At lunch, Dr. Sheppard tells Caroline that he’ll be dining with Roger Ackroyd that night. Caroline says that Ralph has been staying at the local inn, and Sheppard doesn’t question her—he trusts Caroline for such information. Caroline also tells her brother that Ralph has probably been spending time with Flora Ackroyd, his “cousin” (though they’re not biologically related). Caroline adds that Ralph and Flora may be engaged, but Sheppard is unconvinced.
Once again, Caroline acts as an important source of information—Dr. Sheppard doesn’t question her authority (and therefore the reader doesn’t, either). And although Sheppard does question Caroline’s theory about Ralph and Flora, he’s already entertained some of her other theories, which may prove to be correct after all.
At lunch, Dr. Sheppard thinks about the foreigner who has moved in next door. His name is “Mr. Porrott,” and neither he nor Caroline has been able to learn anything whatsoever about him. Based on his mustache, Sheppard guesses that he’s a hairdresser.
By this point, the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot was a popular character in Christie’s novels, and readers would have recognized him from Sheppard’s description of his famous mustache. It’s a sign of Poirot’s outsider-ness that in this small, close-knit town, nobody knows anything about him.
That afternoon, Sheppard is working in his garden when a vegetable marrow (a kind of squash) whizzes by his head. A moment later, “Mr. Porrott” appears. He apologizes: he’s been cultivating vegetables for months, and is furious that they haven’t grown well. Sheppard asks Mr. Porrott why he’s moved to the village, and he explains that he’s been trying in vain to escape his “old busy days.” Sheppard tells Porrott that recently he came into “a legacy,” and yet he’s still living in his village.
Sheppard and Poirot seem to become friends almost immediately. They bond by discussing how they’ve been unable to turn their backs on their old lives—Sheppard because he still lives in his small village, Poirot because he’s still interested in his old profession.
Mr. Porrott explains to Dr. Sheppard that he’s come to live in the village because his old friend—an honest, occasionally foolish friend—has gone to live in South America. As a result, Porrott no longer feels that he can proceed with “the study of human nature.” Sheppard says that for his part, he’s made bad investments and has lost a lot of money lately. Porrott tells Sheppard that he’s a lot like Porrott’s old friend.
Poirot’s usual sidekick (the Dr. Watson character to Poirot’s Sherlock Holmes) is named Captain Hastings—this is the character Poirot says has gone to South America. Notice that Sheppard admits he’s lost a lot of money, suggesting a possible financial motive for a crime. However, Poirot makes readers (or at least Agatha Christie fans) think that Sheppard can be trusted by comparing him to Hastings—the usual narrator and the most trustworthy character in a Christie novel.
Mr. Porrott asks Dr. Sheppard if he can name someone, based on Porrott’s description: dark hair, very handsome. Sheppard immediately concludes that Porrott is describing Ralph Paton. Porrott explains that he knows Roger Ackroyd from London, and has asked Ackroyd to keep quiet about his profession—Porrott is so eager to remain incognito that he hasn’t even corrected “the local version of my name.” Porrott goes on to explain that there’s something about Ralph that he’s been unable to understand.
Poirot is connected to Roger Ackroyd in vague ways that he doesn’t describe in any detail. He’s come to King’s Abbot to retire from his years of being a detective, and yet he’s unable to curb his curiosity about other people—the very curiosity that made him such a good detective in the first place.
Dr. Sheppard leaves Mr. Porrott and goes inside his house; Caroline has just come home. She tells Dr. Sheppard that she’s just seen Roger Ackroyd, who told her that Ralph and Flora are engaged. Caroline told Roger that Ralph was in town, and Roger seemed surprised. She also explains that, while walking home through the woods, she heard Ralph arguing with a woman. Ralph said, “it is quite on the cards the old man will cut me off with a shilling.” Ralph then explained that he’d become a rich man as soon as “the old man” died.
Sure enough, Caroline’s theories about Ralph and Flora turn out to be correct, confirming that—paranoid and gossipy though she might be—she’s a surprisingly reliable source. Therefore, we might also trust Caroline when she says that she overheard Ralph with another woman. Ralph’s comments suggest some tension between him and Roger (his “old man”), based on the fact that Roger controls Ralph’s finances.
Dr. Sheppard decides to go to the Three Boars inn, where he expects to find Ralph. Sheppard knows Ralph well, since he knew Ralph’s mother years ago. Ralph has “a strain of weakness” in him, though he’s handsome and charming. At the inn, Ralph greets Sheppard and offers him a drink. He explains that Roger Ackroyd has put him in “a devil of a mess.” Sheppard asks if he can help in any way, but Ralph murmurs, “I’ve got to play a lone hand.”
Sheppard is vague about just how well he knows Ralph—he knew Ralph’s mother, but it’s unclear if he and Ralph are friends, if they see each other often, etc. Ralph seems to be in some kind of trouble, and seems to be on the verge of taking matters into his own hands—suggesting, once again, that he might be a suspect in the titular crime.