his suspects.
Before the men leave the housekeeper’s room, they ask Miss Russell her opinion of Parker. She doesn’t say anything, but purses her lips. Inspector Raglan notes that Parker is “wrong” somehow, but adds that he couldn’t have killed Roger—he had too many duties around the house.
Just as there is more than one crime to solve, there’s probably more than one criminal to catch. Parker may be guilty of some crime, but he doesn’t seem to be a murderer—perhaps the same could be said of Russell.
Dr. Sheppard wonders if any of the papers on Roger’s desk contained important information—this might explain why Roger had such a lengthy talk with Ursula about how she arranged them. Poirot points out that Ursula is one of the only suspects without an alibi—and yet she would seem to have no motive. Poirot also points out that Sheppard has been assuming that Mrs. Ferrars’ blackmailer was a man when, in fact, it could have been a woman. Poirot decides that tomorrow they’ll go to Marby. He admits to Sheppard that everything points to Ralph’s guilt—however, he intends to follow through on his promise to Flora to “leave no stone unturned.”
As it stands, the most likely suspect in Roger’s murder is Ralph Paton—however, Poirot’s investigation is just getting started, and the novel is only half over. If there’s one rule of detective novels, it’s that the killer is never the most likely suspect (if it were any other way, the novel wouldn’t be very entertaining). Where the police (who have other cases to deal with, and just want to get their jobs done) reach a conclusion early on, Poirot continues to investigate.