January 11, 1999 12:00 PM

At first, John and Gertrude Knight were hopping mad. Last April a 15-pound cement lawn-frog ornament was stolen from their front yard in Swansea, Mass., where it had resided for nine years. About 10 days later the Knights received a letter: “Tired of sitting on the lawn. Love, the Frog.” Says Gertrude, 67: “We didn’t think we’d hear any more.”

But every few weeks over the next eight months, the Knights received letters postmarked from more than 20 countries, including Indonesia, Japan and England. Most contained photos of the frog in exotic locales—at an Amsterdam cafe, sitting by a gondolier in Venice, atop a slot machine in Las Vegas.

But what started out as an irritation soon became a source of amusement during an otherwise dismal time for the Knights. In the fall, John, 66, had surgery to remove benign tumors from a lung and shoulder. Letters from the frog—promising to return home by Christmas—”perked me up,” he says. “It hasn’t been a very good year for us, but he had a damn good year.”

True to his word, the peripatetic amphibian ended its odyssey on Dec. 21, when a white limo pulled up to the Knights’ home, the frog seat-belted in the back. The Knights still don’t know who the culprits are. (The driver was hired by a “Mr. Frog.”) The couple, married 45 years, questioned their friends and three children—but all have denied responsibility. And whoever knows isn’t talking. “When the frog came home, I said, ‘Oh boy, I wish this frog could talk,’ ” says Gertrude. Notes John: “The only problem is, he looks at us with a stone face.”

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