The night after the previous chapter, Sheppard and Caroline play Mah Jong with two gossipy friends, Colonel Carter and Miss Gannett. As they play, Carter mentions that he’s heard rumors of blackmail. Miss Gannett says she saw Flora Ackroyd in the morning—and she was with another man, though Gannett doesn’t name him.
Mah Jong is one of the few important symbols in the novel. Christie was fond of using games (especially cards) as a metaphor for the way that people hide their secrets from others, and Mah Jong is a prime example. Once again, the local gossips seem to have better information about what’s going on than Sheppard—Miss Gannett claims she saw Flora with a man (perhaps Blunt).
Miss Gannett points out that Flora has been fortunate. She was the last person to see Roger Ackroyd alive, and Gannett guesses that Ralph has been staying away from the village in order to draw suspicion away from Flora. Miss Gannett also mentions that her maid knows Elsie. Elsie mentioned that money was stolen from Fernly, and said that Ursula, the parlormaid, was responsible. Elsie has also suggested that Ursula was involved in a gang of some kind—she spends a lot of time by herself on her days off. Caroline now voices her theory about Ralph Paton. She believes that Ralph is hiding out in Cranchester, the nearest big town. Based on a passing remark that Poirot made in her presence the other day, she thinks that Ralph left the village on foot, rather than by train, and chose to stay in Cranchester because it’s the last place anybody would look. She also saw Poirot heading to Cranchester in a car.
So far, Ralph and Parker have been the prime suspects in the case; now, however, Gannett raises the possibility that Flora could have committed the murder. This foreshadows the way that Poirot will begin to investigate Flora more closely. Caroline, along with Miss Gannett, seems to know a lot that Dr. Sheppard doesn't—for example, she saw Poirot heading to Cranchester for some reason. Evidently, Poirot is still hiding many things from Sheppard, reminding readers that, contrary to what Poirot claimed, he and Sheppard aren’t always partners.
Colonel Carter and Miss Gannett now ask Dr. Sheppard for his own theories about the murder, but Sheppard claims that Poirot hasn’t shared any information with him. Suddenly, he notices that he’s been dealt the perfect Mah Jong hand, the so-called “Perfect Winning.” “Reckless with triumph,” Dr. Sheppard proceeds to tell his guests about the ring Poirot found in the pond. The players then guess that Roger was secretly married to Mrs. Ferrars, that Ralph was married to Flora, or that Roger was married to Miss Russell. But then Caroline suggests that Geoffrey Raymond was married to Flora. Caroline insists, “Flora Ackroyd does not care a penny piece for Ralph Paton, and never has.”
In this symbolically loaded scene, Dr. Sheppard gets the perfect hand and then gets reckless and cocky, sharing the information that Poirot shared with him about the golden ring. This could be considered a metaphor for the way that Sheppard and the other characters sometimes get reckless and divulge secret information that they would do better to keep to themselves (especially in Sheppard’s case, when he feels he has committed a “perfect” crime). The chapter ends with another one of Caroline’s insights about the case (which, so far, have proven to be accurate): Flora doesn't love Ralph.