In the meantime the situation at Kolyvan was alarming in the extreme. The battle was raging nearer, and the firing was incessant.
At that moment the telegraph office shook to its foundations. A shell had made a hole in the wall, and a cloud of dust filled the office.
Alcide was just finishing writing his lines; but to stop, dart on the shell, seize it in both hands, throw it out of the window, and return to the wicket, was only the affair of a moment.
Five seconds later the shell burst outside. Continuing with the greatest possible coolness, Alcide wrote: "A six-inch shell has just blown up the wall of the telegraph office. Expecting a few more of the same size."
Michael Strogoff had no doubt that the Russians were driven out of Kolyvan. His last resource was to set out across the southern steppe.
Just then renewed firing broke out close to the telegraph house, and a perfect shower of bullets smashed all the glass in the windows. Harry Blount fell to the ground wounded in the shoulder.
Jolivet even at such a moment, was about to add this postscript to his dispatch: "Harry Blount, correspondent of the Daily Telegraph, has fallen at my side struck by--" when the imperturbable clerk said calmly: "Sir, the wire has broken." And, leaving his wicket, he quietly took his hat, brushed it round with his sleeve, and, still smiling, disappeared through a little door which Michael had not before perceived.
The house was surrounded by Tartar soldiers, and neither Michael nor the reporters could effect their retreat.
Alcide Jolivet, his useless dispatch in his hand, had run to Blount, stretched on the ground, and had bravely lifted him on his shoulders, with the intention of flying with him. He was too late!
Both were prisoners; and, at the same time, Michael, taken unawares as he was about to leap from the window, fell into the hands of the Tartars!