Phyllis hears a rumor that her betrothed, Humphrey, does not consider the engagement between them to be completely official. Allegedly, he’s been telling people that he might be looking for a match elsewhere. Though the rumor is only hearsay, Phyllis accepts it as the truth. She decides that this new information, along with Humphrey’s sparse and formal letters to her, frees her from the engagement. However, Phyllis’s father disagrees: he believes that the rumor is untrue, that Humphrey is an honorable man, and that the engagement is intact. He tells Phyllis he has noticed her garden wall conversations with Matthäus Tina, and he suspects she’s looking for an excuse to keep leading the soldier on. He warns her never to venture past the garden wall.
Phyllis and her father’s contrary interpretations of the rumor about Humphrey show that they desire different things: Phyllis wants to free herself from the imminent and inevitably dull marriage, while Dr. Grove is adamant that it will go ahead. Their different reactions also show that Phyllis’s father admires and respects Humphrey more than Phyllis does. Dr. Grove’s warning here is a sign that his control over Phyllis extends to restrictions over both her decisions and her physical movements.
Though Phyllis does not plan to disobey her father, she believes herself in control of her own feelings and lowers her guard against Matthäus Tina. They meet almost every day at dusk, and she notices him becoming more tender and affectionate with her, pressing her hand each time they part. One night, he holds her hand for such a long time that she worries someone might see them.
Phyllis remains loyal to her father by remaining within the confines of the garden, yet her continued conversations with Matthäus Tina show that she can exert control over her own life in very small ways. However, her courage has not caught up with her desire, and she is still scared that her and her lover’s reputations could be damaged by just holding hands.
The next night, Phyllis does not appear at the wall at the usual time. Matthäus Tina waits for her even after the trumpets have sounded to signal the closing of camp. When she finally arrives, she begs him to leave, knowing he risks demotion for his late return. He tells her he doesn’t care—the only people that matter to him are Phyllis and his mother, and he would rather spend time with them than gain any higher rank in the army.
Matthäus Tina is willing to risk punishment or demotion to spend a brief moment with Phyllis, showing that his loyalty lies with the one he loves, not the office he holds. Because she begs him to leave, it's implied that Phyllis is not as bold as Tina.
The next time Phyllis sees Matthäus Tina, he has been demoted from corporal to private for his late return to camp. Phyllis is distressed, believing the demotion is her fault, but Tina comforts her. He tells her that his plans do not depend on military rank. Phyllis’s father would not allow him to marry her if they remained in England, so Tina wishes to take Phyllis to marry and live in Germany.
Phyllis is shown to be more preoccupied with her and her lover’s current circumstances and the immediate repercussions of their actions, while Matthäus Tina is focused only on his end goal of returning to his mother and his homeland and being able to marry Phyllis. It seems he is not as worried about perception and reputation as Phyllis is.
Because Phyllis is unhappy within the confines of her father’s house, and does not feel a great sense of belonging in this part of the countryside, she does not immediately resist Matthäus Tina’s plan. He shares more details with her: the regiment will soon be leaving the area, and he will escape with his friend, Christoph, one night in the next week, meet Phyllis on the highway, and take a boat from the harbor to row to the French coast. Tina reassures Phyllis that this won’t be a scandalous elopement, because his friend will be with them. His careful planning convinces Phyllis that the escape is viable, but the idea still frightens her.
Phyllis’s daily life is so restrictive and frustrating that she is willing to consider risking physical danger and serious damage to her reputation—which is even more striking given her timidity. Further, Tina must assume Phyllis is loyal to him, as he trusts her enough to share the details of his plan—details which, if shared, would inevitably lead to severe punishment. While Tina’s desire to escape is emotionally driven, his careful planning and the cooperation of his friend prove that he is not totally reckless.
Soon, however, Phyllis’s father confronts Phyllis about her meetings with Matthäus Tina, and tells her she’ll be going to stay at her aunt’s house until the York Hussars have left their nearby camp. Phyllis’s aunt’s house is like a prison to her, and her spirits sink as her father tells her what to pack. She becomes so disheartened that she decides to go along with Matthäus Tina’s escape plan.
As Phyllis draws closer to achieving happiness, her father’s behavior grows even more oppressive, highlighting the fact that Dr. Grove cares about his reputation more than his daughter’s happiness. However, the more restricted Phyllis is, the more her desire to escape grows, so much that she summons enough bravery to agree to Tina’s plan.