- Arthur Ransome Wiki usually refers to Peter Duck as Mr Duck. This is to avoid confusion with the book of the same name.
Peter Duck is an elderly seaman who began sailing .... fifty, sixty, or maybe seventy years ago. He has sailed on many ships, including clipper ships with tea from China (including the Thermoplyae), wool ships from Australia and his own wherry in Norfolk. He had been round the Horn again and again and knew it, as he used to say, as well as he knew the crook of his own thumb (PD1). He tells Bill how he had both arms broken at once when he had been carried off his feet and thrown into the scuppers by a green sea coming aboard (PD35).
He retired to own and captain the wherry the Arrow of Norwich on the Norfolk rivers; between Norwich, Lowestoft, Yarmouth and Beccles. He joined Captain Flint and the Swallows and Amazons on their schooner Wild Cat as an able seaman and acting bosun, for another voyage (to sea) before it was too late (PD1,3). He was an old sailor with a fringe of white beard round a face that was as brown and wrinkled as a walnut, or a grey beard.(PD1,7).
Peter Duck's tale of being shipwrecked This is the place ... sixty good years ago (PD21) and watching two men bury a mysterious box on the deserted Crab Island has led to much speculation about treasure. This inspired the notorious Black Jake to search unsuccessfully for the treasure and keep pestering Mr Duck for more information. When Black Jake sees Wild Cat setting sail with Mr Duck aboard, he is convinced that Captain Flint has persuaded him to to lead them to the treasure on Crab Island.
At the end of Peter Duck, Bill visits Mr Duck's three daughters, who had all married farmers. Bill decides that he likes the one in Beccles best (she is not named), and settles down there, where he gets a bit of schooling and goes away with Peter Duck in his wherry when he could (PD36). The other two daughters are Annie at Acle and Rose at Potter Heigham. Peter Duck says he has three ports of call, where I can tie up my old wherry, and have a pipe by the fireside. When Roger asks And which of them do you like the best? he replies that if he is at Potter Heigham and it is a north wind, a good wind for Acle, he likes Annie the best. I see said Roger, and he really did a little later when Peggy had explained it to him (PD6).
Peter Duch left Lowestoft to go to sea when he was no bigger than this ship's boy that keeps wanting to crowd on topsails before my anchor's fair out of the ground. He does not return home for many a year after when he was a man, and not so young neither and when he does there were none of my own folk ... They were all gone. But he met a young woman there, clipper built you might say, with a fine figurehead to her, well found too, and her dad kept a marine store. They got married, though he puts to sea again, coming home when he could, and she lived with her old dad in the marine store. His wife is now dead (PD5,6).
Peter Duck is a calm individual who is not really interested in treasure-hunting. He acts as a curb to Captain Flint's enthusiasm and provides essential adult supervision of the children.
Three Peter Ducks
the imaginary Peter Duck
the metafictional Peter Duck
The metafictional Peter Duck is a character in the made-up story of Peter Duck.
the "real" Peter Duck
In 'Their Own Story' a realistic Peter Duck makes a sudden entrance (TOS2) then engages in the ongoing conversation about telling a story, contributing the name Wild Cat for the putative schooner. He got this name from an island he had seen on a chart in "...that book you was talking about" (he meant Swallows and Amazons). Mr Duck continues to serve as able seaman and occasional milk supplier to Polly Ann on her Norfolk cruise.
In third person writing, the narrator of Peter Duck almost always refers to the character with his full name: Peter Duck was sitting on a bollard... (PD1). Exception: Peter and Captain Flint could hear nothing, because of ther roar of the surf (PD21).
In speech, the others almost always refer to the character as Mr Duck: "This is Mr Duck, who's thinking of coming down Channel with us." (PD1). Exceptions: Captain Flint often refers to him in his absence as P. D. (for example PD24); In Tittys dream after she made the candle-grease (great)aunt, she is trying to save the great-aunt from the hounds, but Peter Duck is urging them on. She addresses her imaginary friend as Peter "Just to call Peter or Mr Duck would be enough .... (but) the hounds were on her track, and there was Peter cheering them on" (SD19)
Mr Duck's personal style is usually self-effacing; he calls himself an A. B.: I'd be glad to sign on as an A.B. (PD1). But he has a canvas kitbag with a large coat of arms painted on it and written below the shield in big clear letters "Admiral Peter Duck". He had decorated his canvas kitbag a long while ago when they were becalmed in the China seas. All the fo'c'sle hands took to painting coats of arms, and the cook called himself the "Emperor of China" (PD2).