Do they keep bees on this island? . . . It’s sane enough what I’m asking. Bees, hives, bees! . . . Six little Indian boys playing with a hive.

Vera utters these sentiments early in Chapter XI, just after Mr. Rogers has been found dead in the woodshed. She becomes hysterical and points out that the murders have been patterned after the deaths in the “Ten Little Indians” poem that hangs in everyone’s room. Rogers, the third person killed, was murdered with an ax while he was getting firewood, and the corresponding verse reads “Seven little Indian boys chopping up sticks; / One chopped himself in halves and then there were six.” Vera’s wild reference to “[b]ees, hives, bees” reflects her realization that the next murder will be carried out to correspond to the line “Six little Indian boys playing with a hive; / A bumblebee stung one and then there were five.” She raves impatiently because the others do not understand, or do not want to admit, what is going on.

The poem is the novel’s dominant motif, and it adds an air of supernatural inevitability to the murders. We know that just as each successive verse of the poem brings the death of another Indian boy, so will each character on the island be killed off in sequence.