Angharad, a fourteen year old artist has locked herself in the east wing of her family’s ancestral castle and refuses food and drink. She is painting over the whole floor of her castle apartment, making a spirit trap, trying, as the Africans had taught her to capture the spirit of her dead brother, Owain. When their father, Tudur, returned to Wales at the end of the second world war he had insisted, in spite of his wife, Bronwen’s, dismay, to take his family to grow tobacco in Southern Rhodesia. Angharad does not want to do either. She fights to be allowed to remain with her pony, Mary. But there is no way out. Tudur, charming and feckless, goes ahead to prepare for the family, promising a house, cows, a garden, and a horse for Angharad. But when they arrived there is only a primitive straw hut without running water or electricity, miles from anywhere, in the middle of the African bush. Eventually Angharad is given the mare, Kitty and she and Owain joyously ride together over the vleis, encountering baboons, giraffes, and even lions but their mother, Bronwen is miserable. Then Katya, sophisticated and beautiful comes into their lives and Bronwen’s despair is briefly lifted. Katya charms each member of the family, unfortunately, as it later turns out, most of all Tudur. Bronwen, unable to bear more, craving for civilisation, goes back leaving the children with their charming feckless father.
One evening Angharad and Owain go out on Kitty. As they ride over the vlei the lion starts roaring, and Owain becomes ill. Out in the bush, alone with his sister, while a lion roars, Owan slowly dies. The story ends with Angharad back in Wales, bitterly blaming both her parents for Owain’s death. Her father has betrayed her, she has been forced to set Kitty free into the bush, she has been forced against her will to return to Wales.
At the very end, though, a little hope lies in Angharad’s spirit trap.